NHL draft lacks superstars



By Rusty Miller

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Kyle Turris and Patrick Kane, expected to be two of the top picks in the NHL draft, skated around the ice on Thursday afternoon, trying to sidestep a collision with any of the 25 mites and pigtailed power forwards joining them at a hockey clinic.

It wasn’t all that long ago that the baby-faced Turris and Kane were about the same size and skill level as the 10-year-old kids who were flopping and teetering around them. Now they’re about to step onto the big stage and carry the hopes of a franchise.

Either the 17-year-old Turris, a puck-handling marvel of a center, or the 18-year-old Kane, a sweet-shooting winger, will likely be selected No. 1 in the draft on Friday night at Nationwide Arena. Rounds two through seven will be on Saturday.

The Chicago Blackhawks have the top pick and they aren’t tipping their hand. Philadelphia is No. 2, followed by Phoenix, Los Angeles, Washington, Edmonton (its first of three first-round picks) and the host club, Columbus.

But unlike the past few years, when it was easy to pinpoint the talents of No. 1 picks such as reigning MVP Sidney Crosby (2005), Alexander Ovechkin (2004), Rick Nash (2002) and Ilya Kovalchuk (2001), no one would be surprised if someone other than Turris or Kane ended up being the first name called.

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“I think it’s the most puzzling draft in the last 15 years,” said Tom Thompson, Minnesota Wild assistant general manager-player personnel.

He said the Wild evaluate players on five criteria and that “there are a number of players (at the top) of this draft that are lacking in one of those five areas to the point that if they don’t overcome those shortcomings, they won’t be impact players.”

Front-office people around the league are trying to figure out how good the available draftees are.

“There’s not going to be many players out of this draft that are going to step right in and play, which is not a bad thing – (it) gives them more time to develop,” Carolina GM Jim Rutherford said. “But you really don’t know. It’s more of a first round once you get past (picks) five and six where a lot of the players are equal in talent at this point, and you just have to wait and see who develops better than others.”

Turris, a 6-foot-1, 170-pounder from Burnaby, British Columbia, is rated the No. 1 North American skater by the NHL’s Central Scouting Service. Kane is No. 2.

“One of the self-admitted shortcomings of Central Scouting is that we rank based on ability alone,” said E.J. McGuire, director of the scouting service. “We go to arenas and watch and see who skates the fastest, shoots the hardest, plays the hardest and then compile our lists from there. We leave it to the NHL teams to dig a little deeper into these guys’ backgrounds to see if their personality is what’s going to fit.”

Some NHL teams reportedly are shying away from Turris because he has already committed to play next year at the University of Wisconsin.

“I’ve just told the teams, I’m going to be going in year by year and seeing how I develop after each year and make a decision each summer,” Turris said Thursday.