Kane of the London Knights, selected by Chicago, and vanRiemsdyk of the U.S. junior development team, taken by Philadelphia, were teammates who earned bronze medals at the world junior tournament last winter.
Centre Kyle Turris of the Burnaby, B.C., Jr. A team was taken third by the Phoenix Coyotes, defenceman Thomas Hickey of the Seattle Thunderbirds went unexpectedly high at fourth thanks to the Los Angeles Kings, and defenceman Karl Alzner of the Calgary Hitmen was taken fifth by the Washington Capitals.
The Edmonton Oilers were the first Canadian team to the mic and they used the sixth drafting position to select centre Sam Gagner of the Knights.
Kane, a five-foot-nine right-winger, led all major junior scorers with 62 goals and 83 assists for 145 points in 58 regular-season games in his rookie OHL season in London. He also gained ground in the prospect rankings by playing a key role, scoring five goals, for the U.S. team at the world tournament.
When Chicago GM Dale Tallon announced his selection of Kane, who is from Buffalo, N.Y., it marked the first time in draft history that a U.S.-born player went No. 1 two years in a row. Defenceman Erik Johnson went first, to St. Louis, last year.
Kane will be given a chance to jump into the NHL next fall because the Blackhawks don’t have a lot up front. They haven’t qualified for the playoffs since 2002.
As his numbers show, Kane has a nose for the net. He’s got a great shot and good speed. The only knock against him has been his size. He only weighs about 160 pounds, but he could thrive in today’s NHL with tight application of interference and obstruction fouls.
Kane said he’d spend the summer working on developing more upper body strength. He’ll go to camp intent on staying with the Blackhawks.
“That’s my goal,” he said. “This is just another chapter in the books.
“I have to prove myself at the next level.”
Kane will fly to Chicago on Monday. The Blackhawks are arranging for him to throw out the first pitch at a Cubs game.
“I guess I’ll be singing during the seventh-inning stretch so I might have to work on some things there,” he said with a smile.
Tallon is optimistic that Kane can crack the big-league lineup.
“I think he’s got a great opportunity of making our team,” Tallon said.
The dynamic forward has a style that compares to that of Detroit Red Wings star Pavel Datsyuk.
With the Blackhawks having signed North Dakota college star Jonathan Toews of Winnipeg, their first pick and third overall in the 2006 draft, a Toews-Kane tandem could give Chicago fans reason to cheer for years to come.
VanRiemsdyk, a six-foot-three, 200-pound left-winger, led the U.S. under-18 team with 33 goals and 30 assists in 43 games. He’s an imposing forward who is strong on the puck and who has as pro-level shot. He’s known for his work ethic.
“He reminds us a little bit of John LeClair,” said Flyers GM Paul Holmgren.
VanRiemsdyk says he’ll play for the University of New Hampshire this autumn so he might not be readily available to the Flyers.
Turris, a six-foot-one, 170-pound centre from New Westminster, B.C., scored 66 goals and assisted on 55 for 121 points in 53 games with the Burnaby Express and was named most valuable player in his league. He has the total skills package and plays hard at both ends of the ice.
Turris was a standout for Canada at the world under-18 tournament. Scouts say he has the potential to be a Joe Sakic-like NHL star. He is enrolling at the University of Wisconsin so he might be as many as four years away from turning pro.
“I’m going to take it year by year,” said Turris.
“We watched him all year long,” Coyotes coach Wayne said in an interview. “He’s a tremendous young man who has a great future and we’re thrilled to have him in Phoenix.”
Turris had been rated the No. 1 prospect among North American skaters by the NHL’s Central Scouting Bureau.
The Kings made a surprise pick in taking Hickey, who had been projected to go much later.
The five-foot-11, 182-pound native of Calgary scored nine goals and assisted on 41 in 68 WHL games. He has the playmaking skills of a player such as New Jersey’s Brian Rafalski. The NHL’s Central Scouting Bureau had Hickey ranked 17th among North American skaters.
The Capitals got a big, rangy defenceman in Alzner.
The six-foot-two, 209-pound blue-liner from Burnaby, B.C., had eight goals and 39 assists in 63 WHL games with the Hitmen. Classed as a stay-at-home defenceman, Alzner can quarterback the power play and makes difficult plays look easy. He was a teammate of Kane on Canada’s victorious world junior team.
Gagner, the son of former NHL forward Dave Gagner, scored 35 goals and assisted on 83 in 53 OHL games. The 5-11, 190-pounder from Oakville, Ont., reads plays well, which makes him an exceptional set-up man. He also was a member of Canada’s championship world junior team.
“The Edmonton Oilers are such a storied franchise with a great history so I couldn’t be happier,” said Gagner.
“Let’s hope this is the beginning of a new era,” Oilers GM Kevin Lowe said in an interview.
The Columbus Blue Jackets had the seventh spot and opted for right-winger Jakub Voracek of the Halifax Mooseheads. The Czech scored 23 goals and assisted on 63 in 59 QMJHL games. Scouts liken him to Oilers forward Ales Hemsky. Voracek, who is six-foot-two and 187 pounds, was considered one of the most NHL-ready teens in the draft, and the Jackets sure need immediate help.
Boston was next and retired Bruins star Cam Neely announced the selection of centre Zach Hamill of the Everett (Wash.) Silvertips. Hamill, a five-foot-11, 180-pounder from Port Coquitlam, B.C., scored 32 goals and assisted on 61 in 69 games to win the WHL scoring title.
St. Louis had the ninth spot and traded it to San Jose for the 13th slot, the 44th position and a third-round spot in 2008.
The Sharks selected centre Logan Couture of the Ottawa 67s. The six-foot-five native of London scored 26 goals and assisted on 52 in 54 OHL games. His two-way diligence prompts comparisons to Rod Brind’Amour.
Big and rugged defenceman Keaton Ellerby of the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers was taken 10th by the Florida Panthers. The six-foot-four, 195-pounder is an exceptional skater who won the hardest shot competition at the major junior Top Prospects Game. The native of Okotoks, Alta., is a cousin of Phoenix captain Shane Doan.
Brandon Sutter, who plays with the WHL’s Red Deer Rebels for his father, former NHLer Brent Sutter, was taken 11th by the Carolina Hurricanes. The six-foot-three, 170-pound centre scored 20 goals and assisted on 37 in 71 games.
“It’s a great day for Brandon,” said his dad, who went 17th in his draft year.
Montreal was 12th in line and picked Minnesota high school defenceman Ryan McDonagh. The six-foot-one, 200-pounder was considered a sleeper in the draft, and there were a lot of surprised onlookers when the Canadiens passed on Montreal-born Angelo Esposito, one of the most gifted forwards available. His dream of being a Hab was shattered and the dejected look on his face as he sat in the stands said it all.
“Angelo was on our list but he wasn’t on our list at the 12th spot,” Canadiens GM Bob Gainey said in an interview.
The fact that the top-ranked European skater, Alexei Cherepanov, also remained unselected at this point raised eyebrows, too.
St. Louis, up 13th, picked Denmark-born left-winger Lars Eller, who scored 19 goals in 41 games for Frolunda in Sweden last season.
Esposito, who was ranked No. 1 in Central Scouting’s mid-season report, and Cherepanov, the MVP of the world junior tournament, couldn’t believe it.
Colorado picked defenceman Kevin Shattenkirk of the U.S. under-18 team.
Edmonton was up again in the 15th slot and took six-foot-four defenceman Alex Plante of the Calgary Hitmen.