NHL Draft Roundup
Nash's agent says a contract squabble is unlikelyPosted: Sunday June 23, 2002 3:24 PM
By Lance Hornby, SLAM! Sports
Gordon Kirke didn't need reminding about the previous time he was associated with the No. 1 pick at the National Hockey League draft.
It was 1991 in Buffalo when Eric Lindros would not put on the Quebec Nordiques jersey. He never did, leading to a series of very public squabbles that took up much of the decade for hockey chroniclers. Kirke was and is the Lindros' lawyer.
h But Brampton-born Rick Nash proudly wore his Columbus Blue Jackets sweater yesterday with Kirke, partner of the sports agency firm KSR, accompanying him around the Air Canada Centre.
"I would think this one goes smoother," Kirke said with a laugh when asked about Lindros. "It's a very different situation, but I think there's still a thrill [at being No. 1] no matter what.
"Both [Lindros and Nash] have the makeup to handle it. Rick has a calmness about him that's going to help him a lot to step right in [to the lineup]."
Kirke said there was "no wink-nudge" from the Blue Jackets -- entering their third season -- that they were about to pull yesterday's power play to move up and pick Nash. The Jackets made a trade with the Florida Panthers to acquire the first overall pick.
"I think it's a perfect match," Kirke said.
"They have to be a team before they get on the map, but I think Rick will be a big contributor to that.
"He'll be a factor in that community, too. Breast cancer research is one of his pet charities here and I'm sure that will continue in Columbus."
Nash probably can look forward to almost $1.1 million in a base salary and a loose set of performance bonuses that could triple his salary. But Kirke insisted there is no rush.
"I'm sure both sides will be fair and we'll come up with something decent," he said.
Panthers deal to get their guysBy Jim Cressman, SLAM! Sports
TORONTO -- New Florida Panthers general manager Rick Dudley was the busiest man on the NHL trading floor yesterday.
Dudley satisfied the wishes of the Columbus Blue Jackets, allowing them to get Rick Nash first overall, while at the same time making sure his Panthers still got defenceman Jay Bouwmeester by making a side deal with the Atlanta Thrashers.
"I didn't mind going from one to three, as long as our guy was at No. 3," Dudley said. "I had to make sure certain things fell into place."
Then, early in the third round, Dudley swung a deal with the Carolina Hurricanes so he could get Plymouth Whalers forward Gregory Campbell of Tillsonburg with the 67th pick.
"I think this is a kid who will find a way to play in the NHL," Dudley said of Campbell, son of NHL executive vice-president and director of hockey operations Colin Campbell. "Gregory was the one guy in a very disappointing playoff run that played well."
The regular season champion Whalers were upset by the London Knights in the first round of the OHL playoffs.
NHL senior vice-president Jim Gregory had relieved Colin Campbell at the podium for the third round yesterday. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman always moderates the first round.
"It would have been pretty special if my dad had been on the podium," Gregory Campbell said. "But at the end of the day, I'm just glad I had a chance to be picked by Florida."
Dudley said it shouldn't be considered a knock on Bouwmeester to go No. 3 after he'd been rated No. 1 for so long. Besides, he would have gone first overall had it not been for the flip in positions.
"Any kid that's been under the microscope for as long as he has and to handle it the way he has, he's pretty special," Dudley said.
Bouwmeester said he wasn't disappointed.
"I went to the same place. I said all along, it's just exciting to get drafted," he said.
Bouwmeester didn't know what to think when it was announced the two teams had flipped their picks.
"There was a lot of talk about that stuff going on and you just sort of had to wait and see how things unfolded. There's nothing you can do about it."
It's expected Bouwmeester will be in the NHL next season, playing for coach Mike Keenan.
It was Keenan who helped Chris Pronger get going on his all-star career on defence after Pronger was dealt by Hartford to St. Louis and Keenan was coaching the Blues.
"You look at where he's been in the past and he's gotten guys to perform," Bouwmeester said of the opportunity to play for Keenan. "If he can help you be the best player you can, that's pretty exciting."
Keenan said that from everything he's been told and has seen, it's unlikely Bouwmeester will be back in junior for a fourth season.
"I don't think we're going to have to make that decision," Keenan said.
"I think Jay is at this level already.We won't do something that's counterproductive to his development."
Sens find Czech mate for Havlat
By Bruce Garrioch, SLAM! Sports
TORONTO -- Ten days ago in a gym in Prague, Senators winger Martin Havlat was joking with prospect Jakub Klepis about the possibility of playing together in Ottawa.
They're going to get their chance.
While Senators failed to move up in a draft where everybody was trying to do the same thing, they were happy to select the 18-year-old Klepis yesterday with the No. 16 overall pick in the NHL draft at the Air Canada Centre.
