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Ottawa Senators hope Russian picked in second round is a steal

The risk with Russian winger Ruslan Bashkirov, taken 60th overall, isn't with his skill. He's got loads of talent. The risk is wondering whether they'll get him in a Senators uniform given Russia's absence from the NHL-IIHF player transfer agreement.

"He's in Quebec right now (with Patrick Roy's Remparts), he's a Quebec League player and he's not going home," said Senators GM Bryan Murray. "He has no contract with anybody (in Russia). So he'll play on the big line in Quebec next season and get lots of points."

The 5-11, 186-pound sniper had 67 points (30-37) in 64 games with the Remparts last season, his first in North America. He patterns his game off Wayne Gretzky and Pavel Bure.

"Our guys (scouts) thought the skill level was terrific," said Murray. "He's got a great frame, you just can't pass up that opportunity. Hopefully he'll sign with us."

Their other picks:

-American centre James O'Brien, 29th overall, from the University of Minnesota;

-Forward Louie Caporusso, 90th overall, from St. Michael's of the Ontario Provincial Jr. A League;

-U.S.-born high school defenceman Ben Blood, 120th overall.

O'Brien brings size at 6-2 and 185 pounds, something Murray was looking for. O'Brien is a good skater with mobility who has above-average puck skills in traffic, and he's willing to battle for loose pucks. He's a smart player who is fiercely competitive, which makes him difficult to play against.

"I'm a player that needs to keep working on my game," said O'Brien. "I need to get bigger, stronger and faster."

He reminds scouts of San Jose captain Patrick Marleau. With added strength, he could excel in the NHL the way the rules are now being applied.

O'Brien was the youngest skater in U.S. college hockey last winter. He got limited ice time in a stacked lineup, scoring seven goals and assisting on eight in 43 games with the Golden Gophers.

He was a defenceman in minor hockey in Minnesota, which explains why he says Chris Chelios is his favourite NHL player.

O'Brien was the second-last player selected Friday night in the first round. It was a big relief to hear his name called.

"You wonder if you're going to have to wait until tomorrow," he said. "But at the end of the day, come Monday morning I'm going to be the same hockey player I was coming into the weekend."

Murray made a minor move, trading a fifth-and a pair of seventh-round picks in Saturday's draft to Tampa Bay for a fourth-round pick in 2008.

"With the draft being in Ottawa next year, having an extra fourth-round pick, who knows, it's supposedly a deeper draft, maybe it's a better player at that stage," said Murray.

The Senators also approached the New York Rangers about possibly hiring one of their scouts, Tim Murray, to become an assistant GM in Ottawa. Tim Murray is Bryan Murray's nephew and the two worked together in Detroit, Florida and Anaheim.

"I've asked permission to talk to him and we'll see where that goes," said the Sens GM. "Very definitely a very strong person as far as evaluating talent and working with players. He's got a history for that. He's worked with me for quite a number of years and I'd like to see if we can get something done."



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