By Andy Kent
Naples Daily News
Ten years after being drafted in the second round of the NHL Entry Draft by the Chicago Blackhawks, former Florida Everblades forward Eric Manlow finally scored his first NHL goal on Sunday.
Granted it was for the New York Islanders, the third organization he’s been with, but it still was sweet for the 27-year-old journeyman. And the fact that it came in a 3-2 win over a talented Dallas Stars team, giving the Islanders their first back-to-back wins of the season, only added to the moment.
“It’s one of those things you’ve had on a list since you were a kid and it felt great,” Manlow said from his hotel room in Long Island on Monday. “I’ve been playing pretty decent (since getting called up from Bridgeport, Conn., in the American Hockey League on Nov. 4) and I’ve been given much more ice time than I expected.”
Manlow’s goal came on a 5-on-3 power play with 1:54 left in the second period on a rebound of an Alexei Yashin shot and broke a 1-1 tie.
Just over seven minutes into the third period he assisted on Jason Blake’s game-winner, this time launching the shot and Blake cleaning up the rebound.
Those two points in his 15th NHL game eclipsed Manlow’s career total by one.
“We were pretty excited. It’s been a long time coming for Eric,” said his wife Heather from her sister’s home in Canada.
Manlow signed with the Islanders over the summer after his two-year contract with the Boston Bruins expired, and made no secret of the fact that Peter Laviolette being New York’s head coach affected his decision. Laviolette was Manlow’s head coach in the AHL with the Providence Bruins and convinced Boston to sign him in the summer of 2000.
Laviolette, who coached the Wheeling Nailers in 1997-98, is one of two former East Coast Hockey League coaches currently working as a head coach in the NHL with Bruce Cassidy of the Washington Capitals, who coached Trenton in 1999-2000, being the other.
After being promoted to NHL assistant with the Bruins and then passed over for head coach, Laviolette got his first NHL head-coaching job with the Islanders in May of 2001. He led the team to the fourth biggest one-year turnaround in NHL history in 2001-02.
“He’s always kept his word and done good things for me, and it can’t be bad knowing the head coach,” said Manlow, who scored 68 points in 34 games over two seasons for the Everblades. “I knew from training camp and going to Bridgeport that if I could do well and there was an opportunity, I’d get a shot up here.”
Manlow led the Sound Tigers in scoring with 14 points (7 goals, 7 assists) in 10 games.
Former Everblades head coach Bob Ferguson had Manlow with him in Indianapolis when he was coaching the Ice of the now-defunct International Hockey League. He made sure to sign him to the Blades when he took the job in 1998-99.
Ferguson, in his second season as head coach and general manager of the Des Moines (Iowa) Buccaneers of the United States Hockey League, said he was thrilled to see Manlow on ESPN during highlights of the Islanders-Stars game.
“The best way to describe Eric is he’s a coach’s player.
Now he’s getting his opportunity, and that’s all he ever needed was the chance to show what he can do,” Ferguson said.
The Islanders host the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday, and then travel to Boston on Thursday to face the Bruins at the Fleet Center. Manlow would relish the chance to face his former team, but he said he’s taking it one day at a time.