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The winners (cont.)

Posted: Monday June 25, 2007 12:42PM; Updated: Monday June 25, 2007 4:36PM
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2. St. Louis Blues

Bill Sweatt, who went to Chicago at No. 38, may be the fastest skater in the draft.
Bill Sweatt, who went to Chicago at No. 38, may be the fastest skater in the draft.
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Thanks to smart asset manipulation at the February trade deadline, the Blues had three first-rounders to play with on Friday night, and five picks in the first 44 when GM Larry Pleau added a pair of second-rounders by trading down from ninth to 13th. After failing, unsurprisingly, to package the trio of first-rounders for Chicago's first overall choice, the Blues still managed to meet their goal of focusing on the primary need in their system by acquiring four scoring forwards: their top choice -- Danish scoring sensation Lars Eller -- plus late-blooming sniper David Perron (No. 26), Swedish winger Simon Hjalmarsson, and American forward Aaron Palushaj (No. 44), who had 22 goals and 67 points in 50 games for Des Moines of the USHL. The Blues also added a steady defender. Two-way American blueliner Ian Cole was available at No. 18.

There was some concern voiced that this was a safe slate of picks, but it also appears that the Blues added more quality talent than every other team except for ...

1. Chicago Blackhawks.

Without a doubt, this was a bold draft by the Hawks, who appeared to get the most value possible based on when each pick was made. Forget for a moment about first overall selection Patrick Kane -- that was the consensus choice and no one really deserves a pat on the back for making it.

Where Chicago really made hay was with their follow-up selections, particularly in the second round. Bill Sweatt (No. 38) and Akim Aliu (No. 56) were considered first-round talent in several corners, and could one day team up as part of an impressive third line. Sweatt, possibly the fastest player in the draft, could be an elite checker and penalty killer. Aliu, the Nigerian-born multi-linguist, has the chance to become a hard-hitting, if light-scoring, power forward. Maxime Tanguay, the brother of Calgary Flames sniper Alex, was a solid gamble at No. 69. Team USA's Josh Unice (No. 86) was named the top goaltender at the 2007 Under-18s. Richard Greenop (No. 156) is all about accountability. The 6-4, 215-pound center earned 19 fighting majors this past season as a rookie with the Windsor Spitfires.

While other teams chose to play it safe, the Hawks swung for the fences. It's possible that four years down the road we'll have to hand them the golden sombrero, but as of this morning no team appears to have made a greater impact on its future.

Honorable mentions:

The Pittsburgh Penguins may have made the steal of the draft when formerly top-ranked Angelo Esposito fell into their laps at No. 20. The Pens added hulking center Keven Veilleux at No. 51 and grabbed Alex Grant (No. 118), the first-overall pick in the 2005 QMJHL draft

The Detroit Red Wings, with just five picks, managed to acquire three players who are thought to have first-round potential: powerplay QB Brendan Smith (No. 27), checking-line center Joakim Andersson (No. 88), and Zach Torquato, a feisty, character forward (No. 178).

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