Sens lose home-field advantage

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:42 AM ET

You might have thought that the first-ever NHL draft held in the nation's capital would prompt the Senators to show some patriotism with their picks.

And if so, you'd be mostly wrong.

Instead, the Senators took the opportunity to ensure their dressing room remains a lovely melting pot of Europeans AND to replenish their supply of Russians, which is now at zero for the first time ever if Anton Volchenkov really does plan to stay and play at home.

On a day that saw NHL teams pick almost twice as many Canadians (110) than kids from the next most popular country (61 from the U.S.), the Senators bucked the trend.

Of Ottawa's eight selections, three were Russians, a country that saw only 11 of its natives selected by NHL teams all day.

And get this: Of the 11, only Ottawa's troika played last season in their homeland. Did nobody else scout Russia, or what?

The Senators also took a Finn and a Zlin (Czech Republic) with their picks. Token Canucks included Owen Sound-born centre Cody Bass (a fourth-rounder who may have actually been an afterthought when the Senators managed to work out a last-minute exchange with Minnesota that included Todd White) and Colin Greening, a final-round (204th overall) choice out of Upper Canada College who calls Newfoundland home.

With their first-round choice, they grabbed Fargo, N.D., defenceman Brian Lee when some of us were sure they'd take advantage of the Fall of (Marc) Staal to select a Thunder Bay product who spends his winters in Sudbury with the Wolves and was merely the OHL's top rated defenceman.

Lee, who tries to emulate his favourite player (New York's Brian Lee-tch), played high-school hockey at a place called Moorhead in Minnesota.

Some of us also wondered why -- if the Senators were going to take another defenceman in the third round -- they didn't go for London's Danny Syvret, who went to the Edmonton Oilers 11 picks later. The Millgrove native was a key member on Canada's world junior title-winning team and the Knights' march to the Memorial Cup, but Ottawa apparently likes Vitaly Anikeyenko better.

Anikeyenko is said to be a great skater with a strong shot, but we're a little concerned about his size. Two separate handouts yesterday listed him at a very thin (like Russia's talent cupboard) 6-foot-3, 120 lbs. Hopefully he fills out a little.

Anyway, the Senators have had (regular season) success doing things this way in the past. Our crude calculations now show that 59 of the 134 players they've drafted are Europeans.

They have yet to establish themselves as playoff warriors, however, and by picking just one player from the Canadian Hockey League yesterday, they overlooked a key ingredient of championship teams.

STARTS AND STOPS: Rangers GM Glen Sather's explanation why he took Staal with the 12th pick overall had to do with the big defenceman's hair-itage. "We know his background and his family," said Slats. "And he's got red hair. He looks like Jim Schoenfeld to me, and he played in this league a long time." ... Blackhawks' first- rounder (seventh overall) Jack Skille explained his feelings at the start of the draft like this: "Sitting in the room and waiting, when the TV cameras come up to you, your heart starts beating through your chest. I was very excited." Skille's family is in Madison, Wis., which means he won't have far to go home from Chicago. "About two-and-a-half hours -- if you drive the speed limit." ... Saskatoon W Devin Setoguchi was thrilled that the Sharks traded up to get him with the No. 8 pick overall. "Now I have to work that much harder to prove they were right," he said.

CHANGING LINES: New Jersey GM Lou Lamoriello claimed there was a crowd of 6,000 watching the draft on big screens at the Continental Airlines Arena. Not that we doubt him, but often it looks like there's not that many at Devils' home games ... Best thing about the draft not being opened to the public for Gary Bettman? Hearing nary a boo. Would have been very much different -- and justifiably so -- had fans been on hand ... Mayor "Babble On" Bob Chiarelli greeted all the NHL "franchise-EEs" on hand. Sounded a little like he thought he was at a Subway convention.

THINGS THAT MAKE YOU GO HMMM...: You have to love the confidence and frankness of French-speaking stars in Quebec. Asked about his style, new Atlanta Thrasher Alex Bourret said: "I have speed, I'm an offensive player, I can fight, I can do everything." The 5-foot-9, 209-lb. Bourret was picked 16th, not first ... Picked by the Bruins was a small (5-foot-9) Saskatoon centre with a great name. The scouting report on Wacey Rabbit is that he's small and quick. Go figure ... NHL VP Claude Loiselle is not ignorant. But he is also not Ray Ferraro, which explains why he didn't answer to the fan that called him that outside the Westin before the draft.

don.brennan@ott.sunpub.com


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