Sunday, June 23, 2002

Blue Jackets take big forward No. 1

NHL draft

The Associated Press

        TORONTO — Rick Dudley traded the No. 1 pick in Saturday's NHL draft and still got the player the Florida Panthers wanted.

        Doug MacLean of the Columbus Blue Jackets needed to move up to get his guy.

        MacLean and Dudley got together and swapped two of the first three picks. Mac- Lean then made rugged left wing Rick Nash the first pick in the NHL draft.

        “We've had him No. 1 all year,” MacLean said. “We're absolutely thrilled to get a power forward in our organization. He along with (Rostislav) Klesla and Pascal Leclaire give us a nice combination.”

        Dudley wanted defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, who was still available when the Panthers picked third.

        Nash, who has drawn comparisons to Detroit's Brendan Shanahan, had 32 goals and 72 points in 54 games with London of the Ontario Hockey League last season. At 6-foot-3, 188-pounds, scouts believe that he must still work on improving his skating ability.

        “I'm very excited,” Nash said. “I knew last night they were pretty high on me, but I had no idea.”

        Nash became only the fourth left wing to be selected No. 1, the first since Toronto took Wendel Clark in 1985.

        The first three rounds were Saturday. Rounds four through nine are today.

        In a draft considered short on immediate-impact players, the league's general managers made up for it by making a series of deals.

        The Philadelphia Flyers started the trade frenzy a night earlier, dealing Ruslan Fedotenko and two second-round selections to Tampa Bay for the No. 4 pick.

        A couple of notable players were swapped. The Buffalo Sabres traded Slava Kozlov to Atlanta, and acquired Edmonton center Jochen Hecht for two second-round picks. The New York Islanders dealt offensive forward Mariusz Czerkawski to Montreal for Arron Asham and a draft pick.

        For Dudley, this marked the second time he has traded the No. 1 pick. As general manager of Tampa Bay in 1999, he helped swing a complicated deal involving numerous teams. It allowed Atlanta to acquire the top pick and choose Patrik Stefan.

        Dudley is a former star right winger with the AHL Calder Cup champion Cincinnati Swords and WHA Cincinnati Stingers.

        The Panthers also gave up their third-round pick this year and a fourth-rounder in next year's draft to Atlanta in exchange for the Thrashers' promise that they wouldn't select Bouwmeester with the No. 2 pick.

        Bouwmeester is considered one of the few prospects ready to make the jump to the NHL next season.

        Atlanta selected Kari Lehtonen, of Finland, making him the highest European goalie ever selected in the draft.


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