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We’re not interested in who is taking steroids. Or why some egotistical owner is down on a coach or a player. We’re creating this section on sports to celebrate the best—the best writing, the best sportscasting, players who soar, and particularly the less commercialized sports—like croquet, and polo, perhaps cricket, fly fishing—that are more or less free of Hollywood, silly discussion on the cable channels, and skillion dollar bonuses.  In other words, we’re interested in sport, and will find ways to report on it here.

4.  William Hazlitt on Boxing.  Oft as not, the best writers on sports do not come from the sports world.  Just now we are reading John Updike’s meanderings about golf.  We cannot recommend highly enough William Hazlitt’s “The Fight.”  An English essayist of the highest order, he shed light on a host of  subjects in the 19th century.  Can you not sense the excitement that Hazlitt feels at his first fight:  “Reader, have you ever seen a fight? If not, you have a pleasure to come, at least if it is a fight like that between the Gas-man and Bill Neate. The crowd was very great when we arrived on the spot; open carriages were coming up, with streamers flying and music playing, and the country-people were pouring in over hedge and ditch in all directions, to see their hero beat or be beaten. The odds were still on Gas, but only about five to four. Gully had been down to try Neate, and had backed him considerably, which was a damper to the sanguine confidence of the adverse party. About two hundred thousand pounds were pending.” (12-15-10)

3.  NBA 2009 Draft Recap. The National Basketball Association staged its draft at Madison Square Garden on June 25, 2009.  Our handicapper, Angus Dunk, sorts through the selections, telling us which teams got the pick of the litter.  We wonder how headhunters would do if they had to pick their way through America’s executive bench as some convention center  in order to fill out the ranks of their corporate clients.  See Dunk’s picks here.

2.King Croquet.  Croquet is still a civilized sport, meant to be played with keenness, but in low tones, and with a small gathering of spectators sipping summer cocktails n the background.  But, in “A Shot at Greatness,” Garden and Gun, September 2009, pp.67-73, it pleasures one to learn how Archie Burchfield, a back country tobacco farmer from Stamping Ground, Kentucky, took on all the nabobs of the sport and swept them all away. In 1982 Archie and his son Mark took the USCA championship in New York’s Central Park.  “On grass, he went on to win the national double titles again in 1987 (with Damon Bidencope), two national club-team championships, and numerous regional titles.  Despite rarely having the means to travel to many competitions or to play close to full-time, he remains fifth in the USCA’s overall cash prizes ranking… In 1995, he was inducted into the United States Croquet Hall of Fame.” (09-30-09)

1. Our Ranking of theTop 30 Picks at the 2009 NHL Draft in Montreal, June 26-27, 2009—Angus Dunk

Picks 1-10
Round 1
1.) John Tavares, Center (picked 1st overall by the New York Islanders)Owner Charles Wang might have finally landed a winner for the New York Islanders, who have been defunct since the 80’s. Tavares had already been a standout star in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) well before this year’s World Junior Championships. During his 6 year run in the OHL he managed to compile 433 career points, which included back to back 100 point performances with the Oshawa Generals in the 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 seasons. Tavares finished his scoring with 104 points this season, playing the latter half with the London Knights. Tavares gets to the front of the net with his quick stick movement and clearly has a tick-tack-toe style of play which leaves goalies in question to where the puck is. Debate over the next Wayne Gretzky has been speculated since “The Great One” retired in 1999. Is he the one? Number one picks like Sidney Crosby (2005 by the Penguins) and Steve Stamkos (2008 by the Lightning) have proven big for their respective teams, but Tavares will play the definitive role of “Hero” for the struggling New York Islanders. His skating ability has been the only thing questioned by scouts, keeping in mind that the National Hockey League and American Hockey League feature quick paces like no other. But this shouldn’t be a worry, Tavares can clearly deliver. Even though he went to the Islanders, as opposed to my Rangers, I welcome the healthy competition in the Atlantic Division.

