Blackhawks select American Kane with top pick
The Chicago Blackhawks made American winger Patrick Kane the No. 1 overall pick of the 2007 NHL entry draft Friday night in Columbus, Ohio.
Kane, ranked the second-best North American skater by the Central Scouting Service, scored 62 goals and 145 points in 58 games for the Ontario Hockey League's London Knights.
The Philadelphia Flyers chose winger James vanRiemsdyk of the U.S Junior development team with the second pick. Wayne Gretzky and his Phoenix Coyotes used the third pick to take Kyle Turris of the Burnaby, B.C., Jr. A team.
The Los Angeles Kings selected defenceman Thomas Hickey of the Seattle Thunderbirds with the fourth pick and the Washington Capitals rounded out the top five by picking defenceman Karl Alzner of the Calgary Hitmen.
The Edmonton Oilers were the first Canadian team to draft, taking centre Sam Gagner of the Knights with the sixth pick.
Scouts rave about Kane's intelligence and view him as the most skilled player available in the draft. His dominant play at the world junior championships last December contributed to his ascent up the draft rankings. At five-foot-nine and 160 pounds, size is the only issue that concerns scouts.
Kane said he hopes to make the Blackhawks during his first training camp with the club.
"That's my goal," Kane told TSN. "This is just another chapter in the books. "I have to prove myself at the next level."
The Buffalo, N.Y., native should also make a great pairing with sniper Jonathan Toews, Chicago's third overall pick in last year's draft.
Chicago general manager Dale Tallon is optimistic that Kane can crack the lineup.
"I think he's got a great opportunity of making our team," Tallon said.
The struggling Blackhawks finished tied for fifth last during the 2006-07 campaign, but earned the right to select first by winning the NHL's draft lottery.
It was the first time in the Blackhawks' history that the team had the right to choosefirst and the second straight year that an American was tabbed as the top pick.
VanRiemsdyk said he'll suit up for the University of New Hampshire this fall so he might not be available to the Flyers.
Turris, of New Westminster, B.C., netted 66 goals and 121 points in 53 games with the Burnaby Express and was the BCHL's most valuable player. Many scouts think Turris, the top-ranked North American skater by CSS, is the draft's most complete player, likening him to Joe Sakic.
Turris was one of Canada's best players at the world under-18 tournament.
Turris is currently enrolled at the University of Wisconsin and may not arrive in Phoenix for some time.
"We watched him all year long," Gretzky told TSN. "He's a tremendous young man who has a great future and we're thrilled to have him in Phoenix."
Hickey a surprise
The Kings made the first surprise pick of the draft by selecting Hickey, who wasn't expected to go in the top 10.
The Oilers expected Gagner, the son of former NHL forward Dave Gagner, to upgrade their offence.
Gagner scored 35 goals and assisted on 83 in 53 OHL games.
"Let's hope this is the beginning of a new era," said Oilers GM Kevin Lowe.
With the 12th pick, the Montreal Canadiens selected Minnesota high school defenceman Ryan McDonagh, a sleeper with plenty of offensive potential.
The Canadiens passed on Montreal-born player Angelo Esposito, who landed with Pittsburgh. Esposito is considered one of the most offensively gifted players in the draft.
The Oilers used their second selection (15th) to take six-foot-four, 225-pound defenceman Alex Plante of the Calgary Hitmen.
The Calgary Flames traded their 18th pick to St. Louis for the No. 24 and 70 spots.
Edmonton traded its 30th and 36th picks to Phoenix to move up to 21 and select centre Riley Nash of the B.C. Jr. A's Salmon Arm team.
Montreal concluded its second pick (22nd) by taking American left-winger Max Pacioretty of the Sioux City, Iowa, junior team.
The Flames then took centre Mikael Backlund (24th) of the Swedish League, the Vancouver Canucks tabbed centre Patrick White (25th) of the Tri-City Storm from the USHL, and the Ottawa Senators took centre James O'Brien (29th) of the WCHA.
With files from the Canadian Press