COLUMBUS – There was a distinct and shocking lack of European flavor to the first round of the NHL draft. Just four European players were taken in the first round, which is the lowest total since 1990.
Jakub Voracek (seventh to Columbus), Lars Eller (13th to St. Louis), Alexei Cherepanov (17th to New York Rangers) and Michael Backlund (24th to Calgary) were the only Europeans taken in Round 1.
By contrast, there were eight European players taken in the first round in 2006.
According to one NHL scout, the lack of European talent in this year’s draft is simply an indication of the cyclical nature of the proceedings.
Â“I don’t see anything that indicates a lack of quality over in Europe,Â” he said. Â“If it happens again for the next three or four years, we might have a problem, but I don’t see that happening.Â”
EARLY ARRIVAL? One rumor making the rounds in Columbus is that the NHL and NHL Players’ Association might effectively make an exemption to have John Tavares included in the 2008 draft. With a birth date of Sept. 20, 1990, Tavares misses the 2008 draft by just five days.
The thinking is that Tavares scored 72 goals this season with the Oshawa Generals and could realistically approach 100 next season, though it will be difficult because he’s bound to miss some time at the World Junior Championship.
Having Tavares included in next year’s draft could represent a quagmire, one that the Ontario League and Generals would be sure to fight, but it could be done if both the NHL and the NHLPA agree to amend the collective bargaining agreement to make the draft cutoff at a later date.
Â“What you might see is they could change the date to Oct. 1,Â” an NHL source said. Â“That way they won’t be making an exception for Tavares and they could say they’re opening the draft up to more players. But it’s a good question and it’s one that’s not going to go away.Â”
AMBER WAVES OF PLAYERS The USA made history on several fronts in this year’s draft. With Patrick Kane going first overall and James van Riemsdyk going second, it marked the first time in NHL history that Americans were chosen with the top two picks in the draft.
With Erik Johnson going first overall last year, it also marks the first time in history that Americans have been taken first overall in successive years.
In fact, the American program tied last year’s record when a total of 10 players were taken in the first round. Along with Kane, who went to Chicago, and van Riemsdyk, who went to Philadelphia, the U.S. contingent was filled out by defenseman Ryan McDonagh (12th to Montreal), defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk (14th to Colorado), defenseman Ian Cole (18th to St. Louis), left winger Max Pacioretty (22nd to Montreal), defenseman Jonathan Blum (23rd to Nashville), center Patrick White (25th to Vancouver), defenseman Nick Petrecki (28th to San Jose) and center James O’Brien (29th to Ottawa).
NO SMALL JUNIOR It was also a great day for Canada’s Jr. A leagues, which got things started by having Kyle Turris of the British Columbia Jr. League taken third overall by the Phoenix Coyotes. Riley Nash, who also plays in the BCHL, went 21st overall to Edmonton and defenseman Brendan Smith of the St. Michael’s Buzzers Jr. A team went 27th to Detroit.
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