Kessel has much to prove

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:33 AM ET

BOSTON -- Phil Kessel has a smile on his face and a chip on his shoulder.

While the highly-coveted rookie is enjoying life as a Boston Bruin, Kessel, just 19, vowed yesterday that his critics will rue the day they underestimated his character and resolve.

Projected 12 months ago to be the top pick in the 2006 entry draft, Kessel, a gifted forward with the University of Minnesota, sat patiently in the stands at Vancouver's GM Place last June while four teams passed him over.

To this day, he hasn't forgotten those who overlooked them.

Or those who bought into the rumours that questioned his maturity, his heart and his potential.

"I want to prove them wrong," said Kessel, whose fifth goal of the season helped his Bruins defeat the Maple Leafs 2-1 last night. "I want to show them that I should have been up there. Five was good but I should still have been up there. I was a good pick.

" I will prove them wrong."

Defenceman Erik Johnson was made the top pick by the St. Louis Blues followed by Jordan Staal, who went second to the Pittsburgh Penguins. As Kessel bided his time, he could only watch as the Chicago Blackhawks selected University of North Dakota centre Jonathan Toews No. 3 and the Washington Capitals opted for Swedish forward Niklas Backstrom in the number four slot.

NO. 5 PICK

Bruins officials were euphoric that the speedy Kessel was still on the board at No. 5, having never dreamed they would get a shot at him.

"It was a little hard (to wait five picks) because I had played against a lot of those guys and I know what type of player I am," Kessel said. "So yes, it was difficult. But I ended up with a good team here and I'm happy."

As for the so-called "issues" his detractors brought up prior to the draft, Kessel does not understand where they originated.

"You've got to tune it out," he said. "People make that stuff up. If it's in the paper people believe it. Sometimes it's not true, sometimes it is true. With me, all the stuff was not true.

"It's one of those things where you find yourself going "Wow." It's a bit of an eye opener because it's not you and people think it's you. I guess you've got to deal with it."

Don't be surprised if Kessel and the Bruins have the last laugh.


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