Americans shine at 2006 NHL Draft while snipers change teams

Originally published in Eishockey News in 2006

By Lucas Aykroyd

Germany outperforms the US in soccer, but the opposite held true at the 2006 NHL Entry Draft in Vancouver, Canada. A record-setting 10 American-born players were taken in the first round, including the #1 overall pick by the St. Louis Blues, defenseman Erik Johnson. Eleven Canadians and nine Europeans rounded out the top 30 picks.

Three Germans were drafted: defenseman Korbinian Holzer of Bad Tölz EC (111th overall) by Toronto, center Felix Schutz of the St. John Fog Devils (117th) by Buffalo, and winger Constantin Braun of Eisbären Juniors Berlin (164th) by Los Angeles.

The 2006 talent crop was relatively weak, but the Blues hope their 193-cm, 100-kg top choice can emulate Chris Pronger and Al MacInnis.

“I talked to Sidney Crosby and he said [making the NHL] was a tough jump for him mentally and physically,” said Johnson, a product of the US National Under-18 Team. “But I think I have the mental and physical strength to do it.”

Center Jordan Staal, the #2 pick, was excited to join Crosby with Pittsburgh: “I see a young team that’s got the potential to be a great team.” GM Ray Shero cautioned against comparing the 17-year-old to his brother Eric, who led the NHL playoffs with 28 points: “The bloodlines are great, but I’m drafting Jordan Staal based on what I saw from Jordan Staal.”

Canadian World Junior and US college star Jonathan Toews went third to Chicago, while Washington chose Sweden’s Nicklas Backstrom fourth as a potential future center for Alexander Ovechkin.

Once a consensus #1 overall pick, Phil Kessel went fifth to Boston, but the speedy University of Minnesota winger was all smiles: “Hopefully I’ll show [other teams] that maybe I should have been drafted higher.

Vancouver surprised many by making WHL forward Michael Grabner the second highest-drafted Austrian ever after Thomas Vanek at #14 overall.

There were fewer trades than expected. The biggest blockbuster took place the day before the draft. On June 23, Canucks GM Dave Nonis acquired franchise goalie Roberto Luongo and defenseman Lukas Krajicek plus a sixth-round pick from Florida for troubled power forward Todd Bertuzzi, goalie Alex Auld, and defenseman Bryan Allen.

On draft day, two notable snipers got moved. Minnesota acquired Pavol Demitra from Los Angeles for Patrick O’Sullivan and a first-round pick, and Colorado swapped Alex Tanguay for Calgary’s Jordan Leopold and two second-round picks.

Meanwhile, Dallas got Patrik Stefan and Jaroslav Modry from Atlanta for Niko Kapanen and a seventh-rounder, and Toronto sent Finnish goalie prospect Tuukka Rask to Boston for 2004 Calder Trophy winner Andrew Raycroft.

There was optimism about the top two German picks.

“Korzinian Holzer is a good-sized kid who skates and moves the puck well and has good hockey sense,” said Toronto director of amateur scouting Dave Morrison. “He’s an 18-year-old who’ll fill out.”

“Felix Schutz tied Marco Sturm in scoring at the B Pool World Championship,” said Buffalo GM Darcy Regier. “He loves playing hockey and he’s got a good skill set.”

Germany’s best NHL draft year was 2001, when Marcel Goc, Christian Ehrhoff, Christoph Schubert, and Denis Seidenberg were among the seven DEL players chosen. Digg it Furl iFeedReaders Netscape RawSugar reddit StumbleUpon Yahoo MyWeb YardBarker

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