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Notebook: Burke says Pronger born to wear orange

by Larry Wigge
MONTREAL -- Some musings from the two days of the 2009 Entry Draft at Bell Centre in La Belle Province:

Born for orange -- When asked if he was surprised at the Philadelphia Flyers acquiring defenseman Chris Pronger from the Anaheim Ducks for forward Joffrey Lupul, rookie defenseman Luca Sbisa and two first-round picks, Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke said, "I think he was born to wear orange. He's got the whole package, size and skill as well as being a leader. But the fans in Philadelphia will love that mean streak he brings to every game."

Pronger will clearly be the No. 1 defenseman in Philadelphia, and after leading the Edmonton Oilers and Ducks to the Stanley Cup Final in consecutive years -- losing in 2006 to Carolina and beating Ottawa in 2007. It's obvious the Flyers are looking for a player to help push them into that same frame of mind.

Asked if Burke, who drafted Pronger in Hartford and traded for him when he was the GM in Anaheim, had any thoughts about trying to bring Chris to Toronto, Brian said, "We're still in the rebuilding process."

In other words, the price was too expensive and the Maple Leafs are still a ways away from contending.

Said Burke, "You have to crawl, walk and run before you can sprint."

2003, 2003, 2003 -- In most draft years, teams would be overjoyed getting 2.5 players who make it to the NHL. A quick look at the team-by-team listings shows there appear to be quite a few teams that did that and more -- bringing back memories of 2003, one of the great drafts in NHL history.

Every time someone turned around, the New York Islanders were adding a key player -- from center John Tavares and defenseman Calvin de Haan in the first round to goaltenders Mikko Koskinen and Anders Nilsson in the second and third rounds, respectively.

Same with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Picking second, they got their guy in defenseman Victor Hedman, then added heart-and-soul forward Carter Ashton in a trade later in the first round, plus Slovakia's best prospect, Richard Panik, in Round 2 and forward Alex Hutchings in the fourth round.

Pittsburgh, picking last in each round, hit a couple home runs for the defense with Simon Despres in the first round, Philip Samuelsson in Round 2 and high school offensive threat Ben Hanowski in the third round.

Anaheim, which had two first-round picks, came away with promising forwards Peter Holland and Kyle Palmieri in Round 1, U.S. defenseman Matt Clark in the second round and goaltender Igor Bobkov in Round 3.

Atlanta gets kudos for first-round center Evander Kane, second-round wingers Carl Klingberg and Jeremy Morin and goaltender Edward Pasquale in the fourth.

With Joe Sakic uncertain about his future in Colorado, the Avalanche's new management team nabbed center Matt Duchene with the third pick in the draft -- getting him after the Islanders went for Tavares and the Lightning picked Hedman. Center No. 2 came in to the second round in Ryan O'Reilly, who is one of those ultimate heart-and-soul players you win with. They also picked up highly regarded defenseman Stefan Elliott in the second round.

The Los Angeles Kings are beginning to show off a war chest of prospects similar to Chicago's riches at the draft table for the last five years or so. Brayden Schenn gives the Kings an almost immediate 1-2-3 punch up the middle with Anze Kopitar and Michal Handzus. Kyle Clifford, a winger, came in Round 2 and goaltender J.F. Berube joins an already strong, young group of netminders.

The New York Rangers added a threesome of futures up front in Chris Kreider, Ethan Werek and Ryan Bourque.

Lastly, the Washington Capitals continued their great work at the draft, even thought they are picking lower and lower, like Pittsburgh: Swedish center Marcus Johansson in the first round, Russian defenseman Dmitri Orlov in the second and Cody Eakin, the scoring star in the midseason prospects game, in Round 3.

That's a lot of teams with three or more name picks. It will be interesting to see how this draft ultimately rates alongside 2003.

What we'll remember -- Brian Burke said there were no surprises in this year's draft. But he'll remember this lottery for one thing.

"We were becoming worried that the pipeline to Sweden was falling off the radar like it had in Minnesota for a couple of years," Burke said. "We all knew about Hedman and we knew that Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson was bringing with him some Swedish and Finnish skills. But the other four first-round Swedes and the three or four more that followed them showed that Sweden is alive and well as an NHL prospect producer. That's what I'll remember about this draft."

A 50-goal dilemma -- Ottawa's Dany Heatley wasn't dealt during the two days at the draft. But don't look for the price for Heatley to go down, according to Senators GM Bryan Murray.

Though Heatley has asked for a trade, it's looking more and more as if teams have shied away from dealing for him because he is due a $4 million bonus on July 1 on top of the $7.5 million cap number he carries.

"Am I surprised more teams haven't been more serious about obtaining Dany?" Murray said. "Well, yes, he's a two-time 50-goal guy. I know if I needed a scorer, I'd sure be looking to find a guy who might get me 50 goals."

But ...

"I know one thing," Murray continued, "if we find no trading partner, we'll be happy to welcome back his 50 goals."

No gamble if -- Free agency begins on July 1. But Calgary Flames GM Darryl Sutter got a head start in trying to make a big splash by acquiring the rights to Florida Panthers All-Star defenseman Jay Bouwmeester for the right to free-agent defenseman Jordan Leopold and a third-round draft choice.

This could be a home run for the Flames -- if Sutter can convince Bouwmeester to come home to Alberta to play. He'll get a few days' head start in the arm-twisting time before free agency that the other teams don't have.

Sutter shrugged off the thought that Bouwmeester might give the Flames a hometown discount because he's Alberta kid, saying if that was the case that every kid from Edmonton and Calgary would be playing in Edmonton and Calgary.

Sutter had another thought on the subject that he might use to convince Bouwmeester to sign with the Flames before. He'd tell him, "I know this much. If I was even an average defenseman, I'd want to play on a defense that had Robyn Regehr and Dion Phaneuf."

The geographical recap -- Eleven countries combined to have a total of 210 players taken in the 2009 Entry Draft. Of those, 102 were from Canada, 55 from the U.S., 24 from Sweden, 10 from Finland, seven from Russia, five from Slovakia, three from the Czech Republic, and one each from Belarus, Denmark, Germany and the United Kingdom.

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