Strange dealings

MIKE ZEISBERGER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:13 AM ET

COLUMBUS -- When the first round of the 2007 entry draft had come to a conclusion Friday night, Vesa Toskala and Mark Bell were Maple Leafs and Tomas Vokoun was Florida-bound.

Both those deals involved 2007 picks changing hands.

By the time they were tearing down the banners at Nationwide Arena yesterday after the seventh and final round had been completed, the list of players who had been moved on Day 2 of the draft consisted of Tim Brent, Stephen Dixon, Michael Leighton, Ryan Shannon and Jason King.

Who? No offence to those five, but they hardly can be classified as big names in the NHL. They are not as well known as Vokoun or Toskaka. At least not yet.

While the groundwork has been laid for a handful of potential blockbusters heading into the opening of unrestricted free agency on July 1, it is quite clear that the number of big deals involving the swapping of marquee players for '07 draft picks this weekend just didn't transpire as many had predicted.

Why?

"It was kind of a weird draft," Atlanta Thrashers general manager Don Waddell said. "Usually, when players are moved for draft picks, teams want to deal for the pick in order to get a prospect they had targeted.

"But this draft was all over the board. Teams had so many different rankings for the same guys. In our case, for example, there was a guy picked in the first round that we had ranked 132nd.

"It just showed the unpredictability this year."

Waddell's point was underscored by the number of players whose stock plummeted over the weekend.

Teams shied away from using early picks on Russian players, primarily because of the lack of a transfer agreement between the NHL and the Russian Ice Hockey Federation.

Alexei Cherepanov, for example, was the top-ranked European skater according to Central Scouting, yet fell into the laps of the jubilant New York Rangers at No. 17 on Friday night.

The trend continued yesterday when fellow Russian Maxim Mayorov, the fourth-ranked European skater, was not selected until the fourth round when the Columbus Blue Jackets plucked him 94th overall.

Other notables who were not picked as high as predicted included forward Angelo Esposito, the top-ranked North American skater in Central Scouting's mid-season rankings. He went 20th to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday after being passed over in the No. 12 spot by the hometown Montreal Canadiens.

Also free-falling was Swedish centre Oscar Moller, a projected first-rounder, who ended up waiting until the 52nd pick before his name was called out by the Los Angeles Kings yesterday.


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