2.) Victor Hedman, Defense (picked 2nd overall by the Tampa Bay Lightning) – Hedman originally comes from Ornskoldsvik, Sweden; home to famed NHLer’s Peter Forsberg, Markus Naslund, the Sedin twins from the Vancouver Canucks, and Anders Hedberg (retired).  The 6’6, 220 pound defenseman plays for Team Modo of the Swedish Elite League and has been a stand out star like so many of his teammates. While his numbers haven’t been huge, Hedman has been on the rise. The NHL Central Scouting Service compares him to defensemen such as Chris Pronger and Zdeno Chara. Clearly, Hedman had his best year playing in the Elite League with Modo and recorded 21 points, a +21, and 52 penalty minutes. On offense, Hedman’s biggest attributes include his ability to score quick one-timers and wrist shots. His shot in turn has made him a threat to opposing teams in overtime and special team situations. On defense, Hedman’s size will provide his team in their own end with good checking and hits. Overall, my analysis is that Hedman is a great player. My only concern is his ability to strive with a struggling team such as Tampa Bay. However, Tampa has typically drafted forwards in previous drafts such as Vincent Lecavalier and Steve Stamkos. Hedman may be the missing piece of the puzzle to this team. If things go awry for this young star, he has a back-up option revealing that he would be a pilot if he wasn’t a hockey player.

3.) Matt Duchene, Center (picked 3rd overall by the Colorado Avalanche) – This playmaker from the Brampton Battalion of the OHL well could have been picked 2nd this year in my opinion. Duchene sneaked his way up from being in the top 10 draftees to the top 5. In the May issue of “The Hockey News” he was ranked at #6.  Duchene comes from the same OHL team, the Brampton Battalion, as Vancouver Canucks prospect, Cody Hodgson, who was ranked #2 by “The Hockey News” amongst current NHL prospects. Duchene is a great player because of his speed. This is seen consistently in his skating and with his stick handling. In just two seasons with Brampton, he recorded back-to-back 30 goal seasons (2007-2008 and 2008-2009) and compiled 129 points. So why wasn’t he #1 in the draft? He doesn’t have as much experience as Tavares and could use more time to develop his game. Overall, he’s very good, but not quite matching Tavares in scoring caliber. However, his skating does outmatch that of Tavares. Duchene will put up big numbers for the Avalanche and shouldn’t have trouble making the roster this season. His only flaw might be that he favors the right wing a little too much, but every player has their tendencies.

4.) Evander Kane, Center (picked 4th overall by the Atlanta Thrashers) – The forward is named after boxer Evander Holyfield. Kane is coming off an explosive season with the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League (WHL) in which he recorded 48 goals and 48 assists for a total of 96 points. Partial owners of the Giants include former NHL players, Gordie Howe and Pat Quinn. Kane also played alongside John Tavares on Team Canada in the World Junior Championships averaging a point per game. Kane also possesses an aggressive style of competition which could prove useful to his team in both the offensive and defensive zones. With a 6’1, 176 pound frame, Kane holds his own and is unafraid to dish out hit after hit or get involved in a scrap. On offense, Kane’s “rush to the net” style of play has drawn scouts to compare him to Eric Staal. Additionally, Kane is superb on breakaways and in shootouts. He lists a variation of shootout moves as his favorite including the backhand, forehand, and backhand to forehand. In these types of scenarios, more than likely he scores.

5.) Nazem Kadri, Center (picked 7th overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs) – Here’s a fun fact. He’s the first player of Lebanese-Muslim descent to be drafted in the NHL. He played with teammate, John Tavares, on the London Knights of the OHL this past season. This season, Kadri finished 2nd in scoring on the Knights, with a career high 78 points (25 goals and 53 assists), only trailing Tavares. This year he also led the OHL in shorthanded points with 10. In 2007-2008, he played on the Kitchener Rangers who the John Ross Robertson Cup as OHL Champions. Kadri is a big asset in my mind for two reasons. First, according to “The Hockey News” he is a player that comfortably plays all three forward positions which will prove critical on special plays as well for 5 on 5 hockey. Secondly, Kadri is a goal scorer, but his bigger attribute is going to being a playmaker. He finished ninth last year in assists (53) in the OHL.

6.) Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson, Left Wing (drafted 10th overall by the Edmonton Oilers) – I was very surprised to see Paarjarvi-Svensson drafted so late, seeing how he was one of the top ranked skaters. His final ranking before the start of the draft was #2 amongst European skaters. This also begs to question why the Phoenix Coyotes didn’t draft him, given they have for the past two drafts selected Europeans (Mikkel Boedker in 2008 and Oliver Ekman Larsson (#4 amongst European skaters) in 2009). This was a real steal for the Edmonton Oilers. He has made a difference for his country playing on Team Sweden in the World Junior Championships and World Junior Championships U-18 (Under-18). In 2009 in the World Junior Championships, he recorded 7 points in six games and earned a silver medal with Sweden as he did in the tournament the previous season. This year at the World Junior Championships Under 18 tournament he recorded 12 points. He currently plays in the Swedish Elite League with the Timra IK Red Eagles. This season he recorded 17 points in 50 games in his second year with the Red Eagles. Paajarvi-Svensson may not be tallying record breaking numbers, but has played amazingly for a player who just recently turned 18. Paajarvi-Svensson has also been credited with being a forward that can stop defensemen in their tracks. NHL Central Scouting Director, E.J. McGuire, confirms this fact and says the left-winger is an encouraging player in this regard. With more time, development, and maturation added to his game, Paajarvi-Svensson should prove to be a standout player in the NHL. He was the first left- winger to be drafted this year.

