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Draft From A to Z

by Mike Vogel / Washington Capitals
COLUMBUS, Oh. – The 2007 NHL Entry Draft gets underway here at Nationwide Arena on Friday night. The first round will take place on Friday with rounds 2-7 set for Saturday. Here’s a quick A to Z primer on this summer’s draft.

Karl Alzner
A is for Alzner –
Karl Alzner is the consensus pick as the best defenseman in this years’ draft and also the player most believe is the most NHL-ready of this year’s crop. He just missed being eligible for the 2006 draft, and is one of the oldest players eligible in 2007. Alzner will be 19 by the time the puck drops to open the 2007-08 NHL season.

B is for Bashkirov – The Bashkirov twins – Roman and Ruslan – are both likely to be chosen in the 2007 draft. Ruslan has two inches and 21 pounds on his brother, and he is rated as the 35th ranked North American skater while his brother clocks in at 91. The Bashkirovs were born in Moscow on Mar. 7, 1989, but they play junior hockey in the Quebec League and are therefore listed among the North American skaters.

C is for center – The position played by four of the top nine North Americans and six of the top 15 Europeans as ranked by the Central Scouting Bureau.

D is for Downing – Jack Downing gets our vote for most esoteric nickname in the draft: “Sauce.” He says: “I yelled ‘sauce’ across a restaurant in sixth grade and it stuck.” A winger for Omaha in the USHL last season, Downing figures to be a mid-round selection.

E is for Esposito – At this time last year, Angelo Esposito was the player many expected to be the first overall choice in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. He was the top-rated North American skater in CSB’s mid-term rankings, but there are those who now believe he won’t be chosen in the top 10. He’s still a very talented player and some team will be happy to scoop him up on Friday night. He also speaks three languages: French, English and Italian.

F is for Froidevaux – Etienne Froidevaux is one of two Swiss players ranked among the top 30 Europeans in the CSB ratings. Ten Swiss players are ranked among the top 120 Euros, trailing Russia (23), Sweden (21) Finland (19) and Czech Republic (14). The Swiss are ahead of the Slovaks (seven in the top 120) and the Germans (three).

G is for goaltender – Most observers rate Jeremy Smith as the top-rated goaltender in this draft, and he may or may not be chosen in the first round. If no goaltender is chosen in the first round, it will mark the first time that has occurred since 1992. Washington was first in the goaltending pool that year, exercising the 32nd overall pick (eighth pick in the second round in those days) on Catholic Memorial product Jim Carey.

H is for Hellgren – According to the CSB’s scouting report, Swedish defenseman Jens Hellgren is “a smooth-skating defenseman” who “moves the puck well and has good hockey sense.” Hellgren was born on Mar. 6, 1989, one day before the Caps obtained a Swedish defenseman with similar skills – Calle Johansson – in a trade with Buffalo.

I is for Ilvonen – Finnish defenseman Harri Ilvonen stands 6-foot-3 and weighs 187 pounds. He is ranked 21st among European skaters by the CSB. Ilvonen put up nine goals and 30 points in 39 games with his Finnish junior team in 2006-07.

J is for Jarvinen – Finnish defenseman Joonas Jarvinen is the anti-Ilvonen. Jarvinen is a big (6-foot-3, 214 pounds), bruising stay-at-home defenseman who finished last season with two goals and six points for his Finnish junior team. Jarvinen is rated 37th among European skaters in the CSB rankings.

Patrick Kane
K is for Kane –
Patrick Kane is the player most likely to be chosen with the first overall choice in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. The 5-foot-10, 160-pound Buffalo native led the OHL and the CHL in scoring with 145 points (62 goals, 83 assists) as a rookie in 2006-07.

L is for Legein – Stefan Legein is the closest thing to a Sean Avery/Darcy Tucker type agitator in the draft this year. He moved from 32nd in the mid-term rankings to 13th at season’s end. The 5-foot-9, 170-pound fireplug patterns his game after Tucker’s and says Jeremy Roenick is his favorite NHL player.

