One deal could set off chain reaction

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:01 AM ET

There's speculation big-name players such as Todd Bertuzzi and Roberto Luongo will be in the news this weekend at the National Hockey League entry draft in Vancouver.

Either could be traded by their respective clubs, the Vancouver Canucks and the Florida Panthers, and if they are, it could set off a chain reaction to other deals.

What's known now is this: Lesser-known players Erik Johnson, Jordan Staal and Phil Kessel will make major steps in becoming household names.

Johnson, in whom some see a younger version of Scott Stevens, outplayed Kessel at the world junior this past winter and soon after secured the top spot in the Central Scouting rankings.

Johnson probably will go first overall to the St. Louis Blues. The Pittsburgh Penguins will be getting the player regarded as the best young one not presently in the NHL, Evgeni Malkin, next season. With Sidney Crosby and Malkin, they might not want to take another forward with the second pick. There has been talk the Carolina Hurricanes will offer prospect Jack Johnson to the Penguins for the choice and take Staal, the brother of Hurricanes centre Eric Staal.

The Chicago Blackhawks, Washington Capitals and Boston Bruins will pick third, fourth and fifth. Expect the top five to consist of Johnson, Staal, Jonathan Toews, Nicklas Backstrom and Kessel. If Kessel falls to No. 6, he will not get past the Columbus Blue Jackets, sources indicate. Derick Brassard could slip into the top five.

"After that, there is nothing clear cut at all," an NHL scout said, noting the draft is not overly strong. "You could take a kid fairly high that some other team might have late in the first round."

The Maple Leafs have the 13th pick and are said to like Barrie Colts centre Bryan Little. As long as they don't make any trades involving picks, the Leafs will have seven selections, including one in each of the first three rounds (13th, 44th and 76th). The Leafs have two picks in the sixth round (166th and 180th) and two in the seventh (188th and 196th).


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