Seen and Heard at the 2003 NHL Draft
Vancouver: We're Ready for Umberger
When the Vancouver Canucks selected Ohio State's Ryan Kesler with
the 23rd pick of the first round, it's not surprising that talk
quickly turned to Kesler's teammate R.J. Umberger, another Canucks
to Vancouver general manager Brian Burke, the two may not be teammates
in Columbus for long.
never taken a player out of school early unless they've wanted to
come," Burke said. "I think R.J. is ready to come out.
Again, I talked to Coach (John) Markell and told him what I just
said to you guys ... that we'd never take a player out early. If
R.J. wants to come out, then we're going to try to sign him. He's
got to take the next step at some point."
this summer's INCH
Flight Risks, was the 16th overall pick in the first round of
the 2001 draft. The first-team All-CCHA and second-team All-America
selection would likely command the rookie salary cap to sign, approximately
$1 million per year.
leaving the decision essentially up to Umberger, did note that he
sees some areas where Umberger could improve.
R.J.'s challenge is consistency," Burke said. "He had
points in the season where he dominated and points where he didn't.
That's what he's going to have to develop to take the next step."
While fans of
the Minnesota Wild may be lamenting the fact that general manager
Doug Risebrough passed up Colorado College defenseman and Rochester,
Minn., native with the 20th overall pick, they can take solace in
the selection of Danny Irmen in the third round.
"I never would've thought in my wildest dreams
that I'd be drafted by the Wild," said Irmen, who will be a
freshman at the University of Minnesota this fall. "It's just
something really special."
And while he's pleased with the chance to potentially
play his college and professional hockey in the Upper Midwest, the
6-foot, 182-pound center from Fargo, N.D., is clearly focused on
the Gophers' 2003-04 season.
"I can't wait," said Irmen, who's been
working out with the Gophers three times a week. "The group
of guys they have there are unbelievable. There's going to be a
little pressure, but I think that's what we want. We have a great
team and coach (Don) Lucia has proven he is a great coach, and I
can't wait to start playing for him."
All excitement aside, Irmen knows it'll be difficult
to crack a line-up that lost just one key contributor (Matt DeMarchi)
from last season. He also knows it will be tough to put aside thoughts
off a three-peat, but he and his future teammates haven't broached
heard one thing about it," Irmen said. "This group of
guys looks to tomorrow and takes what comes. Obviously, this team
has a great chance of doing it but as the season goes on, we'll
gets the chance to stay close to home by being chosen by the Wild,
Massachusetts forward Stephen Werner earned the opportunity to go
back home when Washington selected him in the third round. A native
of Chevy Chase, Md., the sophomore-to-be was named to the Hockey
East all-rookie team after scoring 38 points for the Minutemen last
heard my name called I couldn't believe it," Werner said. "I
grew up playing for the Little Caps, idolizing the Capitals players.
It is a dream come true."
of course, struck gold with another local product in Princeton graduate
Jeff Halpern. Halpern is a native of Potomac, Md., and also played
for the Little Caps growing up.
WHERE YOU CAME FROM
hockey fans are basking in the glow of today's record-setting selection
of nine college or college-bound players in the first round, it's
interesting to note that just six years ago, no players with college
ties were chosen in the opening round. In fact, just three college
Minnesota's Ben Clymer (Boston), Brad Defauw of North Dakota (Carolina)
and St. Cloud State's Brian Gaffaney (Pittsburgh) –
were taken in the first two rounds.
College coach Jerry York was in attendance Saturday. When asked
for a comment about two of his players getting chosen in the first
round, he referred to a group of friends with whom he was exiting
the arena floor and replied, "If I don't go with these guys,
I'll miss dinner."
fondness for Buckeyes was not the only trend evident in Saturday's
first round. Buffalo selected Thomas Vanek fifth overall, the second
year in a row and third time in eight years that the Sabres have
chosen a Minnesota player. Last year Buffalo picked Gopher defenseman
Keith Ballard, while in 1996 the Sabres took Erik Rasmussen seventh
New Jersey traded up to take Zach Parise; in 2000 the Devils took
David Hale with their first-round selection. Los Angeles wrapped
up all this first-round familiarity by choosing Michigan's Jeff
Tambellini, who follows in the footsteps of fellow Wolverine Mike
Cammalleri (taken 49th overall in 2001).
slide to 17th was the biggest surprise of the first round. While
some scouts expressed concern about his size, it's probably not
a shock that New Jersey jumped at the chance to take him, since
the Devils just won the Cup with John Madden and Brian Gionta. Edmonton,
the team that originally held the 17th pick, may have passed on
Parise because the Oilers certainly lack size in their lineup.
not a Gopher, I just play against them on TV."
Parise quickly defused a potentially awkward situation during media
interviews in the bowels of the arena. A television crew stringing
for a Minneapolis station asked him how he felt as a Golden Gopher
going to New Jersey. Parise, who calls Faribault, Minn., home, quickly
and discreetly told the reporter he lived in Minnesota but played
for North Dakota.
Hugh Jessiman became the highest-drafted player in school history
when the New York Rangers took him 12th overall. Ned Desmond, picked
by St. Louis in the third round in 1985, previously held that distinction.
New York reporters were obviously interested in talking hockey with
Rangers' first-round pick Hugh Jessiman, they seemed more enthralled
with the nickname hung on him by his Dartmouth teammates: Huge Specimen.
Sabres director of player personnel Don Luce thinks his club got
a two-for-one deal by selecting Thomas Vanek with the fifth overall
pick. Because of his performance in the 2003 Frozen Four at HSBC
Arena, Luce says they've tapped not only a future star, but a name
familiar to the citizens of western New York.
went to the Frozen Four saw him play and that was a bonus for us,"
Luce said. "He came in there and he played exceptionally well.
It is a plus."
State's Ryan Kesler is no stranger to the Vancouver area. Last summer,
he spent a month working out in British Columbia with a personal
trainer. He stayed in the Burnaby home of Milan and Nenad Gajic,
who play for Michigan and Michigan State, respectively. Among those
with whom Kesler worked out was current Canuck and Wolverine Hobey
Baker Award winner Brendan Morrison.
only college sweaters spotted at the GEC were those of defending
national champion Minnesota. However, INCH spies did see a woman
wearing a Predators' jersey emblazoned with the name and number
of former Michigan State star Adam Hall and two Lightning sweaters
honoring Miami All-American Dan Boyle. Perhaps most shocking: a
woman wearing a Columbus Blue Jackets jersey with the name of former
BC skater Blake Bellefuille on the back.
this to a friend
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