A Czech centre with the WHL's Portland Winter Hawks, the skilled Klepis has to work on his speed, but he'll fit in well with the Senators, who decided they had to shore up the forward position with plenty of prospects on defence.
"Martin Havlat is a friend of mine. I know him well," said Klepis. "We were kind of joking about the fact that we could get a chance to play together. I just think it's great. It was my goal to go in the first round of the draft.
"I want to improve my speed. I think it's going to be tough for me to make the team next year, but I'll go [to camp in September] and see what happens.
"It's nice to be drafted by a team like Ottawa that plays a European style."
Senators fans may cringe at that comment, but the Ottawa scouts have done their homework on Klepis and they believe he has a good opportunity to play in the league if given the proper time to develop.
The Senators watched Klepis between 40 and 50 times last season. They were impressed with his ability to move the puck, take faceoffs and the role he played with Portland.
"We're very pleased to be able to get [Klepis]," said Senators chief amateur scout Frank Jay. "We watched him in April [at the under-18 championships in Slovakia] and we thought he was outstanding. We liked what he was able to do.
"He played out of position by being on the right wing, he was at the point on the power play and he was an assistant captain. We liked the way he moved the puck. He needs to improve his speed, but we think he'll be excellent."
Instead of returning to Portland next season after finishing with 14 goals and 50 assists, Klepis intends to improve his development by playing for Slavia Praha in the Czech men's league.
He spent the year in North America and took English lessons during his stay, but is convinced that it will be better for his development to play in a men's league. Klepis would like to play in the NHL in the 2003-04 season.
"I just think this would be better for me," said Klepis. "Everybody wants to play in the NHL right away, but I know it's going to take a couple of years.
"I have areas that I have to improve. The one thing I've been told is that I've got to work on my speed. I felt pretty good about the year I had last year, but I know that I can get better and that's what I'm going to try to do."
The Senators support Klepis' decision to play in the Czech league next season.
"That's basically the same thing that Martin Havlat did before he came to us, said player personnel director Jarmo Kekalainen . "We're fine with it because the decision is already made."
A Great day to be Eager
By Chris Stevenson, SLAM! Sports
TORONTO -- If Ben Eager needs help improving his offence, he's going to the right team.
The Ottawa native was drafted 23rd overall yesterday by the Phoenix Coyotes at the NHL draft at the Air Canada Centre with none other than Coyotes managing partner Wayne Gretzky making the announcement.
"It's unbelievable," said the 18-year-old winger from the Oshawa Generals. "It's because of [Gretzky] that the organization is so well respected."
Eager, 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, was ranked 15th among North American prospects on Central Scouting's final list, slipping from 10th at mid-season.
The Hockey News rated him 27th overall, noting he is "a hard-working, good-skating guy who has little offence ... limited hockey sense, but great size and strength."
Coyotes GM Mike Barnett said his staff had Eager ranked 17th.
"Anybody who's got size, plays a lot of minutes, tested as the quickest skater in an elite group [the CHL prospects game] and had 200-plus penalty minutes arrives quick and with anger, we like that," said Barnett. "When you've got that size and attitude you get a lot of room when you carry the puck.
"The guys on the other team are for somebody else to pick up."
Phoenix director of amateur scouting Vaughn Karpan bristled at that evaluation.
"He can play. He's a hell of a skater," he said. "There's more to him than that. He's not without skill. We didn't draft him to be a thug."
Eager's selection was greeted with a huge cheer from a crowd of friends and family who had made the drive down from Ottawa.
Eager, who will likely return to Oshawa to play with the Generals next season, said he wasn't disappointed that he was passed over by the Senators.
"I like getting away," he said. "I'm looking forward to playing in Phoenix."
Hull Olympiques defenceman Martin Vagner, 18, led the way for the three Olympiques selected in the first three rounds yesterday as he was taken 26th overall by the Dallas Stars.
That surprised him a bit since he was anticipating being selected by the Coyotes. He was interviewed by the Coyotes and he thought the presence of former Hull GM Charlie Henry with the Phoenix organization might pave his way there.
"I didn't think I'd be drafted by Dallas," he said. "I never thought about them. I think it's going to be two or three years before I play for them.
"We can still do a better job in Hull in the playoffs. We're going to have a good team next year."
Hull defencemen Dominic D'Amour and Jesse Lane were both taken late in the third round. D'Amour was taken 88th overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs and Lane was selected 91st by the Carolina Hurricanes.
Boston boy's tickled with Calgary
By Jean Lefebvre, SLAM! Sports
TORONTO -- Brian McConnell liked the idea of joining pal and former linemate Eric Nystrom in the Flames' stable of prospects.
But he wasn't holding out much hope Calgary would come calling.
