|Oh, Canada! U.S. players go 1-2 in NHL draft for first time|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 22 June 2007 21:00|
Already prominent as the colors of the host Columbus Blue Jackets, the shades took on a more important role as American players were taken with the top two picks for the first time in draft history.
The Chicago Blackhawks, trying to rebuild a once-proud franchise after four consecutive losing seasons, selected Buffalo, N.Y., native Patrick Kane with the No. 1 selection Friday night. Then the Philadelphia Flyers chose left wing James vanRiemsdyk, a member of the U.S. National Team Development Program from Middletown, N.J.
``It's amazing. It's something I'll never forget,'' vanRiemsdyk said. ``It just shows how American hockey has taken huge strides. Two Americans going with the first two picks - it's an honor. I'm happy to be a part of it.''
With the third pick, Phoenix took Kyle Turris, the highly touted center who's already committed to play at the University of Wisconsin. The Los Angeles Kings selected defenseman Thomas Hickey with pick No. 4 - surprising many of the experts - and the Washington Capitals grabbed the top-rated defenseman, Karl Alzner, at No. 5.
But the night belonged to USA Hockey.
``It's good to have the No. 1 and No. 2 picks,'' said Kane, a 5-foot-9, 160-pound right wing who had 62 goals and 83 assists in 58 games last season for the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League. ``It's unbelievable. It's good to see the Americans start coming into the league.''
In 1983 and 2005, U.S. players were picked with two of the top three selections. There were 10 Americans chosen in the first round of this draft, tying the record set in 2006. The selection process resumes Saturday for the final six rounds.
Rated the No. 2 skater in North America by the NHL Central Scouting Service, Kane is expected to give the Blackhawks a creative scorer and deft puck-handler.
The 6-3, 200-pound vanRiemsdyk had 33 goals and 30 assists in 42 games for the U.S. Under-18 team a year ago.
There was speculation that teams would shy away from Turris, the top-ranked North American skater from Burnaby, British Columbia, because of his commitment to college. But after Coyotes president and coach Wayne Gretzky received a minute-long standing ovation, he stepped to the podium and took him off the board.
Turris, who said he was ``in shock and awe for an hour and a half'' when he and his parents had breakfast with Gretzky on Thursday, nearly swooned when he received a hat and jersey from The Great One.
``I'm speechless,'' said Turris, a skinny 6-1, 170-pound center who piled up 121 points in 53 games for the Burnaby Express of the British Columbia Hockey League last season.
Hickey was ranked as the 26th best North American skater by the NHL's scouting service, but the Kings still took him at No. 4.
The Capitals returned to form with the fifth pick, grabbing Alzner, who scouts compare to Anaheim All-Star Chris Pronger.
After Edmonton selected center Sam Gagner, a teammate of Kane's in London, the biggest roar of the night came when the host Blue Jackets grabbed right wing Jakub Voracek. He comes from the same hometown (Kladno, Czech Republic) as New York Rangers star Jaromir Jagr, who has 621 goals and 907 assists in his 16-year career in the NHL.
Boston then took center Zach Hamill, San Jose traded up with St. Louis to get center Logan Couture, and Florida picked defenseman Keaton Ellerby No. 10.
The loudest boos of the night came when the Detroit Red Wings took Brendan Smith with the 27th pick. Folks from Columbus, home of Ohio State University, can't pass up an opportunity to boo any team from Michigan.
The biggest surprise was how far forwards Alexei Cherepanov and Angelo Esposito dropped.
Esposito, ranked No. 1 in central scouting's midseason report, hoped to go to the hometown Montreal Canadiens with the 12th pick but instead had to wait eight more selections until Pittsburgh added him to its stable of young, talented forwards at No. 20.
Cherepanov's unexpected wait ended earlier, but it was every bit as long for the Russian right winger. The Rangers took him with the 17th pick, after he slid through the round for a variety of reasons. Cherepanov, who said he will play another season with his hometown Omsk team, broke Pavel Bure's rookie record by scoring 18 goals in Russia's elite league.
The lack of a transfer agreement between the International Ice Hockey Federation-NHL and the Russian hockey federation could also have turned teams off, fearing he would be tough to get to the NHL.
Even before the first pick was made, it was a busy day for many teams.
- The Toronto Maple Leafs dealt three draft picks - including one from Friday's first round - to San Jose for goalie Vesa Toskala and forward Mark Bell.
- The Nashville Predators dealt goaltender Tomas Vokoun to the Florida Panthers for three picks.
- The Blackhawks sent defenseman Adrian Aucoin and a seventh-round selection to Calgary for defensemen Andrei Zyuzin and Steve Marr.
In addition, veteran forwards Gary Roberts and Mark Recchi (Pittsburgh), Tyler Arnason (Colorado), and Dean McAmmond (Ottawa), and defenseman Craig Rivet (San Jose) re-signed with their teams.