Tough luck doesn't erase smiles from Senators' faces

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 1:55 PM ET

RALEIGH, N.C. -- The Senators left the draft table with smiles yesterday.

Then again, so did everybody else.

The Senators were pleased with what they accomplished at this weekend's NHL entry draft.

Yesterday, they used their fourth-round selection (122nd overall) to take Russian centre Alexander Nikulin, then went in various directions the rest of the day.

''Our Russian scout had Nikulin rated as the fourth best player in Russia and we were able to get him,'' chief scout Frank Jay said. ''There's a good chance he's going to be able to play in the NHL. That's what you want."

While generally pleased with the club's selections, Jay admitted he was a little disappointed the Senators didn't get more rugged players.

"It's the second year in a row that we've wanted to get (tougher) players and we didn't get as many as we'd like,'' he said. ''Maybe in the future we've got to be willing to pay the price a little more. Instead of saying let's wait for the third round to get a guy, we'll take him in the second.''

Five players drafted yesterday will attend the club's rookie camp in Ottawa later this week.

NHL clubs selected a total of 291 players in nine rounds during the two-day draft at the RBC Center.

Two Ottawa-area players were drafted yesterday. Nashville picked Gatineau LW Nick Fugere (fourth round, 107th overall) while 67's RW Mark Mancari (seventh round, 207th) went to Buffalo.

'LONG SHOTS'

"Mancari had a good year. He has some hands, some skill and some size," said Jim Benning, the Sabres' director of amateur scouting. ''But there's some things he needs work on in his game.

''When you get in the late rounds, usually players are long shots.''

Three other eligible 67's -- Peter Tsimikalis, Brodie Beard and David Halasz -- were not drafted.

NOTES: Senators COO Cyril Leeder and VP of marketing Jeff Kyle spent the weekend here as interested observers since Ottawa will host the 2005 draft at the Corel Centre. They were given an idea of what it takes to put on the event ... Senators rookies will be in Montreal starting Sept. 10 for a week-long tournament also involving newcomers from Toronto, Florida and the Habs. Panthers coach Jacques Martin told reporters the camp will take place regardless of a lockout. "It's going to be a good chance for us to take a look at our young players," he said.

AT A GLANCE

Following are the Senators' draft picks yesterday:

- No. 122: Alexander Nikulin, C, CSKA (Russia).

- No. 141: Jim McKenzie, RW, Sioux Falls (USHL)

- No. 156: Roman Wick, RW, Kloten (Switzerland)

- No. 219: Joe Cooper, RW, Miami (NCAA)

- No. 251: Matthew McIlvane, C, Chicago (USHL)

- No. 284: John Wikner, LW, Frolunda Jr. (Sweden)


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