Teams preparing for future at draft

pavelec_250.jpgThirty NHL teams are preparing to take part in this weekend’s 2008 Entry Draft in Ottawa, and their top affiliates are anxious for the next wave of AHL stars to begin their professional careers.

In 2007-08, more than 200 former first- and second-round draft picks could be found on American Hockey League rosters, including standout rookies like Bobby Ryan (2nd overall in 2005), Derick Brassard (6th in 2006), Brian Lee (9th in 2005), Chris Stewart (18th in 2006) and Tuukka Rask (21st in 2005).

The Calder Cup champion Chicago Wolves were led by rookie goaltender Ondrej Pavelec (right), who went 49-24-3 in 76 combined regular-season and playoff appearances for the Wolves. Pavelec, just the seventh goaltender in AHL history to lead his team to the Calder Cup before his 21st birthday, was a second-round pick (41st overall) by the Atlanta Thrashers in 2005. Forward Bryan Little, who tied for the AHL lead among rookies with eight postseason goals, was a first-rounder (12th overall) in 2006, and defenseman Boris Valabik was selected 10th overall in 2004.

Other top-10 picks to appear in the AHL this past season include Kyle Okposo (7th in 2006), Carey Price (5th in 2005), Gilbert Brule (6th in 2005), Jack Skille (7th in 2005), Devin Setoguchi (8th in 2005), Alexandre Picard (8th in 2004), Marc-Andre Fleury (1st in 2003) and Eric Nystrom (10th in 2002).

The Tampa Bay Lightning, parent club of the AHL’s Norfolk Admirals, own the first pick in the draft, which gets underway on Friday night.