Nashville's first-round pick in 2000 appeared in more NHL contests than any other player selected that year
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Scott Hartnell was a contradiction.
When the Nashville Predators selected him with the sixth overall pick in the 2000 NHL, draft he already was built like a grown man, which allowed him — as an 18-year-old — to make the jump from junior hockey directly to the National Hockey League.
In 17 seasons as a professional, though, his child-like joy for the game never diminished. That approach made him a favorite of three different fan bases and generated a following that reached well beyond the teams for which he played.
So it was news throughout the NHL on Monday when Hartnell announced his retirement. Unsigned throughout the offseason after having played 2017-18 for Nashville, he made the announcement on Twitter days before the start of a new regular season.
“Every young kid from a small town across Canada dreams of playing a game in the NHL … I was fortunate to play 1,249 of them,” Hartnell wrote.
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“A huge thank you to the Nashville Predators (twice), the Philadelphia Flyers and the Columbus Blue Jackets. You are all world class organizations and it was an honor playing for your cities!”
Hartnell’s ability to handle the rigors of the NHL at an early age made him an exception for the Predators, who long have prided themselves on their player development. He never played in a game in the American Hockey League but was a stalwart in the NHL.
In 13 of this 17 seasons — including his first, which started months after he was drafted — he played at least 75 games. Four times, including once with Nashville (2002-03), he played all 82.
As a result, he has logged more NHL appearances than any other player of his draft class. In fact, he has played more than a full season’s worth of games more than Justin Williams, who is second with 1,162.
A rundown of the players from the 2000 draft with the most NHL appearances:
|Scott Hartnell||Forward||first round, sixth overall||1,249|
|Justin Williams||Forward||first round, 28th overall||1,162|
|Nick Schultz||Defenseman||second round, 33rd overall||1,069|
|Antoine Vermette||Forward||second round, 55th overall||1,046|
|Marian Gaborik||Forward||first round, third overall||1,035|
Traded to Philadelphia following the 2006-07 season in one of several cost-cutting moves, Hartnell ultimately played more games for the Flyers than he did for the Predators. He appeared in 517 with Philadelphia and 498 with Nashville, a number bolstered by his return last season
, which added 62 to his total. He also played 234 games for Columbus, where he spent three seasons (2014-17).
He ranks seventh in games played for the Predators (the top seven are all Nashville draft picks) and is one of 10 players with at least 100 career goals and assists for them. He scored 106 goals and had 129 assists. Plus, his 626 penalty minutes are second in franchise history to Jordin Tootoo.
“(Seventeen) years in the NHL was the best job anyone could ask for,” Hartnell said. “The games, the fans, the travel, the hotels, the food, the pregame soccer games as just some of the things that I will remember and miss.
“I was lucky to have so many great teammates along the way. I can’t tell you how many laughs and good times we had together. The absolute best!!”
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