7.) Ryan Ellis, Defense (drafted 11th overall by the Nashville Predators) – Based on his career and record, I believe Ellis to be as good if not better than his higher ranked counterpart, Jared Cowen (9th overall by the Ottawa Senators). The only reason for him not being drafted in the top 10 would be based on his size. Ellis stands at 5’9 and 173 pounds. However, hockey is a game of spirit and determination in many aspects. Furthermore, defense isn’t all about how well one can check and hit the other skaters. Cowen’s ability as a scoring defenseman seems like a natural reflex. The 18 year-old has come off a productive two year stint with the Windsor Spitfires of the OHL. He increased his single season scoring to 89 points this season after establishing a solid 63 in his rookie season last year. His play on the ice this year earned him the OHL’s “Most Outstanding Defenseman” Award for the 2008-2009 season. But wait he’s done more? That’s right. Ellis was another key component in helping Team Canada win this year’s World Junior Championships, registering a total of 7 points in 6 games. The young defenseman is quick and fast and he could easily prove to be a nuisance to his bigger, slower opponents. On a side note, Ellis demonstrates a good deal of maturity and articulation for such a young player. Ellis says he styles his game after New Jersey’s Brian Rafalski and Columbus’s Kris Russell, both talented, “lightweight” defensemen in the NHL.

8.) Calvin De Haan, Defense (drafted 12 overall by the New York Islanders) – He’s young and only just finished his rookie season in the OHL with the Oshawa Generals, but shows great promise if he continues to play the way he has. He notched a total of 55 assists and 63 points for the Generals this season. Additionally, he also played for Canada’s team at the 2009 World Under 18 Championships tallying six points. He has a reasonable frame standing at 6’0 and 170 pounds. He’s another quick skater, who is particularly good at staying with his man on the ice. Overall, forwards will have trouble trying to out skate him. Before he was acquired by Oshawa, De Haan played with the Kemptville 73’s of the Central Junior Hockey League (CJHL). The Islanders made good use of their extra pick in round 1 by choosing De Haan.

9.) John Moore, Defense (picked 21st overall by the Columbus Blue Jackets) – Picks 20  through 30 in the draft are always tricky and there isn’t a clear cut answer of who to go with. Still the Blue Jackets have thought outside the box a little by going with a player from the United States Hockey League (USHL). Moore, a native of Chicago, decided to play for one of his many hometown teams and joined the Chicago Steel this season. In his second year with the Steel, he totaled 39 points during the 2008-2009 season and was named the USHL Defenseman of the Year. Moore was also tagged as the highest ranked USHL player entering this year’s draft. Moore plans on attending Colorado College in the fall, but is unsure if he will keep that commitment pending the demands of the Blue Jackets. Overall, I think he shows promise and is a safe investment for the Jackets, but all investments need time to grow. If he wants to develop his game further he should go to Colorado College. He has been compared to defensemen Scott Niedermayer and Jay Bouwmeester by NHL scouting director, E.J. McGuire.

10.) Jordan Schroeder, Center (picked 22nd overall by the Vancouver Canucks) – Schroeder had the honor of being drafted as the first collegiate player in this year’s draft. And where better than from the alma mater of Herb Brooks? That’s right, the University of Minnesota. As a freshman with the Golden Gophers, Schroeder recorded 45 points in 35 games for a season average of 1.3 points per game. Additionally, Schroeder was the only freshman to rank in the top 50 scorers in NCAA I Men’s Ice Hockey. For his achievements this season alone, he earned Rookie of the Year awards from the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA), the College Hockey News, and from the Gophers as well. Schroeder has also been of value for USA hockey, playing on the U-18 team and competing also with Team USA in the World Junior Championships in 2009. Schroeder led the team in scoring this year with 11 points.  Overall, he will only continue to become better in the next 3 years at Minnesota and will be a definite playmaker for the Vancouver Canucks. The scouting report in the May Issue of the Hockey News describes him best: “His strengths are his hockey sense and puck skills. He’s intelligent, poised and creative, with a very good focus around the net.” At 5’8 and 175 pounds, his size was a concern for many teams and explains him being picked so late in round 1 of the draft. In May, The Hockey News pegged him as the #10 pick.

