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Esposito top North American skater in mid-season rankings for 2007 NHL draft

The Montreal native is the top-ranked North American skater in the mid-season ranking of players eligible for the 2007 NHL entry draft. The list was released Wednesday by the NHL Central Scouting Service. The draft will be held June 23 in Columbus.

Esposito, a six-foot-one 185-pound centre who helped team owner Patrick Roy's Remparts win a Memorial Cup last season, has 61 points in 40 games in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League this season.

A setback was that Esposito failed to crack the roster for Canada's team at the world junior championships.

Trevor Cann of the Peterborough Petes is the top-ranked North American goalie. The five-foot-11 Cann is 17-17-0 with a .912 save percentage in the Ontario Hockey League this season.

Russian right-winger Alexei Cherepanov, named best forward at the world junior championship last week, holds the top ranking spot among European skaters. He plays for Omsk in the Russian League.

Mark Owuya of Sweden is the top-ranked European goaltender.

The ranking features the top 210 skaters and 30 goaltenders in North America and top 170 skaters and 15 goalies from Europe.

Second among North American skaters is James Van Riemsdyk, a left-winger on the U.S. under-18 team. Third is centre Sam Gagner of the London Knights, who helped Canada win a gold medal at the world juniors.

Gagner's London teammate Patrick Kane, a world junior all-star forward for the U.S., is ranked fourth and Kyle Turris, a centre for Burnaby in the B.C. junior league, is fifth.

Rounding out the top 10 are defencemen Keaton Ellerby of the Kamloops Blazers, John Blum of the Vancouver Giants, Karl Alzner of the Calgary Hitmen, forward Brandon Sutter of the Red Deer Rebels and Tommy Cross, a U.S. high school rearguard.

Several of the top-ranked players, including Esposito, Cann, Gagner, Kane and Ellerby, will play in the NHL Top Prospects game Jan. 17 in Quebec City.

Some have family ties to NHL players.

Gagner is the son of former NHL forward Dave Gagner and Sutter is the son of Brent Sutter, one of six Sutter brothers who together played more than 5,000 NHL games.

Ellerby is the cousin of Phoenix Coyotes captain Shane Doan and of world junior MVP goaltender Carey Price.

Colton Gilles of the Saskatoon Blades, ranked 21st, is the nephew of former New York Islanders winger Clark Gillies and 29th-ranked Maxime Tanguay of the Rimouski Oceanic is the brother of Calgary Flames winger Alex Tanguay.

No. 63-ranked Brad Malone's uncle Greg played 11 NHL seasons and his cousin Ryan plays for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Blake Kessel, who has the No. 76 spot, is the brother of Boston Bruins forward Phil Kessel.

NHL teams make their own lists for the draft that often vary from those produced by Central Scouting's nine full-time and six part-time scouts in North America and five full-time scouts in Europe.

Some see Kane, Gagner and Alzner, among others, as potentially being selected higher than their current rankings.


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