2004-07-02 / Sports

Isles, Devs, Rangers: Metro-Hockey Entry Draft Roundup

Hockey Columnist
By Andrei Petrovitch

Isles, Devs, Rangers: Metro-Hockey Entry Draft Roundup

Petteri NokelainenPetteri Nokelainen

By Andrei Petrovitch –

Hockey Columnist

The National Hockey League’s annual cattle market - er, Entry Draft – took place over two days, having started this past Saturday, June 26th. All three Metro-area hockey teams had at least one pick in the first round. The Rangers, however, had two picks, having acquired their second selection from the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Brian Leetch trade.

Here’s a look at each team’s top selections:

Travis ZajacTravis Zajac

The New York Islanders

(drafting 16th overall)

Petteri Nokelainen

Born: 1/16/86, in Finland

Al MontoyaAl Montoya

Position: Center

Ht., Wt.: 6’1", 190 Lbs.

A strong two-way forward from the Finnish elite junior league, Nokelainen is regarded as good team guy who meshes well with a variety of linemates. However, his offensive ability is suspect (a mere 8 points in 40 games), and his speed is regarded as average. While it’s doubtful that he will crack the lineup for the Islanders during this upcoming season, Nokelainen is projected by many to become a capable second-line player in a few years.

The New Jersey Devils

(drafting 20th overall)

Travic Zajac

Born: 5/13/85, in Canada

Position: Center

Ht., Wt.: 6’2", 205 Lbs.

Some teams have expressed doubt about Zajac, wondering if the quality of play in his Junior A. league was enough of a challenge for his formidable offensive skills (112 points in 59 games). He’ll get a chance to show his stuff next year against tougher competition with the University of North Dakota.

So far, he has demonstrated an ability to play a solid defensive game, which no doubt interested general manager Lou Lamoriello. Zajac is noted as a strong competitor, and his presence in the organization can provide long-term depth at center.

The New York Rangers

(drafting twice)

(First Pick – 6th overall)

Alvaro Montoya

Born: 2/13/85, in Illinois

Position: Goalie

Ht., Wt.: 6’1", 190 Lbs.

Considered a controversial pick by many Ranger fans, Al Montoya is considered by many scouts to be the top goalie prospect in North America. Having already posted an impressive .917 save percentage and 26-12-2 record for the University of Michigan, Montoya went on go 6-0-0 with a .944 save percentage in the World Junior Championships, leading the team to the gold medal.

Despite these credentials, many were upset to see general manager Glen Sather use such a high pick on a goalie, given that the Rangers already have a top goalie prospect in Dan Blackburn.

At the very least, Montoya provides the organization with a strong asset, either in net or in a future trade.

(Second Pick – 19th overall0

Lauri Korpikoski

Born: 7/28/86, in Finland

Position: Left Wing

Ht., Wt.: 6’1", 183 Lbs.

Considered the top Finnish prospect, ahead of Nokelainen, Korpikoski possesses great speed and stickhandling skills. Although he’ll probably need to bulk up a bit in order to handle the rough and tumble world of NHL hockey, Korpikoski is projected to be a top-line left winger within a few years…or possibly even sooner, depending on his performance in training camp come the fall.

One factor working to his advantage is the Rangers’ lack of depth at, among other areas, left wing. However, it is more likely that management would prefer that he play at least another season in Europe to develop his skills further.

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