Picks 11-20
11.) Marcus Johansson, Center (picked 24th overall by the Washington Capitals) – Johansson is a quick skater who scores on the rushes, breakaways, and crash net situations. He has a very good wrist shot and compares with Victor Hedman on the same level. He’s played with Farjestads BK of the Swedish Elite League (SEL) for the past two seasons which included this season’s championship team (Farjestads BK has won 8 championships in the last 28 years). In the 2007-2008 season, he had an outstanding season with Farjestads’s junior team scoring 18 points in 12 games. This year he recorded 10 points (5 goals and 5 assists) in 45 games. At the World Junior Championships this year he tallied 2 goals in 6 games helping Sweden to a silver medal. In addition to his one ice credentials, he has a detailed hockey pedigree. Overall, a solid late pick in the 1st round like Schroeder; a real steal for the Capitals.

12.) Simon Despres, Defense (picked 30th overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins) – His English may be incomprehensible and he may prefer to speak French, but Despres comes ready to play. In his 2nd season with the Saint John Sea Dogs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) he recorded 32 points in 66 games and led defensemen in scoring. As a 16-year old rookie with the Sea Dogs last year (2007-2008), Despres racked up 14 points and a plus-18 rating in 64 games which earned him a spot on the QMJHL All-Rookie Team. In 2007, he was picked 1st overall in the QMJHL draft. Despres, who isn’t even 18 years old yet, is 6’4 and weighs in at 205 pounds making him a threat at both ends of the ice. Scouting Director E.J. McGuire compares Despres to defensemen in recent past drafts such as Zach Bogosian (2008 by Atlanta) and Jack Johnson (2005 by Carolina).

Round 2
13.) Mikko Koskinen, Goalie (picked 31st overall by the New York Islanders) – The Islanders didn’t waste their 2nd pick by selecting Koskinen, but they may have surprised some teams nonetheless. Koskinen was a small underdog pick because he was ranked as the #2 European Goalie entering the draft (behind #1 Robin Lehner), but his numbers obviously impressed the Islanders. After an impressive span with the Espoo Blues’ junior squad this season (2008-2009), Koskinen held a 1.91 goals allowed average (GAA), a .931 save percentage (sv%), and 1 shutout through 33 games with the regular Espoo squad of SM-liiga. Koskinen also covers a huge part of the net with a 6’5, 187 pound figure. Koskinen officially became the 1st goalie picked in this year’s draft and was probably the oldest player drafted this year as well (he turns 21 in July). Obviously, the Islanders wanted a little extra insurance in the goaltending department for Rick Dipietro (injured for almost all of last year’s regular season) and newly acquired Dwayne Roloson (good goalie, but his playing has been shaky at times). 

14.) Landon Ferraro, Center (picked 32nd overall by the Detroit Red Wings) – I find it hard for me to exclude Ferraro from a top prospects list. This scrappy- 17 year old forward is the son of former NHLer, Ray Ferraro. Besides “hockey sense,” Landon says his and his father’s style of play vary quite noticeably. To add to his hockey pedigree, he is also the stepson of Cammi Granato, who captained the U.S. Women’s Olympic team to a gold medal in 1998 and a silver medal in 2002. This year, Ferraro played in the 2009 Canadian Hockey League (CHL) Prospects game and won the fastest skater competition with a lap time of 14.009 seconds. For the past two seasons, Ferraro has suited up for the Red Deer Rebels of the WHL and this year led his team in goals with 37 and assists with 18 through 68 games. In his rookie season with Red Deer in the 2007-2008 season, he recorded 13 goals, 24 points, and 65 penalty minutes in 54 games. Overall, Landon Ferraro is a developing forward with a deadly mid-range wrist shot that the Red Wings should be able to put to good use. Additionally, Ferraro will add some bulk to Detroit because he also serves as an enforcer, after racking up 99 penalty minutes with Red Deer this past season.  

