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Senators select O'Brien with top pick

by Staff Writer / Ottawa Senators

Bryan Murray gave it the old college try for his first draft as general manager of the Ottawa Senators.

Murray and the Senators went the U.S. college route, selecting 18-year-old centre Jim O'Brien from the University of Minnesota with their first pick, 29th overall, Friday night at the 2007 NHL Entry Draft in Columbus, Ohio.

It's the third year in a row the Senators have taken a U.S.-born player and the second time in the past three years they've taken a player from the school ranks. Before taking Buffalo, New York-born Nick Foligno from the Ontario Hockey League's Sudbury Wolves last year (28th overall), they selected high-school defenceman Brian Lee, a native of Fargo, North Dakota, at ninth overall in 2005. Lee has since gone on to play at the University of North Dakota.

O'Brien had seven goals and eight assists and 51 minutes in penalties in 43 games last season in his freshman year at Minnesota. The native of Maplewood, Minn., was a defenceman in minor hockey and he's said to have brought some of that physical aspect to his game as a forward.

Despite being the youngest player in the National Collegiate Athletic Association ranks last season with the Golden Gophers when he started the season at the age of just 17, he's said to have shown a willingness to be physical and compete. With a six-foot-two, 184-pound frame, he's also got room to add size.

"I'm a player that needs to keep working on my game," O'Brien told The Canadian Press, who compared him to Patrick Marleau of the San Jose Sharks, after being chosen on Friday night. "I need to get bigger, stronger and faster."

O'Brien is also said to be a good skater.

The combination of size and mobility is one that Murray likes.

"I think you saw Anaheim and in the league now, no matter how skilful you are, you have to have a little bit of size on your team," Murray told the Ottawa Citizen.

Meanwhile, the Chicago Blackhawks had the No. 1 selection overall and chose right-winger Patrick Kane from the Ontario Hockey League's London Knights. The Philadelphia Flyers then took left-winger James vanRiemsdyk from the U.S. junior development team second and the Phoenix Coyotes selected centre Kyle Turris from the Tier 2 Burnaby Express of the British Columbia Hockey League.

The draft continues Saturday, beginning at 10 a.m., with Rounds 2 through 7.

Barring any trades, the Senators will select 60th (Round 2), 90th (Round 3), 120th (Round 4) and 150th (Round 5). They have no selections in the sixth round after trading their pick (No. 180) to Washington, but conclude with two choices in Round 7, No. 183 (acquired from Phoenix) and next-to-last No. 210.

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