Thirty NHL teams are preparing to take part in this weekend’s 2009 Entry Draft in Montreal, and their top affiliates are anxious for the next wave of AHL stars to begin their professional careers.
In 2008-09, more than 200 former first- and second-round draft picks could be found on American Hockey League rosters, including young standouts like Tuukka Rask (21st overall in 2005), Jonathan Bernier (11th in 2006), Michael Grabner (14th in 2006), Bobby Sanguinetti (21st in 2006), Simeon Varlamov (23rd in 2006) and Max Pacioretty (22nd in 2007).
The Calder Cup champion Hershey Bears were led by rookie goaltender Michal Neuvirth, who claimed the Jack Butterfield Trophy as the MVP of the 2009 postseason. The 21-year-old Neuvirth was a second-round selection (34th overall) by the Washington Capitals in 2006, and was joined on the Bears by Chris Bourque (33rd in 2004), Francois Bouchard (35th in 2006), Karl Alzner (5th in 2007) and John Carlson (27th in 2008).
Other top-10 picks to appear in the AHL this past season include 2008 picks Zach Bogosian (third), Alex Pietrangelo (fourth), Nikita Filatov (sixth) and Cody Hodgson (10th), as well as Zach Hamill (eighth in 2007), Keaton Ellerby (10th in 2007), Kyle Okposo (seventh in 2006), Bobby Ryan (second in 2005), Benoit Pouliot (fourth in 2005), Gilbert Brule (sixth in 2005), Jack Skille (seventh in 2005), Brian Lee (ninth in 2005), Cam Barker (third in 2004), Al Montoya (sixth in 2004), Alexandre Picard (eighth in 2004) and Boris Valabik (10th in 2004).
The New York Islanders, parent club of the AHL’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers, own the first pick in this year’s draft, which gets underway on Friday night.