15.) Ryan O’Reilly, Center (picked 33rd overall by the Colorado Avalanche) – It’s hard to find footage of this OHL player, but that doesn’t make him any less qualified. In two seasons with the Erie Otters of the OHL, O’Reilly has tallied over 100 points. In his rookie season (2007-2008), he earned team honors with both the Rookie of the Year and Most Sportsmanlike Player Awards; he scored 52 points and only notched 14 penalty minutes. This season, O’Reilly recorded a career high 50 assists and 66 points in 68 games played. Ryan’s older brother, Cal O’Reilly, was drafted in the 5th round of the 2005 draft by the Nashville Predators. In the future, O’Reilly will serve as a playmaker and help assist the Avalanche in creating quality scoring chances.

16.) Alex Chiasson, Right Wing (picked 38th overall by the Dallas Stars) – I was disappointed by the Stars in the 1st round, but their 2nd pick with Chiasson helps make up for it. In the 2007-2008 season, Chiasson had a standout senior year in the Northwood School (New York High School League) recording 35 goals and 81 points in just 45 games. However, his transition to professional hockey didn’t hinder his scoring abilities. Last season, he played with the Des Moines Buccaneers of the USHL and notched 33 assists, 50 points, and 101 penalty minutes. After taking his off-year from college, Chiasson plans on attending Boston University (2009 NCAA Division I Champions) this coming fall.

17.) Charles-Olivier Roussel, Defense (picked 42nd overall by the Nashville Predators) – The Predators gained this pick through negotiations with the Minnesota Wild. After drafting Zach Budish right before, Nashville opted to go with this offensive-defenseman. The 17-yearold skater models his play after and says he wants to be the “next Dion Phaneuf.” After 68 games this season with the Shawinigan Cataractes of the QMJHL, Roussel was a standout with 11 goals, 33 assists, and 44 points. At the same time, Roussel disciplined himself and recorded a modest 77 penalty minutes. In addition to all of this, he finished with a ninth-best 31 plus rating amongst defensemen. In the post season, Roussel continued his scoring success and led defenseman throughout the playoffs with a total of 18 points in 21 games. Roussel helped the Cataractes reach the Presidents Cup Finals, but unfortunately saw his team lose in 7 games to the Drummondville Voltigeurs. With his 6’1, 196 pound frame, Roussel should be able to hold his own in both Nashville and the NHL.

18.) Jeremy Morin, Left Wing (picked 45th overall by the Atlanta Thrashers) – I don’t feel like the national development training development plans (NTDP) give players the same amount of depth and competition than others in such leagues as the OHL, QMJHL, USHL, or the WHL. However, nonetheless even NHL Scouting Director, E.J. McGuire has praise for Morin. McGuire considers Morin to be one of the top offensive specialists in this year’s draft and loves his “puck-dishing” ability. McGuire draws comparisons in Morin’s games to that of Adam Oates and Brendan Shanahan. Morin had impressive scoring highlights this year totaling 33 goals and 59 points in 55 games. Morin also tied for first in the U.S. National Training Developmental Program (US-NTDP) for game winning goals (5) as part of the U.S Under 18 Team. In international play, he averaged a point per game this season with 14 points in 14 games. At the 2009 Under-18 World Championships, Morin helped Team USA earn a gold medal while he led the team with 6 goals in 7 games. His stellar play in the U.S. NTDP earned him a contract with the Kitchener Rangers (OHL) who he plans to play for in the upcoming season. Morin and his family members both share a common hockey background. His older brother, Chad Morin, will be a senior defenseman on the Harvard University team and his cousin, J.D. Forrest, was an All-American at Boston College and now plays professionally in Finland. Morin’s outlook is positive. With some time to work on his game in the OHL, in a couple of years he should have no problem making the Thrashers’ roster.

19.) Robin Lehner, Goalie (picked 46th overall by the Ottawa Senators) – The next Henrik Lundqvist? The Senators scouting staff seems to think so. Like Lundqvist, Lehner is a quick butterfly style goalie with a calm and composed mental attitude. Last season, Lehner played for Frolunda Jr. recording a 3.05 GAA, a .903 sv%, and 1 shutout in 22 games. He also represented Sweden in the 2009 Under-18 World Championships and tallied a 2.80 GAA and a .918 sv % in 4 games. Lehner’s father coached Lundqvist and is credited with being a key contributor to his success in the NHL. Ottawa’s staff has also said that Lehner has a competitive mindset and differs from his fellow Swedes in this aspect of hockey. It was surprising that he was picked as late in the draft as he was; his final ranking among European goalies was #1. However, the Islanders decided to go with Mikko Koskinen (#2 amongst European goalies) whose statistics added up better. The Senators say Lehner will play Canadian Junior Hockey next year to further help develop his game and seem confident that he will be a contender for them in net. The only question is, “Can the man who wants to be Henrik Lundqvist, be Lundqvist or better?”