"I didn't even know Calgary was interested," confessed the 19-year-old native of Boston. "I talked to Calgary a little bit [before the draft] but not that much compared to other teams. My meeting with them was pretty short."
The Flames may not have been too interested in what McConnell had to say in an interview but they obviously like his potential on the ice.
Calgary chose the Boston University centreman in the second round with the 39th overall pick.
Calgary's first selection yesterday at the Air Canada Centre was Nystrom, the University of Michigan left winger who for two seasons was McConnell's teammate with the U.S. national development team.
"I'm real good friends with him," revealed McConnell, who in his freshman season with the Terriers notched 11 goals and 15 assists in 38 games. "That's why I was pretty pumped when I got drafted by Calgary. It'll be nice to already know somebody in the organization."
The 6-foot-1, 190-pound pivot admits he needs work on his skating but the Flames like the other aspects of his game. Scouts praise his work ethic and he was the captain of the American team at the 2001 under-18 world championships.
McConnell was eligible for last year's draft and was ranked 53rd among North American skaters but opted out.
This year, he was listed 33rd.
"I thought college was going to be the best route for me," he said. "I didn't want jump into the draft too early and not be able to play college. Growing up in Boston, I always wanted to play for BU."
In the third round, with a 90th pick acquired from Toronto, the Flames chose Victoriaville Tigres centre Matthew Lombardi.
The 20-year-old Montrealer scored 57 goals this year and was second in the Quebec league with 130 points.
He was drafted 215th overall by Edmonton in 2000 but re-entered the draft after failing to sign with the Oilers.
Ironically, the Oil yesterday took former Flames draftee Jarrett Stoll with a second-round selection.
Stoll, who led the Kootenay Ice to the Memorial Cup last month, went 46th in the 2000 draft but never signed with the Flames.
Stajan's dream comes true
By Terry Koshan, SLAM! Sports
Stajan, a Mississauga native, can add another Leafs sweater to his collection -- the one he donned yesterday in the second round of the NHL entry draft at the Air Canada Centre when Toronto announced his name with the 57th pick.
"This is a dream come true," said Stajan, a Belleville Bulls centre who had 85 points in 68 games last season. "I just wanted to get drafted. I didn't even have an interview with the Leafs. I just want to make a good first impression with the Leafs and prove I can play at the next level."
Stajan apprenticed with the Toronto Red Wings and Mississauga Senators of the Greater Toronto Hockey League before the Bulls drafted him two years ago. A friend of fellow Mississauga native and top Leafs prospect Brad Boyes, Stajan is a swift centre and is one of more complete packages in the Ontario Hockey League.
After the Leafs took Stajan, they made a couple of trades prior to their next two picks. Toronto dealt the 90th pick overall and a fifth-round choice today to the Calgary Flames for the 74th pick, which it used to select Swift Current Broncos goaltender Todd Ford. Then, Toronto sent a third-rounder in 2003 to the Nashville Predators for the 88th pick yesterday, which it used on hulking Hull Olympiques defenceman Dominic D'Amour.
"We wanted to get a goalie, and we had [Ford] rated high, so we said, 'Let's look at shuffling the deck,'" Leafs director of player personnel Mike Penny said. "[D'Amour] is a tough kid who brings a different facet to the game."
The Leafs could have a bit of a steal in Ford. He was ranked No. 2 among goalies in North America by NHL Central Scouting, and acknowledged he was surprised he fell as far as he did.
"It went longer than I expected," Ford said. "But I know these things can happen. It has been a great day and I am flattered the Leafs traded to get me."
Stajan helped form the most explosive line in the OHL last season, along with Nathan Robinson and Mike Renzi, who were first and second in league scoring, respectively. That's not all. Stajan was sixth in the OHL with a plus-36 and was Belleville's scholastic player of the year in each of the past two seasons. In that sense, he is smart enough to know he will be under a microscope with the Bulls next season.
"I'm looking forward to it," Stajan said. "I think I read the game well and that is my best asset."
Leafs general manager/coach Pat Quinn has not seen Stajan play but is impressed nonetheless.
"He is quick and he has an ability to score," Quinn said. "And he has the scholastic background, and to me that is pretty important."
Rocky Mountain high for Hitmen defender
By Scott Fisher, SLAM! Sports
Johnny Boychuk didn't want to take his new jersey off.
The Calgary Hitmen defenceman was selected in the second round, 61st overall, by the Colorado Avalanche during yesterday's NHL Entry Draft in Toronto.
"It looks pretty good on me," he said of the Avs' third jersey.
But he didn't plan on sleeping in it.
"I wouldn't want to crease it."
Being drafted by one of the NHL's deepest teams was fine with Boychuk.
Knowing he'll need another year or two in Calgary before jumping to the bigs, he said he can't wait for this fall's NHL training camp.
