U.S. Players Taken No. 1 And 2 In NHL Draft

Friday, June 22nd 2007, 7:19 pm
By: News On 6

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) _ Oh, Canada! For the first time, Americans were taken with the top two picks in the NHL draft Friday night.

First, the Chicago Blackhawks, trying to rebuild a once-proud franchise after four consecutive losing seasons, selected Patrick Kane with the first pick. The 5-foot-9, 160-pound right wing, is a native of Buffalo, N.Y., who scored 62 goals and had 83 assists in 58 games last season with the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League.

Then with the No. 2 pick, the Philadelphia Flyers selected left wing James vanRiemsdyk, a member of the U.S. National Team Development Program from Middletown, N.J. The 6-3, 200-pound physical power forward had 33 goals and 30 assists in 42 games for the U.S. National Under-18 team a year ago.

Twice before Americans had taken two of the top three spots, in 1983 and 2005.

Rated the No. 2 skater in North America by the NHL Central Scouting Service, Kane is expected to give the Blackhawks, who were 31-42-9 a year ago, a creative scorer and deft puck-handler.

The top two picks appeared to support pre-draft rumors that teams were shying away from the top-ranked North American skater, Kyle Turris of Burnaby, British Columbia, because he had already committed to play next season at the University of Wisconsin.

The Phoenix Coyotes then selected Turris with the third pick. The pick was announced by Coyotes coach and president Wayne Gretzky, who received a lengthy standing ovation when he stepped to the podium.

Turris, a skinny 6-1, 170-pound center, piled up 121 points in 53 games for the Burnaby Express of the British Columbia Hockey League. But some NHL teams were afraid he might end up staying at Wisconsin for more than a year.

It didn't take long for the first surprise of the draft. The Los Angeles Kings took defenseman Thomas Hickey with the No. 4 pick. Hickey was not even among the top 15 or so prospects invited to meet the media on Thursday. He was ranked as the 26th best North American skater by the NHL's scouting service.

The Washington Capitals returned to form with the fifth pick, grabbing the biggest and most highly touted defenseman in talent pool in Karl Alzner. At 6-2, 206, Alzner is an intimidating blue-liner who isn't afraid to mix it up in the corners. Some scouts had compared him to All-Star Chris Pronger of the Stanley Cup-winning Anaheim Ducks.

Even before the first pick was made, it was a busy day for many teams.

_ The Toronto Maple Leafs dealt three draft picks _ possibly one from Friday's first round _ for goalie Vesa Toskala and forward Mark Bell.

``We're very happy with the way things worked out,'' Leafs vice president and general manager John Ferguson said.

_ The Nashville Predators dealt goaltender Tomas Vokoun to the Florida Panthers for three picks.

_ The Blackhawks sent defenseman Adrian Aucoin and a seventh-round selection to Calgary for defensemen Andrei Zyuzin and Steve Marr.

In addition, the Pittsburgh Penguins reached agreements with veteran forwards Gary Roberts and Mark Recchi on one-year deals before they could become unrestricted free agents; the Colorado Avalanche signed forward Tyler Arnason to a two-year deal; Ottawa re-signed forward Dean McAmmond to a multi-year contract; and the San Jose Sharks locked up defenseman Craig Rivet with a four-year deal.

The draft took place at a packed Nationwide Arena. Blue Jackets majority owner John H. McConnell received a standing ovation when he spoke before the draft began.

Since Columbus had never hosted a postseason game in its six seasons in the NHL, the crowd was buzzing early, almost looking for a reason to cheer. The Blue Jackets introduced their new formfitting uniforms before the first pick was announced, while the crowd chanted, ``Let's go, Blue Jackets!''