Led by Tampa Bay's selection of Canadian juniors whiz kid Vincent Lecavalier, there were few surprises among the top four picks at Saturday's NHL Entry Draft.
The same couldn't be said for the rest of the first round, which showed a wide disparity in thinking between the NHL's Central Scouting Service and the team's individual scouts.Except for the expansion Nashville Predators trading positions with San Jose to grab the No. 2 pick in David Legwand, trading activity was pretty uneventful in the early going.
Defense was a high priority in the first round with teams picking up 11 blue liners of the 27 selected.
The 6-foot-4, 180-pound Lecavalier from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League went No. 1 overall as expected. Right behind him was Legwand, a center from the Ontario Hockey League who was also ranked No. 2 behind Lecavalier in the season's rankings by the NHL's scouting system.
The next two picks also went pretty much according to form, with San Jose selecting Brad Stuart from the Western Hockey League as the first defenseman taken in the draft and Vancouver picking up defenseman Bryan Allen from the OHL. Allen was rated No. 3 by Central Scouting and Stuart No. 4.
After that, the teams were pretty much all over the map in relation to the CSS rankings.
With the No. 5 overall pick, the Anaheim Mighty Ducks came up with Russian defenseman Vitaly Vishnevsky, the No. 2-rated European. Dimitri Kalinin, a Russian defenseman rated No. 1 among Europeans, wasn't selected until the No. 18 pick by the Buffalo Sabres.
Mathieu Biron, a defenseman from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League rated seventh by Central Scouting, lasted until the 21st pick when he was selected by the Los Angeles Kings.
Among other first-round surprises: Mark Bell, a left wing from the OHL, rated No. 16 in North America by the CSS, was the overall No. 8 pick by the Chicago Blackhawks; Michael Rupp, rated No. 23, was the No. 9 pick by the New York Islanders; Nikolai Antropov, the No. 17-rated European, was the No. 10 pick by the Toronto Maple Leafs; and Jiri Fischer, a defenseman from the QMJHL rated No. 9, was the No. 25 pick by the Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings.
Even though Lecavalier pretty much knew he would be the No. 1 pick, he said he was nervous until his name was called.
"When your name is being called, it is the best part," he said.
Despite his recognition as the best amateur hockey player in North America, Lecavalier wasn't sure about his status with the Lightning.
"We are going to have to see at camp," said the 18-year-old who played for Rimouski Oceanic when asked if he expected to make the team right away. "I never went against guys in the NHL, so I guess I'm going to have to see.
"I'm going to do my best. I'm going to hope for the best . . . if I feel I'm not good enough, then I think it would be better off to play junior and improve."
Legwand, meanwhile, saw a real opportunity for himself playing with an expansion team.
"It's going to be a lot of hard work this summer, a lot of working out," said Legwand, who played for Plymouth. "Hopefully, I can step in next year."
The Colorado Avalanche had four picks in the first round, drafting center Alex Tanguay from the QMJHL with the No. 12 pick; defenseman Martin Skoula of the OHL with No. 17; defenseman Robyn Regehr of the Western Hockey League with No. 19 and defenseman Scott Parker from the WHL with No. 20.