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Panthers trade #1 pick for #3 pick....


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c/o espn.com

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Pittsburgh Penguins wanted goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, so they traded up two spots to make sure they got him.

 

Fleury, from Cape Breton of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, was chosen with the first pick in the NHL Draft on Saturday after Pittsburgh acquired the selection from the Florida Panthers earlier in the day.

 

Eric Staal

Eric Staal was considered by most to be the draft's top overall prospect.

 

He joined Rick DiPietro as the only goalies chosen with the first pick in the draft. It was the first time that the Penguins had the opening selection since 1984 when they drafted Mario Lemieux, now the team's owner.

 

"He's far and away the best goaltender in the draft,'' Penguins general manager Craig Patrick said of Fleury. "We're rebuilding, and we wanted a good young goaltender.''

 

This is the third time in five years that the top pick has been traded, and Florida GM Rick Dudley made each of those deals. Last year, he sent the top pick to Columbus for Rick Nash and still got defenseman Jay Bouwmeester at No. 3. In 1999, as Tampa Bay's GM, he also traded the No. 1 selection.

 

This time, he again dropped down to No. 3 and also picked up 26-year-old right wing Mikael Samuelsson from Pittsburgh. The teams also swapped selections in the second and third rounds. Florida moved up to No. 55 in the second with Pittsburgh dropping to 73rd overall in the third.

 

Dudley didn't stop there. He acquired forward Anthony Stewart from the Ontario Hockey League with the 25th pick overall, sending Tampa Bay two picks in the second round and one in the sixth.

 

Draft's Top 10

*-1. Pittsburgh -- Marc-Andre Fleury, G, QMJHL)

2. Carolina -- Eric Staal, C, (OHL)

3. Florida -- Nathan Horton, C, (OHL)

4. Columbus -- Nikolai Zherdev, RW, Russia

5. Buffalo -- Thomas Vanek, LW, (WCHA--Minn.)

6. San Jose -- Milan Michalek, RW, Czech Republic

7. Nashville -- Ryan Suter, D, U.S. under-18

8. Atlanta -- Braydon Coburn, D, (WHL)

9. Calgary -- Dion Phaneuf, D, (WHL)

10. Montreal -- Andrei Kostitsyn, C-W, Belarus

* -- Top pick obtained in trade from Florida.

 

After OHL forward Eric Staal was taken with the second pick by the Carolina Hurricanes, Dudley grabbed OHL center Nathan Horton with the third pick.

 

"We know we've got the player we want at three. So we're pretty comfortable where we are,'' Dudley said before the selection.

 

Dudley wanted someone inexpensive with enough experience to help the Panthers immediately. The 6-foot-1 Samuelsson played 80 games last season with 10 goals and 14 assists, but he only had two goals in 22 games with Pittsburgh after being acquired from the New York Rangers in the Alexei Kovalev trade.

 

Several teams were interested in Fleury and talked with Dudley over the past week about trading for the No. 1 pick.

 

The 6-1, 172-pound Fleury has impressed teams with his strong skating. He plays with a hybrid style that allows him to stay upright, and he also has a knack for making big saves at the right time. He led Canada to a silver medal at this year's World Junior Championships where he was named the tournament's best goalie.

 

The first round remained stable as teams moved quickly to fill needs. Columbus took forward Nikolai Zherdev of Russia fourth, then Buffalo drafted Austrian left winger Thomas Vanek, the MVP for the University of Minnesota as a rookie. He helped the Golden Gophers win the NCAA championship this past season

Scouting Report on Nathan Horton

3. Nathan Horton

Born: May 29, 1985, Dunnville, Ontario

2002-03: Oshawa

Pos: C | Ht: 6-2 | Wt: 201 | Shoots: R

Central Scouting: No. 4 North American skater

 

There is a train of thought that says Nathan Horton could wind up being a better NHL player than Eric Staal if he shows more consistency to his game.

 

The book on Horton reads like this: smart player, above-average skater who competes very well, smart defensively and responsible in his own end. He has the makings of a budding power forward who can put up points and finish plays. But he could use his size better.

 

There were times this season when scouts wished they could see the Horton they saw in 2001-02. He played a hungrier game then.

 

"Consistency is a concern, but we heard the same thing about (Ilya) Kovalchuk and (Jason) Spezza," said one GM. "These guys sometimes get bored. But he turned it up in the playoffs when he had to."

 

Scouts still talk about the time Horton took a beating in a fight with Anthony Stewart of Kingston and how he wasn't the same player for about a month after.

 

"But he came back at the end of the season, and he had a couple of great playoff games."

 

YEAR TEAM LEA. GP G A Pts. PIM

'00-01 Thorold Jr. B 45 16 31 47 75

'01-02 Oshawa OHL 64 31 36 67 84

'02-03 Oshawa OHL 54 33 35 68 111

 

The Hockey News says: Power forward

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we need a veteran...

 

we may go after Luc Robitaille or Pierre Turgeon

 

and we could use some depth...

 

this team is ready to go into the playoffs in 03-04....

Habs have ton of veteran depth if you are interested :shifty :mischief2

 

Seriously, the Panthers have a bright future indeed. Although the D after Bouwmeester is a little thin right now.

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