20.) Tomas Tatar, Center (picked 60th overall by the Detroit Red Wings) – 2nd Slovakian-born player drafted this year. He’s a good-puck carrier and knows how to dangle with excellence.  In the 2007-2008 season, he played with Trencin Jr. and notched 41 goals, 35 assists, and 76 points through 42 games. Last season he played with Zvolen HKm of Slovak Extraliga, the most premier league of Slovakia, and totaled 11 points in 41 games. At the 2009 World Junior Championships, Tatar scored 7 goals and totaled 11 points in the tournament to finish 4th amongst scorers overall. At 5’11, 176 pounds, Tatar is one of the smaller forwards in this year’s NHL entry draft. However, that does not discourage Tatar who idols and stylizes his play after Martin St. Louis (another relatively small player). On St. Louis, Tatar said, “He is smaller than others, but strong with the puck. He has great hockey sense and scoring ability.” Overall, Tatar is a solid puck carrier and fast skater who can be deadly in front of the net, 1 on 1 opportunities, and breakaways.

Picks 21-30
Round 3
21.) Tyson Barrie, Defenseman (picked 64th overall by the Colorado Avalanche) – The second-year defenseman of the Kelowna Rockets helped his team win the 2009 WHL championship and make it the final round of the Memorial Cup. In the playoffs, Barrie recorded 18 points and a plus 18 rating in 22 games. In the regular season he scored 12 goals and added 40 assists for a combined total of 52 points this year; each statistic was an improvement on those of his rookie season. In addition to his on ice credentials, Barrie’s family carries a rich hockey background as well. In 1993, his uncle, Mike Barrie, was drafted by the Buffalo Sabres and his father, Len Barrie, is co-owner and president of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Len Barrie was also drafted in the NHL by the Edmonton Oilers in 1988 and was the WHL scoring leader (185 points in 70 games) in the 1989-1990 season. Barrie’s hockey idol is Scott Niedermayer. Overall, a great 3rd round pick by Colorado who could benefit from a two-way defenseman at both ends of the ice.

22.) Matthew Hackett, Goalie (picked 77th overall by the Minnesota Wild) – Entering the draft he was ranked as the top North American Goalie and was selected accordingly (5th goalie overall in the draft). He may take a little more time than the average goalie to develop, but Matthew Hackett continues to get better season by season. He started out as an unnoticed back-up goalie with the Windsor Spitfires (OHL) during his first span of games which took place during the 2006-2007 season. In seven games that season, he had a 4.38 GAA, a .859 SV%, and no shutouts. Since then, his game has improved immensely. With the Plymouth Whalers (OHL) last season, Hackett recorded 34 wins in 55 games, .913 SV %, a 3.04 GAA, a career high 3,036 minutes, and his first two career shutouts in the OHL. In the playoffs, he improved on his regular season performance with a 3.01 GAA and .930 SV %. This season, he and the Whalers were knocked out of the playoffs by the #1 Windsor Spitfires, who would go on to win the OHL championship and more importantly, the Memorial Cup. Matthew Hackett is the nephew of former NHL goalie, Jeff Hackett, who played in 500 NHL games in his career. He credits his uncle with teaching him how to play goalie. Hackett’s NHL idol is Ryan Miller of the Buffalo Sabres. Overall, Hackett should be able to enter the NHL by no later than his mid-20’s at the rate he has continued to improve his game.

23.) Simon Bertilsson, Defense (picked 87th overall by the Philadelphia Flyers) – A smart move for the Flyers to go with this defenseman; the recruiting staff was clearly aware that a lot of the attractive and lucrative forwards had already been selected. Bertilsson finished with 31 points in 30 games this past season with Brynas IF’s Jr. squad (Elitserien/SEL) and helped the team to win the championship and receive the honorary Anton Cup. He has also played in 21 regular season contests with Brynas IF’s regular squad and recorded 1 assist and 2 penalty minutes. Bertilsson has also played at the international level for Team Sweden which included this year’s Under-18 World Championships, where he recorded a plus-5 rating. During the tournament, he also played with defenseman Oliver-Ekman Larsson (drafted 6th overall by the Phoenix Coyotes) as a pairing frequently. Despite demonstrating his offensive abilities with Brynas Jr., Bertilsson has been categorized by the NHL scouting team as a “defensive minded defenseman.” Bertilsson says he centers his style of play around that of Niklas Kronwall of the Detroit Red Wings. Overall, he should prove to be a suitable replacement for the Flyers defense whenever Chris Pronger leaves.

