Penguins get No. 2 draft spot

Last-place St. Louis wins NHL lottery; no clear-cut favorite for top selection

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The Penguins finished second to St. Louis in the competition for last place in the NHL, and that's where they will be for the June 24 draft.

The Blues, favored by the odds, won the weighted draft lottery yesterday and will have the first selection. The Penguins will have the second pick.

Last year, the Penguins had the top overall pick and took center Sidney Crosby, who led them in scoring with 102 points during the 2005-06 season and became the youngest player in league history to reach 100 points.

This is the fourth year in a row the Penguins have had the first or second overall pick and the fifth year in a row they have owned a top-five selection.

In 2003, the team traded up to get the first selection and took goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.

For the most part, though, the high picks have been a result of poor won-loss records.

"We're happy to get the No. 2 pick, but I'm telling you something: This is the last time that we're going to draft No. 1, No. 2, No. 3," Penguins coach Michel Therrien said. "It's a good thing for this organization, and we're certainly going to have a good player, but let me tell you, this is the last year."

There isn't a clear-cut favorite for the Blues, who never have drafted first.

A year ago, it seemed as if University of Minnesota center Phil Kessel would be the obvious top overall choice for the 2006 draft, but his stock has dropped some since then. Now, there are four prospects who appear to be above the rest:

Defenseman Erik Johnson of the United States' under-18 team is the top-ranked North American prospect by the NHL Central Scouting Service. At 6 feet 4, 225 pounds, he has the size any team would covet. At the world junior championships last winter, Johnson had four goals and nine points in four games.

Center Jordan Staal of Peterborough in the Ontario Hockey League is the younger brother of Carolina's leading scorer, center Eric Staal, and minor-league defenseman Marc Staal, 19. The older Staal brothers were first-round picks, Marc by the New York Rangers. Jordan Staal, 6-3, 200, had 28 goals and 68 points and was plus-16 in 68 games with the Petes in the regular season.

Kessel, 6-0 and 190, was the top college freshman in scoring with 51 points (including 18 goals) and in points-per-game at 1.31. He was second in scoring for Minnesota.

Speedy forward Michael Frolik, 6-0, 185, of the Czech Republic had a goal and an assist and was minus-1 in six games at the world junior championship. For the Extraliga Kladno team in the Czech Republic this winter, he had two goals and nine points and was minus-8 in 48 games.

Behind the Blues and Penguins in the draft order will be Chicago, Washington, Boston, Columbus, the New York Islanders, Phoenix, Minnesota, Florida, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Toronto and Vancouver. The order for the 16 teams in the postseason will be determined after the playoffs.


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