MONTREAL - Amidst the relative order of the first round, Saturday was much more unpredictable at the NHL draft in Montreal, with some players jumping up the rankings while others plunged.
But in the middle of all that disorder, there were some concrete storylines that emerged on the second day.
American Invasion – After a fair showing on Day 1 that saw five U.S.-born players jump on stage, including several high schoolers, the U.S. National Team Development Program sent six of its charges to the roster board in the second round alone, including three in a row when William Wrenn (Buffalo, 43rd), Drew Shore (Florida) and Jeremy Morin (Atlanta) were picked up.
Toronto in particular bought into the strength of the national program, taking right winger Kenny Ryan with the 50th pick then Jerry D’Amigo in the sixth round.
Though the team doesn’t play a traditional schedule comparable to major junior or NCAA, New Jersey Devils GM Lou Lamoriello (who has had more than a little success with developing American players) likes what he saw this season.
“Our scouts put them among the best,” he said. “It’s not so much a top player as it is quantity. It’s just a credit to the job they’re doing there.”
Sometimes pundits are weary of kids who don’t play in traditional streams, but high schoolers or NTDP players don’t scare Lamoriello.
“Phil Housley,” he cited as an example. “Talent is talent.”
Topsy-Turvy Goalies – Although THN was high on Finnish giant Mikko Koskinen, the 6-foot-5 keeper was certainly not on the top of everybody’s list, so it was a bit surprising to see him taken as the first goaltender in the draft.
The Isles snapped up Koskinen with the first pick of the second round, 31st overall, setting the stage for an unorthodox day for netminders.
Olivier Roy, a small but potent goalie for Cape Breton in the Quebec League, dropped all the way to sixth round. In the middle were the expected names: Matt Hackett of OHL Plymouth to Minnesota, Russian Igor Bobkov to Anaheim and NCAA-bound Mike Lee to Phoenix.
Big Buffalo – The Sabres have been famous recently for taking smaller forwards such as Nathan Gerbe, but the 2009 draft was all about beef.
GM Darcy Regier tabbed beastly Peterborough power forward Zach Kassian in the first round, then followed it up with tough WHL defenseman Brayden McNabb with the 66th pick. Marcus Foligno, no pushover himself at nearly 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds, was the next Sabres pick at No. 104.
Washington Strikes Again – Last year, Capitals GM George McPhee went where others feared to tread, drafting Russian Dmitri Kugryshev out of CSKA Moscow.
Kugryshev was Nikita Filatov’s linemate, but getting Kugryshev over to North America was far from an absolute. Nevertheless, McPhee took the talented right winger 58th overall and the youngster proceeded to come over and rock the Quebec League for 74 points in 57 games playing for Patrick Roy’s Remparts.
Obviously, McPhee knew he had trump cards on his roster in Russian stars Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin, who could help sell the team to young compatriots.
This year, McPhee went back to the well and selected coveted yet geographically dicey defenseman Dmitri Orlov with his second round pick (55th overall).
With Ovechkin likely spending the entire summer in Moscow, it wouldn’t be surprising if Orlov got at least a phone call from the Washington superstar.
From the road in Montreal, host Ken Campbell, writer Ryan Kennedy and web content specialist Rory Boylen discuss... The Jay Bouwmeester trade… Rounds 2-7… This year’s goalie crop… And those who fell further than predicted. Producer: Ted Cooper.
Ryan Kennedy, Ken Campbell and Rory Boylen are at the 2009 NHL Draft in Montreal and each will be filing regular reports throughout the weekend.
Ryan Kennedy is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Mondays and Wednesdays, his column - The Straight Edge - every Friday, and his prospect feature, The Hot List appears Tuesdays.
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