Canadiens draft pair of Americans in first round of NHL entry draft

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The Habs drafted a pair of U.S.-born skaters in Friday night's first round of the NHL entry draft - defenceman Ryan McDonagh at No. 12 and winger Max Pacioretty at No. 22.

On a team that already has two young American players that are key to their success, forward Chris Higgins and defenceman Mike Komisarek, the newcomers will feel right at home in a few years when they make the big club.

"Seems like the Canadiens have a lot of confidence in U.S.-born players," said Pacioretty. "That's a great feeling."

Habs fans hoping their team would take Quebec scoring star Angelo Esposito were no doubt disappointed when McDonagh's name was called, but scouts drool over the American blue-liner's game.

"I'm a pretty good sized defender and can skate pretty good with fast forwards and have good lateral movement," McDonagh said in describing himself. "I feel that defending and skating are by far my best assets."

The six-foot-one, 200-pounder patterns his game off Detroit superstar Nicklas Lidstrom and ageless veteran Chris Chelios of the Red Wings.

"I look to guys like Nicklas Lidstrom and Chris Chelios," said McDonagh. "Chelios for his leadership and the respect he commands and Lidstrom is a guy that can play in any situation, he's a guy you can count on late in the game when you need a goal or when you're holding on to a victory.

"The combination of those two guys is what I look up to for my style of play."

McDonagh, the two-time winner of the Mr. Hockey Award - the best high school player in the state of Minnesota - had 33 points (10-23) in 23 games last season with Cretin-Derham. He'll head to the University of Wisconsin next fall.

"It's going to be an exciting year ahead of me," said McDonagh. "I'm going to have to think about my situation after my year at Wisconsin is completed in terms of whether or not I'll make the jump into the Montreal franchise."

He interviewed well with the Habs so he had some inkling Montreal might want him, but he wasn't sure whether it would be at No. 22 instead of No. 12.

"I was a little shocked. I mean, I was ranked somewhat high in Central Scouting (11th), but you don't know what to think," he said. "You hear rumours every day. So when the Montreal Canadiens said my name it was definitely a thrill and a relief. I'm going to be joining a great traditional franchise."

McDonagh showed his smarts with the Montreal media when he ended his interview session with a simple "merci."

Pacioretty also quickly endeared himself to the Montreal writers, telling them that his grandmother was French-Canadian.

"I've been to a couple of games in Montreal when I was younger," he said. "It's a great atmosphere."

He's headed off to the University of Michigan in the fall after collecting 63 points (21-42) in 60 games with Sioux City of the USHL this season.

"I'll listen to what the people in the Montreal organization tell me," he said. "If they think I'm ready to leave early next year then I'll think just like them."

The six-foot-two, 203-pounder projects to be a power forward.

"I try to have more of a Keith Tkachuk-type game," said Pacioretty. "I like to play physical, bang some bodies. I don't want to just help out offensively but also be a fan favourite, too."

The Habs got the 22nd overall pick from San Jose at the trade deadline in the Craig Rivet deal.



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