McNeill catching the Capital spirit

ERIC BENDER -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:25 AM ET

Patrick McNeill's qualities as a defenceman include his cool demeanour and calm decision-making.

Saturday, he played it cool around the pool at home near Strathroy, awaiting his NHL draft selection.

"I really didn't know what to expect, what any team's assessment (of me) was, and I didn't know what would happen," said the Saginaw Spirit defenceman. "I did talk to some teams and Washington was one of them a few days before the draft."

McNeill, a junior B Strathroy Rocket before going to Saginaw in the 2003 OHL draft, was taken in the fourth round, 118th overall, by the Washington Capitals. He waited for a phone call which came from his agent Joe Resnick of IMG.

"I thought it (being picked by Washington) was wonderful because they are really a young team and I thought they'd need players coming up in their lineup in a couple of years," said McNeill.

He believed he would go in the second to fourth rounds. "Obviously you like to get picked higher but I'm happy," he said.

He hopes to get to Washington for a preseason camp but plans to return to Saginaw to "get a real solid start to the season."

He's healthy, he said, after shoulder surgery for an injury that made for a disappointing end to last season. With the Spirit eliminated, he injured his shoulder in practice for Canada's under-18 team that went to the Czech Republic in April. The team had to bring in a replacement defenceman.

He's been told he'll be looked at seriously at world junior camps this year and that's part of the incentive for a strong start to the season.

Last season McNeill played 66 games, scoring seven goals and 26 assists, and was a key on Saginaw's power play, anchoring the middle of the blue-line.

Besides McNeill, the Strathroy Rockets can crow about other former players taken in the draft. Bobby Bolt, a London Knights pick in 2003, played for the Rockets and a handful of games for the Knights before being dealt to the Kingston Frontenacs in a trade for Bryan Rodney.

Bolt, from Thunder Bay, was sent to Kingston with Adam Nemeth and a sixth-round draft pick.

Bolt was chosen in the fifth round, 127th overall, by the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.

The Knights' Josh Beaulieu, selected 152nd in the fifth round by the Philadelphia Flyers, was a Rocket before getting regular ice time with the OHL club.

And Ryan Maki from the Detroit Honeybaked minor system was briefly with the Rockets and played with the junior C Alvinston Flyers before leaving for the U.S. under-17 team.

He's been playing with Harvard University. Maki was taken by the Nashville Predators in round six, 176th overall.

The four Strathroy selections keep a Rocket streak going. At least one former Rocket has been an NHL pick in the last six drafts for a total of 11 players.

In 2004, Kyle Wilson went to Minnesota and Ryan Pottruff to the Carolina Hurricanes. In 2003 Jeff Carter was chosen by the Philadelphia Flyers and Patrick O'Sullivan by Minnesota.

In 2002, Brad Topping was a New York Islander pick.

In 2001, Aaron Lobb was a Tampa Bay Lightning choice. Colin Shields was a Flyer pick in 2000.


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