Hockey

Lowly Islanders win draft lottery

With the worst record in the NHL this season, the New York Islanders were rewarded with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 draft after winning the league's lottery Tuesday night.

John Tavares may well be a member of the New York Islanders when the NHL draft takes place in June.

With the worst record in the NHL this season, the Islanders were rewarded with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 draft after winning the league lottery Tuesday night.

New York could choose Tavares of the Ontario Hockey League's London Knights. He was named the most valuable player of the world junior championships and OHL scoring champion this year. It's the first time since 2000 that the Islanders will have the top pick.

LEAFS GOING AFTER TAVARES

Despite picking seventh, Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke made it clear he intends to trade up.

"We'll immediately attempt to move up," he said. "We're going to talk to everyone between us and the first pick and see what the landscape is. We're going to see what it costs and we're going to try and move up."

Burke is zeroing in on Tavares, and he said that everyone on his roster (save for perhaps Luke Schenn) is available.

"No player is untradeable," he said. "Wayne Gretzky got traded."

Burke also believes he doesn't necessarily need the first pick to land his man.

"I'm not confident every team has John Tavares as No. 1," he said.

"It put a huge smile on my face," said Isles GM Garth Snow in a conference call. "It's a great moment for this franchise, and a great moment for our fans. It's going to be a great day in June."

New York sported an ugly 26-47-9 record, and had the best chance at landing the pick, at 25 per cent.

The Islanders became only the sixth team with the worst record to win the lottery since it was implemented by the NHL 14 years ago.

While Tavares is the top-ranked North American skater in the final NHL Central Scouting Bureau's rankings, New York may also look to defenceman Victor Hedman of Sweden — the top European prospect.

"We're going to get a great player for this team," said Snow. "With Hedman, you have a 6-6 defenceman who skates like the wind. With John Tavares, you have a forward who can obviously put up huge numbers offensively.

"It's two players who are exceptional talents, and that's the one great aspect of being in the position we are right now. We know we're going to get a fantastic player."

 Snow was asked if he has one player ranked at the top of his wish list.

"Yeah, I do, and I'm not going to share," said Snow.

The teams rounding out the top five in the draft will be the Tampa Bay Lightning, Colorado Avalanche, Atlanta Thrashers, and Los Angeles Kings.

Toronto, Ottawa and Edmonton all missed the playoffs, yet didn't have a shot at winning the top overall pick.

Each one had a chance to win the lottery, but could only move up four spots in the draft order — leaving out the teams that finished sixth through 14th in the regular season standings.

Those NHL clubs are: Phoenix, Toronto, Dallas, Ottawa, Edmonton, Nashville, Minnesota, Buffalo and Florida.

With files from The Canadian Press

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