SUN Hockey Pool

Crosby watch

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 2:22 PM ET

Jarome Iginla won't lie -- the mere thought makes him giddy.

When the most anticipated draft lottery in NHL history goes Thursday, he'll tune in with more than a passing interest.

"I'll be watching for sure," beamed the Flames captain.

"It'll be pretty cool. I'm looking forward to it."

The reason for his excitement stems from the possibility Iginla may just inherit a linemate who has been the subject of even more hype than Wayne Gretzky or Eric Lindros had as youngsters.

The Next One.

Sidney Crosby.

A Flame?

"I've thought about it," admits Iginla, 28, arguably the NHL's best player.

"Any team that gets him is going to be benefiting because he's a player who can help out immediately and immensely in the long run. That'd be awesome if it was us."

Despite being weeks away from his 18th birthday, few doubt the 5-ft. 11-in., 193-lb. Rimouski Oceanic star can step in right away and make a huge impact on the league both on and off the ice.

While Crosby may not be able to duplicate the type of numbers that saw him score

148 goals and pick up

214 assists in 148 games over two years as a 16 and 17-year-old junior, he's got the maturity, charisma and skill to be one of the NHL's best right wingers within a year or two. Few doubt that.

In other words, if the Flames were to win the first pick overall, Calgary would arguably be home to the world's top two players, a la Mark Messier and Gretzky in their prime.

Not only would it guarantee sellouts at the 'Dome and everywhere else the Flames played, it would instantly elevate Darryl Sutter's soldiers to Stanley Cup favourites, especially given their playoff run of 2004.

"It would be great to get him," said Iginla, asked if he'd mind sharing the spotlight with the two-time world junior star from Cole Harbour N.S. who could easily be Iginla's centreman.

"I would not mind at all. I want to win. I want to win in Calgary.

I want to win the Stanley Cup. It's not about the spotlight or anything like that, it's about winning."

Crosby's already proven he's a winner, leading the Oceanic to the Memorial Cup final, pacing Canada to a World Junior Championship last year and spearheading Shattuck/St. Mary's run for prep school supremacy.

What's more, with the new CBA reportedly capping entry level deals at $850,000 with limited bonuses, Crosby would also be one the NHL's biggest steals salary-wise.

The Flames will enter the lottery with a better chance of landing the first pick overall than half the teams in the league. As one of 10 teams allotted two of a possible three lottery balls thrown into the hopper of 48, the Flames' chances of being drawn are 4.17%. Four teams -- Buffalo, Columbus, Pittsburgh and the New York Rangers -- all have three balls, upping their chances to 6.25%. The remaining

16 teams with one ball in the bin have a 2.08% chance.

In what is being considered a strong draft, there's absolutely no question Crosby will be taken by the team fortunate enough to have its ball picked first.

"I think it's a great time for the fans to see where he'll go," said Iginla, salivating at the prospect.

"He would help any team. I'll be watching and hoping that we do get him."

Iggy, you won't be alone.


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