24.) Michael Lee, Goalie (picked 91st overall by the Phoenix Coyotes) – Only a year out of high school and this kid is coming up big. Michael Lee shined at Roseau High his senior year (2007-2008) in the Minnesota High School League. During that season he managed to compile a dazzling 14 shutouts, 1.10 GAA, and a .936% in just 29 games. Lee elected for an off year before college and joined the Fargo Force of the USHL for the 2008-2009 season. He was able to keep solid numbers while playing for the Force and tallied 26 wins, a 2.40 GAA, a .918 SV%, and 3 shutouts in 48 games. His wins and SV% both ranked second best amongst USHL goalies. Entering the NHL Entry Draft, Lee ranked 4th amongst North American Goalies (drafted 2nd in this category). Overall, Michael Lee should continue to improve and soon earn a back-up position with the Coyotes. I like his approach to the whole process and decision to attend St. Cloud State this fall.

Round 4
25.) Alex Hutchings, Left Wing (picked 93 overall by the Tampa Bay Lightning) – A great selection by the Lighting fairly late in the draft. In round 3, many defenseman and goalies were plucked leaving over some carryover of forwards into the later rounds. Hutchings in three seasons with the Barrie Colts has notched 64 goals, 63 assists, and 127 points in 165 games in the OHL. This season he set career highs in all categories with 34 goals, 34 assists, 68 points, a plus 27 rating, and 60 penalty minutes. His achievements earned him a spot on the Eastern Conference Team in the OHL All-Star Game for the second consecutive year. In the playoffs, he scored 7 goals tying for the team lead before the Colts were eliminated by Mississauga St. Michael’s. Barrie Head Coach, Marty Williamson, said the following about Hutchings: “He has been our go-to-guy all year long, he’s got exceptional speed, a great shot and he’s really worked on being a team player… He is working hard on his consistency and trying to be effective every game and every shift.” Hutchings looks similar to a young Martin St. Louis and has a modest sized 5’10, 173 pound frame. Also, by Coach Williamson’s description that he’s a fast skater makes me believe this point only more; Martin St. Louis has won the fastest skater competition in past All-Star games. The young forward idols Steve Yzerman and Mike Richards. Overall, a great middle round steal by Tampa Bay.

26.) Linden Vey, Right Wing (picked 96th overall by the Los Angeles Kings) – One of the very offensive focused players coming into the draft. He likes to skate hard and crash the net or cash in on opportunities at short range from the slot. Vey is a goal scorer, but will be more influential as a playmaker. This year Vey racked up 24 goals, 48 assists, and 72 points with the Medicine Hat Tigers (2006-2007 WHL champions) of the WHL. Vey is also a restrained player when it comes to taking penalties as he recorded just 20 penalty minutes in 71 games. The Wakaw, Saskatchewan native idols Sidney Crosby and compares with the Penguins star in regards to his confidence and leadership abilities on the ice. Overall, Vey is the classic, good-natured player everybody will love to watch and cheer for.

27.) Alexander Fallstrom, Right Wing (picked 116th overall by the Minnesota Wild) – Fallstrom’s high school, Shattuck-Saint Mary’s (Minnesota), gives him credit alone. Aside from boasting national champion teams, this elite Episcopalian boarding school has produced both collegiate and NHL stars including Jonathan Toews (Chicago Blackhawks), Drew Stafford (Buffalo Sabres), Patrick Eaves (Carolina Hurricanes), Jack Johnson (L.A. Kings), and for a brief period, Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh Penguins). The Swedish born Fallstrom was admitted to Shattuck-St. Mary’s after playing with many teams in the Swedish Elite League (SEL), which included a standout season in 2006-2007 with Djurgarden Jr. when he scored 32 goals and compiled 56 points through 49 games. In his first year (2007-2008) at St. Mary’s, he had no problems adapting to the North American style of play putting up a solid 67 points in 56 games. Last season though, Fallstrom was even more electric and earned the team lead in goals (40) and points (87), demonstrating that he was a great pick for senior team captain. He models his game after fellow countryman, Mikael Samuelsson (Detroit). Fallstrom may be sick of Minnesota and may have hoped to go elsewhere, but the Wild will keep this talented young forward where he is for the moment.

