NHL prospects left in dark

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:04 AM ET

If Ryan O'Marra is not a first-round draft pick when his name is called in the next NHL entry draft, he will blame himself, not the NHL lockout.

O'Marra, a Mississauga native and forward with the Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey League, was listed at No. 17 among skaters in North America in the mid-term rankings by NHL Central Scouting last month. That meant that O'Marra, who has 51 points in 51 games this season, stood a good chance of being taken in the first round of the 2005 entry draft.

But with that draft happening only when a new collective bargaining agreement is in place, O'Marra was asked if he would be upset to possibly be knocked out of the first round if the 2005 prospects wind up being lumped into the same draft as the 2006 prospects.

"You work so many years to get to this point, and we should be in the final stretch now, where (the draft) is five months away," O'Marra said. "Now, it could be 17 months away. On a personal level, it would definitely bother me (to slip out of the first round), but not because of the double cohort. It's up to me to keep my intensity and level of play up and hopefully stay in the top 30 no matter what."

What happens the next time there is a draft is one of the mysteries spawned by the lockout. How will the drafting order be determined if no season has been played? Would there be a hybrid draft of the '05 and '06 prospects, or would a draft for each class be held consecutively? What will no draft, which was to be held June 25-26 in Ottawa, mean for phenom Sidney Crosby?

"We're looking at from a legal, developmental and financial standpoint," said Crosby's agent, Pat Brisson, who has had a team of lawyers investigating options for some time. "I can tell you this, though. If I was in the Quebec league, I would not be buying any tickets (for next season, implying that Crosby will not return to the Rimouski Oceanic)."

Agent Anton Thun, who has Sudbury Wolves forward and top OHL prospect Benoit Pouliot as a client, does not think players who will be part of a delayed draft should be overly concerned.

"Most of the players outside of Sidney Crosby are not ready to step up, so the impact (of a postponed draft) is more of an emotional one than a real one," Thun said.

"It will have little impact from the standpoint of whether they will make the NHL. At the end of the day, they will be competing for jobs."


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