'At the top of our list'

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:44 AM ET

The Senators got their man ... of the future ... yesterday.

Senators GM John Muckler didn't try to trade up in the NHL entry draft at the Westin Hotel, but he was quite willing to move down from No. 9 to No. 12 because the club had already decided it was taking prospect Brian Lee.

But that plan went out the window when San Jose GM Doug Wilson made a deal with Atlanta to move up to No. 6. Muckler made the decision to keep his pick to select the rangy American defenceman.

"We got the guy we wanted," said Muckler, who thought he had a done deal with the Sharks before they made the trade with Atlanta. "Lee was the guy we had at the top of our list and he was the guy we were going to take. We feel he is a guy that the Ottawa Senators are all about. He's got good skills and he's got a lot of upside potential. We're very happy."

MINNY HIGH SCHOOL GRAD

Lee, 18, a graduate of Moorhead High School in Minnesota, was ranked 15th by Central Scouting and is headed for the University of North Dakota next season, but the Senators believe they can afford to wait.

Let's face it, the club is set on defence for this year with Wade Redden, Zdeno Chara, Chris Phillips, Greg de Vries and Brian Pothier.

And 2004 No. 1 pick Andrej Meszaros will also challenge for a roster spot.

"I'm just going to follow whatever plans the Senators have for me," said Lee, who admitted he was surprised to be picked so early. "I'm going to go school and when they think I'm ready, then I'll be ready.

"This is great for me. I didn't expect this. I'm just going to go to school and try do the best I can. The Senators are obviously a great team and I'm the kind of player who likes to model myself after Brian Leetch as much as possible. This is going to be a great move for me."

CHANCE MEETING

A chance meeting in an elevator during the NHL's draft testing last month in Toronto with Senators director of amateur scouting Frank Jay might have been the key to Lee getting picked by the club.

Carrying a sheet of paper which had all his interviews listed, Jay noticed there was an X beside the Senators and Lightning because they were the only club's that hadn't scheduled an interview with him.

"I guess we didn't have him on our list of people to interview because we considered him a Top-10 player and we didn't really know where we were going to pick," Jay said following the draft.

"I thought maybe we had better talk to him and I'm glad we did. You would hate to pick a guy in the draft and not have talked to him. There is nothing that he doesn't do well and I really mean that. He's going to be excellent and he just needs some time to get stronger."

bruce.garrioch@ott.sunpub.com


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