Islanders make 'Pegger's day in the third round

SCOTT UNGER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:34 AM ET

Heading into the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, Winnipeg's Jason Gregoire was ranked deep on NHL Central Scouting's North American skaters list, 145th to be exact.

But, as the second round began yesterday morning, Gregoire saw players he felt he's on par with getting selected and figured it was just a matter of time before his name would be called. In the third round, the New York Islanders couldn't let him be available any longer.

"I was looking at some of the names that were going and kind of comparing myself to them," he said yesterday from his home here in the city. "I figured I could bring as much to the table as those guys and I guess the Islanders felt the same way.

"I wasn't expecting to go that high. I didn't have too many expectations at all. I'm just thrilled right now."

Last season with the Lincoln Stars of the United States Hockey League, which would fall somewhere between Major Junior and Junior A in Canada, the Winnipeg South Blue scored 16 goals and 20 assists for 36 points in 32 games. He missed almost the entire first half of the season with a reoccurring ankle injury. It was something that had to be cleared with the Isles before they would take him.

"They had to make sure my ankle was OK," he explained. "I had to send them my MRI reports. That got cleared and everything is good."

Now that he has gone to a NHL team, Gregoire says it doesn't matter which round he went in or that he might have gone higher if he had played a full season.

"I think about that," he admitted, "but in retrospect, I play the whole year and maybe hit a huge slump and the scouts don't like what they see.

"I'm thrilled to death about how this season turned out. ... I wouldn't change anything right now."

Islanders director of pro scouting Ken Morrow described on the Islanders website what exactly stood out about Gregoire.

"In two of the games I saw Jason, he had hat tricks, so he has some goal-scoring ability," Morrow said. "He was a very smart player and good around the net. What I liked best about Jason was that he came on at the end of the season, and consistently got better as the season progressed."

Gregoire was unaware that the Isles were even scouting him during the season.

"I'm not sure if they were at any games," he said.

"I did very well offensively and I think that might be one of the biggest things they were looking for out of me."

Other Manitobans to go in Rounds 2-7 yesterday include Snowflake's Justin Falk, who is now property of the Minnesota Wild, as did Calgary Hitmen product and Brandonite Carson McMillian in the seventh round. Also in the final round, Winnipeg's Frazer McLaren was chosen by the San Jose Sharks and Ryan Molle went to the New Jersey Devils.

Defenceman Keith Aulie of Regina was the lone Brandon Wheat King selected in the draft. He went to the fourth round to the Calgary Flames.


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