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Medicine Hat's Bouwmeester Heads Final CSS Rankings

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers
TORONTO - Defenseman Jay Bouwmeester of the Western Hockey League's Medicine Hat Tigers is the top rated North American skater in the NHL's final ranking of draft eligible players for the 2002 NHL Entry Draft. The 6'3½", 206-pound Bouwmeester finished third in scoring among WHL defensemen with 61 points (12 goals, 49 assists) in 61 games and was elected to the WHL Eastern Conference First All-Star Team. Bouwmeester, a native of Edmonton, Alberta, was a member of the Canadian national junior team that captured the Silver medal at the 2002 World Junior Championship in the Czech Republic and was named to the tournament's All-Star Team.

The final ranking is compiled by the NHL's Central Scouting Service and features the top 180 skaters in North America, top 30 North American goaltenders, as well as the top 150 European players and top nine European goaltenders.

The 2002 NHL Entry Draft will take place on June 22-23 at Air Canada Centre in Toronto.

Rick Nash, a left wing for the London Knights (OHL), is the number two-rated player. The 6'3", 188-pound native of Brampton, Ontario was the youngest player on Canada's national junior team at the 2002 World Junior Championship. Nash finished the season with 72 points (32-40-72) in 54 games, leading his team in goals.

The top five positions are rounded out by Ryan Whitney (Boston, MA), a defenseman with Boston University and the top rated U.S.-born prospect; forward Joffrey Lupul (Edmonton, Alta.) of the Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL); and right wing Scottie Upshall (Ft. McMurray, Alta.) of the WHL's Kamloops Blazers. Upshall captured a Silver Medal with Canada at the 2002 World Junior Championship, while Whitney performed for the U.S. national junior team.

Jeff Deslauriers (St-Jean-Richelieu, Que.) of the QMJHL's Chicoutimi Sagueneens is the number one ranked goaltender in North America. He is followed by Todd Ford (Calgary, Alta.) of the Swift Current Broncos (WHL) and Maxime Daigneault (St-Jacques-le-Mineur, Que.) of the Val d'Or Foreurs (QMJHL).

Finnish goaltender Kari Lehtonen is the top rated goaltender in Europe. Lehtonen performed for Finland at the 2001 and 2002 World Junior Championships, capturing two Bronze medals. He was named the tournament's Best Goaltender in 2002.

The top rated European skater is Joni Pitkanen of Finland (Karpat, Finnish League). The 6'3", 202-pound defenseman performed for Finland at the 2002 World Junior Championship, capturing a Bronze medal. Pitkanen finished third among the tournament's top scoring defensemen (1-3-4 in seven games). Russian left wing Alexander Semin (rated #2), Czech center Jiri Hudler (rated #3) and defensemen Denis Grebeshkov (rated 4th), a defenseman with the Gold medal-winning Russian team at the 2002 World Junior Championship, and Michal Barinka (rated 5th) of the Czech Republic complete the top five prospects in Europe.

The OHL is well represented in the 2002 final report with 11 prospects ranked in the first round. The WHL and the U.S. collegiate system follow, each with eight first round prospects.

In addition to 17 Canadian-born players ranked in the first round, there are nine U.S.-born players: Whitney; #9 center Christopher Higgins (Smithtown, NY) of Yale University (ECAC); #11 center Jim Slater (Petoskey, MI) of Michigan State University (CCHA); #13 left wing Eric Nystrom (Syosset, NY), son of former New York Islanders forward Bob Nystrom, of the University of Michigan (CCHA); #14 forward Rob Globke (Farmington, MI) of the University of Notre Dame (CCHA); #17 right wing Barry Tallackson (Grafton, ND) of the University of Minnesota; #19 defenseman Keith Ballard (Baudette, MN) of the University of Minnesota (WCHA); #25 defenseman Matt Jones (Downers Grove, IL) of the University of North Dakota and #30 defenseman Brian Lee (Berrien Springs, MI) of the OHL's Erie Otters.

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