Battochio faces age-old problem

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 11:07 AM ET

67'S goalie Danny Battochio was the story of the OHL playoffs last spring.

He might be forced to be an afterthought at today's NHL draft at the Westin Hotel.

Despite his heroics in overcoming brain surgery 18 months ago and leading the 67's to a Memorial Cup berth, Battochio's age might discourage NHL teams from using one of their reduced number of draft picks on a player they could invite to camp as a free agent.

"Because he's 19, I don't know if (getting drafted) is going to happen," 67's coach/GM Brian Kilrea said of Battochio. "Teams might want to draft 17-year-olds and maybe invite him after. There's only seven rounds now. If you've traded a pick, you might only have six (selections). That might be the way some teams think.

"There could be more activity for him after the draft than through it."

ON BUBBLE

One scout agreed with Kilrea's take on the situation.

"If it's a nine-round draft, someone would draft him," said the scout. "Now? I'm not so sure. I can't speak for 29 other teams, but I think he's on the bubble."

But Kilrea said Battochio deserves a shot, one way or the other.

"No doubt about it," he said. "Teams could see the way he recovered from his injury, if there was ever a doubt."

Kilrea said NHL teams who might be losing an older goaltender soon might be a good fit for Battochio.

"Take at look at Ottawa. They've got Dominik Hasek this year and maybe next year, and they could move (Ray) Emery up. That creates a chain reaction,'' the 67's coach said.

"A team could sign Danny as a free agent and leave him in Ottawa because they know he's going to get the bulk of games. That could be a wise move. They know we have a spot for him and he's going to get his games. It all depends on what a team has in its system and how many dollars they have invested in them."

67's defenceman Derek Joslin, meanwhile, was ranked 106th by the NHL's Central Scouting Bureau among North American skaters. The Hockey News has him slotted at the 99th position overall.

If scouts are worried about his performance at the Memorial Cup or the kid's heart, they need only consider Joslin played with a cracked wrist at that tournament and refused to be taken out of the lineup.

"He wasn't worried about dropping positions (in the draft). He just wanted to play," said Kilrea. "We never advertised it, but we know what he did."

Chris Hulit, who also had an outstanding playoff, is another 67's player who could get a look today, but the forward is in the same boat as Battochio. At 19, a team might opt to invite him as a free agent rather than spend a draft pick on him.

Kilrea also had a plug for defenceman Elgin Reid.

"I hope someone looks at him," said Kilrea. "He's a leader behind the scenes and on the ice. He's a tough kid who played through a couple of injuries this year. I hope he gets a look."

LEAN YEAR

This is shaping up as a lean year for the QMJHL's Gatineau Olympiques, as well.

Forward Cam Fergus is projected as a late-round selection by the Central Scouting Bureau.

Other players with local connections to watch for today:

- Benoit Pouliot, LW, Sudbury Wolves (OHL): After being cut twice by the Wolves, the St-Isidore product has bloomed into a bona-fide blue chipper. Good speed and great hockey instincts have some people talking about him going second overall behind Sidney Crosby, though some scouts think he has fallen to the fifth or sixth position (where the Montreal Canadiens and then the Columbus Blue Jackets select). He's rated third by TSN and second by the International Scouting Service. He was ranked second by the Central Scouting Bureau among North American skaters.

- Michael Blunden, RW, Erie Otters (OHL): A big, physical force (6-foot-3, 213 lbs.), the Gloucester product has the potential to be a power forward as shown by his 22 goals in 61 games last season. He could go early in the second round (ranked 20th among North American skaters by CSB). Otters GM and managing partner Sherry Bassin compares him to John MacLean, the former star with the New Jersey Devils. MacLean was unpolished as a junior, but blossomed into a solid NHLer.

- Adam McQuaid, D, Sudbury Wolves (OHL): The Cornwall native has been referred to as a "Jacques Laperriere" type of defenceman by Sudbury Wolves coach Mike Foligno. For those of a certain age, they'll know what that means -- McQuaid is a solid defender in his own zone, a strong skater and good on the penalty kill. He was ranked 30th by the CSB among North American skaters.

chris.stevenson@ott.sunpub.com


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