Kessel No. 1 with NHL scouts

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 10:20 AM ET

The scouts are convinced: University of Minnesota C Phil Kessel is destined to be the No. 1 pick in the 2006 entry draft. "He has it all. He's going to go No. 1 for sure," said a league executive yesterday ... The NHL Players Association has announced "85%" of the voters have decided Ted Saskin should be installed as the permanent executive director. But it doesn't mean the dissident group, headed up by Trent Klatt, that wants Saskin ousted is going away. "This entire 'secret ballot' vote was a joke and the Detroit Red Wings will not vote and validate Saskin's phony secret ballot election," said Chris Chelios. "This secret ballot is another example of Ted Saskin manipulating the process for his own personal gain." Saskin may not want to get very comfortable in his Bay Street office ... Speaking of the Bruins, there are couple of guys -- GM Mike O'Connell and coach Mike Sullivan -- getting heat in a big way. Owner Jeremy Jacobs sounded alarm bells when he called the organization dysfunctional. The sense is O'Connell and Sullivan are on their last legs (especially since Sullivan's contract expires at the end of the season). There are rumours -- and I stress they're only rumours -- Cam Neely is going to take over as the GM and Ray Bourque will be the coach. Who knows? ... The Blackhawks have been so bad at taking penalties, GM Dale Tallon is bringing director of officiating Stephen Walkom to meet with the players.

AROUND THE BOARDS: Blue Jackets president/GM Doug MacLean is facing some major heat. The deal to get C Sergei Fedorov from Anaheim has had little impact, which means if MacLean doesn't axe coach Gerard Gallant soon, they'll both be out of work. There's talk former Sharks GM Dean Lombardi, Red Wings assistant GM Jim Nill and Rangers executive Gordie Clark are considered top candidates for MacLean's job ... Good line from Montreal W Pierre Dagenais last week. He had only four shifts in Atlanta but scored the winning goal in a shootout. "I was well rested," said Dagenais ... Devils coach Pat Burns, who is battling cancer, visited the team in Tampa before their 8-2 victory over the Lightning Friday and vowed to return behind the bench. Everybody hopes the Gatineau native makes it back ... Phoenix majority owner Steve Ellman is happy to have Wayne Gretzky behind the bench. "It's like being partners with Babe Ruth in baseball. It gave us instant credibility," said Ellman.

RUMOURS DU JOUR: The Flames have been quietly sniffing around for a No. 1 centre to help in the playoffs. The club hasn't been completely happy with C Daymond Langkow and C Steven Reinprecht. Don't be surprised if they, along with the Senators, make a pitch for St. Louis C Doug Weight ... The Ducks are going to move RW Petr Sykora once he gets healthy. The Coyotes, Rangers and Devils are all interested in Sykora -- especially New York, because the Rangers feel he could be the player to put them over the top. The talk is C Steve Rucchin, signed as a free agent from the Ducks in the summer, could be headed back to Anaheim for Sykora ... The Minnesota Wild wouldn't mind moving LW Pascal Dupuis ... Anybody on the Florida roster is available except G Roberto Luongo. Don't believe for a second the Panthers are going to move Luongo, unless they get desperate at the end of the season. He is a restricted free agent in the summer and they fully intend to give him another one-year deal. Instead, GM Mike Keenan would like to ship out C Stephen Weiss, LW Martin Gelinas, RW Kristian Huselius and C Olli Jokinen, among others ... The Sharks are looking to deal D Brad Stuart, LW Marco Sturm and LW Nils Ekman. It's believed GM Doug Wilson would like to shake up his struggling team.

Have a nice Sunday.

bruce.garrioch@ott.sunpub.com


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