Thursday, June 21, 2007

Habs Draft Picture Getting Clearer

From Pat Hickey, June 21, Montreal Gazette

The 2007 National Hockey League entry draft promises to be an exciting affair because nobody seems to agree about the quality of the talent.

Some teams feel there are only three or four quality players in the draft; others peg the number at six to eight. Trevor Timmins, the man in charge of evaluating talent for the Canadiens, believes there will be quality players available when the team makes its first-round picks at No. 12 and No. 22, but the hot rumour here is the Habs are looking to move and have made inquiries about the No. 7 pick owned by the Columbus Blue Jackets.

There seems to be a groundswell of fan support for the Canadiens to select hometown favourite Angelo Esposito, whose stock has dropped over the past year. TSN's mock draft indicates the Canadiens won't have to move up to get Esposito; they have Montreal picking him at No. 12. Another mock draft has Esposito going to Montreal, but with the 22nd pick.


TSN has the Habs going with Zach Hamill at No. 22, but the pick doesn't make a lot of sense because he's a smallish (5-foot-11, 180-pound) centre from Everett in the Western Hockey League.

ESPN has the Canadiens picking Brandon Sutter at No. 12 and Lewiston's David Perron with their second pick. But ESPN might know something we don't because they have the Canadiens getting Perron at No. 24. also has Esposito available at No. 12 and suggests that Oscar Moller will be the pick at No. 22. He's another small forward, who says he tries to play like Daniel Briere or Steve Sullivan. The Canadiens' interest might reflect the fact they are unlikely to sign Briere if he becomes a free agent on July 1.


Quebecers named to Summit team: Esposito and Perron make up two-thirds of the Quebec contingent on the Canadian junior team that will face Russia in the re-creation of the 1972 Summit Series this year. They will be joined by Lewiston goalie Jonathan Bernier. The team includes two other players from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League - Ottawa native Claude Giroux and Nova Scotia's Brad Marchand.


Meetings BOGged down: The NHL board of governors made more news because of what didn't get done. The owners approved minor rule changes, but did not address such important issues as hits to the head or the instigator rule. There was a general discussion of Jim Balsillie's offer to buy the Nashville Predators, but no action on his request for approval to move the team if he doesn't have a lease after next season.

The BOG also elected Jeremy Jacobs as chairman. He replaces Calgary's Harley Hotchkiss, who has held the job for 12 years. Presumably, the chairman provides a leadership role and Jacobs seems ill-suited for the job when you consider that he has run the Boston Bruins into the ground.

Meanwhile, the word from Nashville is that, while the salary cap is expected to go up to $49 or $50 million, the Predators will go from a shade over $42 million to the league minimum of about $30 million. The team has already dumped Kimmo Timonen and Scott Hartnell; Peter Forsberg isn't expected back and neither is Paul Kariya.

GM David Poile told the Tennessean he doesn't foresee dumping any more players from the current roster, but don't be surprised if goaltender Tomas Vokoun is moved, along with his $5-million-plus salary. The Predators have a younger - and much cheaper - option in Chris Mason. He filled in admirably last season when Vokoun was injured.

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