"You can't ask for a better organization to go to. They're always a Stanley Cup contender," he said. "Blake, Forsberg, you name anyone on that team and people will have heard of him."
Boychuk's older brother, Sam, was especially pleased to see his younger sibling drafted by Colorado.
"He was always a Quebec Nordiques fan."
Hitmen forward Brandon Segal was not selected during yesterday's first three rounds but will most likely hear his name called early today when the final six rounds are held at the Air Canada Centre.
Todd Ford was the lone Calgarian chosen in the opening day.
Ford, a 6-foo-4, 160-pound goaltender who toiled for Swift Current, was chosen in the third round, 74th overall, by the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Leafs acquired that selection from the Calgary Flames.
"It feels good to know that they traded to get me," said the 18-year-old Flames fan who Central Scouting had ranked second among North American goaltenders,
Ford, in his second WHL season, had an 18-12-3 record with a 2.97 goals against average.
"It's been a little bit of a long day but it's very exciting being here in Toronto and getting picked by the Maple Leafs," said Ford, who was tagged by some outlets to be taken in the middle of the second round. "I expected to get picked earlier but you never know in these situations. I'm just excited to come to Toronto and it's been a great day."
Being chosen later doesn't bother Skinner
By Adam Wazny, SLAM! Sports
For some, the waiting is the hardest part. For Brandon's Brett Skinner, the wait was definitely worth it.
Skinner was selected in the third round (68th overall) by the Vancouver Canucks at the 2002 National Hockey League entry draft yesterday in Toronto.
"It was a pretty long day, but at the same time lots of fun. The experience is incredible. And when I heard my name called, I was pretty excited."
Throughout the week, Skinner had a feeling that the draft was going to be full of surprises, but he didn't imagine it would unfold the way it did.
"Lots of teams were talking to a lot of players, so no one knew what to expect. A lot of guys went higher then they were rated, and some went lower."
According to the Central Scouting Bureau, Skinner was rated 22nd in the top North American prospects, but he isn't disappointed with the results.
"It doesn't matter how high a player is rated before the draft, you still have to go out and show what you can do," he says. "Just because a guy is taken in the first or second round, that doesn't mean he's going to play in the NHL."
The 6-foot-1, 170-pound defenceman played last year in the United States Hockey League for the Des Moines Buccaneers and has signed a letter of intent to attend the University of Denver in the fall.
Skinner says he is looking forward to possibly playing in front of his friends and family in the near future.
"I'm happy to be with the Canucks. They have a great organization, plus having a chance to play for a Canadian team is a plus. And who knows, maybe one day I'll be playing for the Manitoba Moose."
Perry gets taste of draft excitement
By Jim Cressman, SLAM! Sports
TORONTO -- Corey Perry was here yesterday and watched teammate Rick Nash's dream come true.
A year from now, it will be Perry's turn.
The 17-year-old London Knights right-winger is being projected as a first-round pick in the 2003 NHL entry draft, scheduled for Nashville.
Perry attended the first day of this year's draft at the Air Canada Centre to see Nash selected and to get a taste of what's in store for next year.
"After Rick's name was announced [first overall by Columbus], he walked in front of me and the look on his face was incredible," said Perry, who had an outstanding rookie season in the OHL.
"This has been such an experience today."
Perry was denied a similar experience (albeit on a smaller scale) after the OHL did away with its public draft the last two years. The general managers now conduct their draft via the Internet.
"It's kinda sad the way the OHL does it now," Perry said. "It was good for the kids to get a taste of what the future might be like for the NHL draft. There was just so much emotion in here."
NHL scouts are saying the 2003 draft will be one of the strongest in years, so Perry will really have to work at being in the first round.
"I'm going to be doing everything I can over the summer to put weight on, and not bad weight either. Good, solid muscle," said the Peterborough resident.
Detroit Red Wings scout Joe McDonnell, who saw the Knights play plenty of times last season, said it will be a case of Perry "growing into his body.
"He's just a young kid right now. But he thinks the game well. It's just a matter of filling out and how hard he wants to do that. That we don't know yet," said McDonnell, who lives in Kitchener.
"It's going to be a deep draft. There are a lot of good kids everywhere. Again, it depends on what kind of year he has.
"If he fills out this summer and puts some numbers on the board, then definitely he'll be a first-round pick. If he has a tough year, he could slide down a bit."
Paul Henry, who works for Wayne Gretzky's Phoenix Coyotes, said the scouts are always looking for the players who can score -- as was the case with Nash.
"You know the importance of goal scorers and [Perry] has the gift of being a natural goal scorer," Henry said.
"A first-rounder? It's up to him. He's certainly one of the top prospects right now.
"I saw him play in the Ontario bantam championship in Peterborough [before Perry was drafted by the Knights] and he was the guy that excited me as much as anybody in that tournament."