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NHL Releases 2006 Prospect Ranking

by Staff Writer / Florida Panthers

U.S. National Under-18 star Erik Johnson, ranked #1 At mid-season, retains top spot

TORONTO - Defenseman Erik Johnson of the U.S. National Team Development Program's Under-18 team heads the list of eligible players in North America for the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, according to NHL Central Scouting Service's final rankings released today. The final ranking features the top 210 skaters and 30 goaltenders in North America and top 160 skaters and 18 goaltenders from Europe.

Johnson, in his second season at the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based program, retained his #1 ranking from NHL Central Scouting's mid-season ranking in January. The 6'4", 225-pound, Bloomington, Minn. native was a dominant player at the 2006 World Junior Championships (Under-20) in Vancouver and currently ranks third in scoring on Team USA at the IIHF World Under-18 Championships in Angelholm, Sweden with 4-5--9 in four games.

A record total of 12 U.S.-born players are ranked in the first round. The highest number of Americans selected in the first round is eight, set in the 2005 Entry Draft.

Jonathan Bernier of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's Lewiston Maineiacs retained his ranking as the top-rated North American goaltender, Swedish center Nicklas Backstrom (Brynas) displaced Czech Republic right wing Michael Frolik (Kladno) as the top prospect among European skaters and Swedish goaltender Jhonas Enroth (Sodertalje Jrs.) kept his status as the leading European goaltender.

Moving into second place among North American skaters is Peterborough Petes (OHL) center Jordan Staal, who will become the third member of the Thunder Bay, Ont., Staal family drafted into the NHL. Brother Eric, 21, was a first-round pick of the Carolina Hurricanes in 2003 and finished seventh in NHL scoring this season (45-55--100), while Marc, a 19-year-old defenseman, was a first-round pick of the New York Rangers in 2005.

The 2006 NHL Entry Draft is Saturday, June 24 at General Motors Place in Vancouver, broadcast nationally in Canada on TSN and in the United States on OLN at 6 p.m., ET.

In its 30th year of operation, the NHL Central Scouting Service provides scouting and evaluation of draft-eligible players to NHL member clubs. Headed by NHL Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations Jim Gregory and Director of Central Scouting E.J. McGuire, NHL Central Scouting employs nine full-time and six part-time scouts throughout North America and works with Goran Stubb of the European Scouting Service and his staff of five full-time scouts to cover prospects playing throughout Europe. NHL Central Scouting and European Scouting Service will together see more than 3,000 games this season.

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