In part two of our series, we’ll look at Roberto Luongo and the career that never was for the New York Islanders.
In the 1997 draft, the New York Islanders used their fourth overall pick on goalie Roberto Luongo. Luongo continued to play in the QMJHL for two more years after being drafted before making his way over to the Islanders.
He played in 26 games in the AHL, posting a .908 save percentage and a 2.93 goals against average. In 24 games in the NHL that year, he had a .904 and a 3.25 goals against average while going 7-14-1 on a very poor Islanders team.
That was it. That’s all Mike Milbury needed to see before he pulled the plug on Luongo. He traded the 20-year-old to Florida to acquire Oleg Kvasha and Mark Parrish.
Parrish had a great 2001-2002 campaign with the Isles, scoring 30 goals and 60 points and then fell off to be a 35-45 point player through the remainder of his career. As for Kvasha, he was a flop from jump street.
He had one season in which he eclipsed 50 points and in the other four seasons on Long Island, he couldn’t crack 40 points. As for Luongo, his career took off in Florida. In 2003-2003 he had a .931 save percentage and a 2.43 goals against average finishing third in the Vezina race and sixth in the Hart race.
After the 2005-2006 season, Luongo was shipped out to Vancouver where he was solid for many years and even saw a trip to the Stanley Cup Final in 2011. That year he posted a .928 save percentage and a 2.11 goals against average.
During the 2013-14 season, Luongo was traded back to Florida at age 34. Despite being older at that time he would still have four terrific years in a row into his late 30’s. His best year arguably came in 2015-2016 when Luongo and the Panthers faced off against the Islanders in round one.
He was great in that series, posting a .934 save percentage and a 2.05 goals against average. His last productive year came in 2017-2018 where at age 38, he had a .929 and a 2.47 while finishing top-10 in Vezina voting.
His final year in the league came in 2018-2019 where he had just an .899 and a 3.12 goals against average. His career spanned for over 19 years and he finished with a .919 save percentage and a 2.52 goals against average.
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Those numbers are good enough to get Luongo into the Hall of Fame. While Parrish was nice and DiPietro was fine before the injuries, I think the Islanders would’ve preferred to keep this guy around looking back at it. Once again, thank you Mike Milbury.