It's Not Done After Number One

Although there are 30 teams in the National Hockey League clamouring for the first pick in the projected entry draft on July 30th in Ottawa, only one team can get it, and therefore Sidney Crosby. But Sid the Kid is not alone in this draft.

Even though the other young hockey players entered in the draft have not joined the pantheon of sports stars who became known by simply their first name before they entered the pros (eg. Lebron, Michael), and do not have the talent set of Crosby, does not mean that they will go home without a team stating their name, position, and most recent team or country played for on the podium at Canada’s capital’s Westin Hotel. Someone has to be chosen #2, #3, and so on and so forth. The draft’s number one question is : Who?

Benoit Pouliot

The OHL’s 2004-2005 rookie of the year led the Sudbury Wolves to the second round of the junior league’s playoffs, before having his season ended by the Ottawa 67s. In the final game of that series (the sixth), he was not at his best, not contributing offensively, and taking some bad penalties for whacking opposing netminder Danny Battachio on the pads while passing him after a whistle. However, that is not to say the skilled winger (born in the city where he’ll be drafted) is that undisciplined throughout every game. He was able to put 29 goals in the back of the net during 69 games with the Wolves, while assisting on 38 others. The 67-point scorer was only picked in the 11th round of the OHL midget draft, and didn’t play as a 16-year old, but his emerging as a perennial junior star this past season will surely put him in a position to hear, “Benoit Pouliot,” in one of the first three picks this year. In fact, the only man who might stand in his way for being #2, is…

Jack Johnson

The rugged, agressive, 18-year old led the US to the under-18 gold medal at the Under-18 World Championships. He trains with his country’s developement program, playing 42 games this past year. The defenceman recorded 42 points this past year, 14 of them goals. The hard hitter went to Shattuck Prep School in Minnesota with Sid the Kid, and talked about going 1-2 in the draft. Although he has committed to playing this coming year for the University of Michigan, that dream could certainly come true come July 30th.

Bobby Ryan

The son of a charged wife-beater is basically the only other player who could seriously be considered for the coveted number 2 spot (although he probably won’t beat out Johnson or Pouliot for it). He played this past season for Owen Sound, leading the team in scoring and pacing it to a playoff berth. He is an awkward skater, something that could hold him from consideration for #2 when draft day rolls around. However, the power forward has connections in the NHL, with Flyers GM Bob Clarke a family friend. If the Flyers do not come up with one of the top 4 or 5 picks, they will not get him, unless Clarke pulls out a trade to acquire this right winger.

Anje Kopitar

Although the Slovenian big man will not be #2, he might still be one of the top 3 or 4 selections. The centre is a veteran, like Johnson, of the Under-18 World Championships, leading his home nation to second place at the 2004 version. He does not come from a country with a hockey reputation, but still produced 49 points in 30 games for the nation. The fact that Slovenia has produced no other players of NHL pedigree will probably scare teams away, although on unknown squad had him at #3 on their board. Although his countrymen aren’t strong in the sport, he will most likely be chosen in the top 5 of the draft.

Gilbert Brule

He was once considered number 2, but the Vancouver Giants centre’s draft stock fell, plummeting him no higher than #4 on any team’s draft board. However, the 5’10, 175-pound scored a hat-trick at the CHL’s Top Prospects Game with a hat-trick, an event that Crosby skipped. He may be small, but he battles like a big man, and also scores. Brule netted 39 goals in 70 games for the WHL’s Giants. He was also the CHL’s Scholastic Player of the Year, a turn-on for everyone in the league. He will be picked in the middle of the top 10, scouts believe.

Some other top prospects in the draft are:

– Carey Price, G, Tri-City Americans (WHL)

– Jack Skille, LW, US National Team

– Marc Staal, D, Sudbury Wolves (OHL)

– Ryan O’Marra, C, Erie Otters (OHL)

– Marek Zagrapan, C, Chicoutimi Saganuees (QMJHL)

Well, on July 30th, the number one question for the draft will be answered: Who’s #2? Review the prospects. Make your choices. And enjoy the draft!