28.) Edward Pasquale, Goalie (picked 117th overall by the Atlanta Thrashers) – Pasquale was originally the top ranked North American Goalie, but dropped a couple of places before the start of the draft to #3. Pasquale came off a stellar season with the Saginaw Spirit of the OHL finishing sixth amongst goalies in wins with 32 (32-21-6 was his overall record this year) and ninth in SV % with .911. He also distinguished himself this season by playing at the 2009 OHL All-Star Classic and the 2009 Top Prospects event. Pasquale was described by NHL scout, Al Jensen, as a quick, mobile, butterfly-style goalie who can protect the net soundly. Furthermore, Pasquale’s size (6’2 and 218 pounds) will give his team some extra coverage of the high corners in the net. He idolizes Carey Price and likes how his relaxed style of play compares with his own. Overall, Pasquale will bring a positive, determined, and hardworking attitude to the ice and with some improvement to his play; he could soon become the #3 or #2 goaltender on the Thrashers roster.

Round 5
29.) Tomas Vincour, Center (picked 129th overall by the Dallas Stars) – In his sophomore year with the Edmonton Oil Kings of the WHL, Vincour recorded 36 points and 23 penalty minutes through 46 games. He would have played more had he not made the World Junior Championship (WJC) roster for Team Czech Republic. At the WJC, Vincour tallied 3 assists and a plus 2 rating in six games. In his WHL career, Vincour has totaled 75 points in 114 games. Vincour’s older cousin, Libor Zabransky, was also drafted into the NHL by St. Louis in 1995. Edmonton Coach Steve Pleau said Vincour is a “big, strong kid who shoots the puck very well. He plays up and down and a physical brand of hockey and he’s very effective. He uses his skating to drive the net and he takes the puck to the danger areas.” Vincour models his play on that of Ales Hemsky (Edmonton Oilers), but has a strong admiration for recently retired European great, Jaromir Jagr. Overall, Vincour needs to play a few more years of junior hockey before he can compete at a higher level, but will prove to be an effective playmaker and deadly on rushes to the net when he reaches that point.

30.) Nicola Riopel, Goalie (picked 142 overall by the Philadelphia Flyers) – It was hard deciding between Riopel of the Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL) and Olivier Roy of the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles (QMJHL) for my 30th and final prospect pick. I had to compare two goaltenders with similar playing histories, statistics, and body frames. Riopel won my vote despite Roy being ranked as the #2 goalie before the start of the draft. Over three seasons with the Wildcats, Riopel has seen an improvement each season, watching his GAA drop from a 3.35 at the start of his career to a 2.01 in the 2008-2009 regular season. His 2.01 GAA not only won him the Jacques Plante Memorial Trophy (lowest GAA in the league), but also established a new QMJHL record for the lowest GAA ever recorded in a single season in the league. He also earned the Michel Briere Memorial Trophy (QMJHL player of the year) this season with his notable .930 sv%, 5 shutouts, and a 43-15 record. Additionally, he earned a spot on the 2009 QMJHL1st line first all-star team. In the 2007-2008 season, Riopel was also impressive in net recording a .910 sv pct. and 3.04 GAA despite Moncton’s poor 15-34-5 finish. Riopel is a 6’0, 167 pound butterfly-style goalie who shows good potential as a future NHLer. His mindset should only make him more confident in improving his game in junior hockey, which will make it easier for him to make the transition to the professional level.

Recap of Top 30 Picks

Team                                        Position                        Previous Club
N.Y. Islanders-3             Centers-10            OHL: London-2, Barrie-1
Colorado-3                       Left Wing- 3           Brampton-1, Erie Otters-1
Atlanta-3                           Right Wing- 3       Windsor-1, Oshawa-1
Detroit-2                           Defense- 8               Saginaw-1, Plymouth-1
Tampa Bay-2                  Goalie- 6                  SEL: Timra-1, Modo-1
Nashville-2                                                              Farjestads BK-1
Dallas-2                                                                      Frolunda (Jr.)-1, Brynas-1
Philadelphia-2                                                       WHL: Red Deer Rebels-1
Minnesota-2                                                            Kelowna-1, Edmonton-1
Toronto-1                                                                  Vancouver Giants-1
Edmonton-1                                                             Medicine Hat Tigers-1
Ottawa-1                                                                      QMJHL: Shawinigan-1
L.A. Kings-1                                                               Saint John-1, Moncton-1
Phoenix-1                                                                   USHL: Chicago Steel-1
Wasington-1                                                             Des Moines-1, Fargo-1
Pittsburgh-1                                                             OTHER: U-Minn-1
Columbus-1                                                              USA U-18-1, Espoo Blues-1
Vancouver-1                                                         M Zvolen-1, Shat. St. Mary’s-1



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