M is for McDonagh – High school defenseman Ryan McDonagh was named Minnesota’s “Mr. Hockey” in 2007, given annually to the state’s best high school player. He became the first player from his high school (Cretin-Durham) to win the award. Ranked 11th among North American skaters in the CSB’s final rankings, McDonagh is certain to be drafted in the first round on Friday night. He is the nephew of longtime NFL quarterback Steve Walsh.

N is for Neal – Belleville left wing Mike Neal is the 300th and final player ranked in the Red Line Report’s 2007 Draft Guide. There will be only 211 players chosen this weekend. Neal is ranked 153rd among North American skaters in the final CSB rankings.

O is for O’Brien – University of Minnesota center James O’Brien was the youngest player in NCAA Division I hockey last season. He played mostly on the fourth line, and still managed six goals and a dozen points in 36 games. O’Brien figures to hear his name called late in the first round on Friday night or early in the second round on Saturday morning.

P is for Pacioretty – Connecticut native Max Pacioretty is one of the top power forward candidates available in the 2007 draft. He spent 2006-07 with Sioux City of the USHL, posting 21 goals, 63 points and 119 PIM  in 60 games. Pacioretty has a sharp wrist shot and a quick release.

Q is for Qvist – Red Line has Swedish forward William Qvist ranked 136th and says the “huge winger can really fly for a big man.” Qvist stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 185 pounds.

R is for Ross – Nick Ross is a defenseman with the WHL’s Regina Pats. A two-way defenseman who played in the 2007 CHL Top Prospects Game, Ross is one of nine or 10 defensemen who figure to be chosen in the first round.

S is for Sweatt – Colorado College winger Bill Sweatt is the fastest skater in the 2007 draft, according to most. He was not ranked at all in the mid-term rankings but shot up to 27th among the CSB’s list of North American skaters. He had nine goals and 26 points in 30 games as a freshman, and should go somewhere in the first two rounds just on the basis of his wheels.

T is for Turris – Despite playing in the lower tiered British Columbia Jr. Hockey League, Turris is a certain top-three pick in 2007, and some teams likely have his name atop their list. Turris is committed to U. of Wisconsin this fall. A slightly built (6-foot-0, 170 pounds) center, Turris will need time to fill out his frame for the rigors of the NHL. Has has drawn comparisons to Colorado’s Joe Sakic, a future Hall of Famer.

U is for Unice – Josh Unice is ranked 15th among North American netminders on the CSB list. Unice spent the 2006-07 season playing with the Team USA U-18 team in USA Hockey’s National Developmental Program.

James vanRiemsdyk
V is for vanRiemsdyk and Voracek –
Wingers James vanRiemsdyk and Jakub Voracek have a chance to become the highest drafted player ever aamong those whose surnames begin with the letter “V.” That distinction is currently held by Dennis Ververgaert, who was chosen third overall by Vancouver in 1973. Washington has taken two players whose last names begin with “V” in the top five. The Caps selected defenseman Darren Veitch with the fifth overall choice in 1980 and chose center Alexander Volchkov with the fourth choice in 1996. There’s your USRDA of useless trivia for today.

W is for Weber – Defenseman Wil Weber played for his Gaylord High School team in northern Michigan last season. He is full-bodied at 6-foot-4 and 190 pounds with room to fill out. A good skater with excellent offensive skills, he needs work in his own end of the ice. Weber is a raw player with a lot of upside, but he hasn’t played against high levels of competition. He is one of several wild cards who could garner some early-round attention this weekend.

X is for the difference between Swedish defenseman Alexander Eriksson and Swedish defenseman Sebastian Erixon.

Y is for Ylven – Martin Ylven is a sizeable (6-foot-3, 207 pounds) Swedish winger. Ylven is a character player who stands up for his teammates but lacks hands, according to the Red Line Report. Ranked 101st overall on the CSB European rankings, Ylven is likely to have his name called somewhere in the middle rounds of this weekend’s draft.

Z is for Zach – Zach Hamill led the WHL in scoring with 93 points for the Everett Silvertips this season. A playmaking center, he went from 22nd on the CSB’s mid-term rankings to ninth at season’s end. Hamill is on the small side at 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds, but he has good skills and is a surefire first-rounder who could crack the top 10 on Friday night.
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