| | André Savard will experience his greatest challenge on June 23rd. Seen by many fans as the man most responsible for the Ottawa Senators’ draft success, his talent-evaluation skills will be relied upon to return the Montreal Canadiens to their traditional place among the league’s elite teams.The Habs’ GM has kept his draft intentions close to the vest. He has not spoken publicly on which player he covets, or what type of players he’ll be looking to grab with the team’s two first-round picks. However, he has said what he looks for in young players; he bases his initial opinion on skating, then skill. Hockey sense, and attitude are also important. Size, however, is rarely a deciding factor.He has also stated that he will not draft any player that he has not seen play. This explains why he spent much of the past six months travelling the world scouting many, if not all, of the major tournaments involving draft-eligible players.The 2001 Draft is seen by most experts as one of the top drafts in recent memory. Ilya Kovalchuk has undoubtedly emerged as the number one choice. However, with Jason Spezza’s playoff struggles, and Stanislav Chistov’s emergence as arguably the most talented player available, the second overall pick has become difficult to predict. Probable trades, and the possibility of a goalie being chosen with one of the top six picks, only adds to the difficulty in predicting which players will still be available when the seventh pick arrives.Keeping this in mind, this preview will include many of the top choices. Obviously, most of these players will be gone by the time the Habs pick. However, the difficulty in predicting the draft forces the inclusion of these players.
Stanislav Chistov -5’11’, 170 lbs.Possibly the most talented player in the draft. Speed, and puck-handling are his greatest attributes. A forward who shoots right, he averaged 0.42 PPG while playing with Avangard Omsk of the Russian Elite League, 0.86 PPG at the World Junior Championship, and 1.5 PPG during the World Under-18 Championship.
Alexander Svitov -6’3″, 198 lbs.Big, strong, and tough player with better than average offensive instincts. A center who shoots left, he averaged 0.36 PPG while playing with Avangard Omsk of the Russian Elite League, 0.17 PPG at the world Junior Championship, but did not play at the World Under-18 Championship.
Stephen Weiss -6’0″, 178 lbs.A great all-round player with excellent skating, shooting and puck-handling skills. A center who shoots left, he averaged 1.40 PPG with the Plymouth Whalers during the regular season, and 1.88 PPG during the playoffs. He did not play at the World Junior Championship. During the testing done at the CHL Top Prospects game Weiss finished 6th in the puck control drill, 6th in the 150′ sprint, and 3rd in the lap.
Jason Spezza -6’2″, 214 lbs.Excellent play-maker who creates offense where there seems to be none. He already has NHL-calibre vision. A center who shoots right, he averaged 2.07 PPG with Mississauga, and Windsor during the regular season, 1.0 PPG during the playoffs, and 0.71 PPG during the World Junior Championship. During the testing done at the CHL Top Prospects game Spezza finished 4th in the puck control drill, 3rd in the 150′ sprint, and 5th in the lap.
Mikko Koivu -6’2″, 183 lbs.Another excellent play-maker with good size. He’s an intense competitor. A center who shoots left, he averaged 1.63 PPG with TPS Jr., 0.05 PPG with the TPS senior team, 0.43 PPG during the World Junior Championship, and 0.83 PPG during the World Under-18 Championship.
Tuomo Ruutu -6’2″, 196 lbs.A tireless worker who skates well. He’s very strong on the puck, and can play at both ends of the ice. A center who shoots left, he averaged 0.47 PPG with Jokerit of the Finnish Elite League, and 0.57 during the World Junior Championship. He did not play at the World Under-18 Championship.
Fredrik Sjostrom -6’0″, 194 lbs.A highly-skilled player with excellent speed. He has great hockey sense. A right winger who shoots left, he averaged 0.16 PPG with Froluda of the Swedish Elite League, 0.43 PPG during the World Junior Championship, and 1.0 PPG during the World Under-18 Championship.
R.J. Umberger -6’2″, 200 lbs.An offensive-force with size. He combines a strong skating stride, with a great attitude. A center who shoots left, he averaged 1.22 PPG with Ohio State University, and 0.57 PPG during the World Junior Championship. Umberger is one year older than most of the other top players in the draft.
Dan Hamhuis -6’1″, 195 lbs.A strong, well-balanced defenseman who likes to play physical. He’s particularly effective with the hip-check, and has good offensive instincts. A left-handed shot, he averaged 0.95 PPG with Prince George during the regular season, 0.83 PPG during the playoffs, and 0.14 PPG at the World Junior Championship. During the testing done at the CHL Top Prospects game, Hamhuis finished 8th in the puck control drill, 9th in the 150′ sprint, and 10th in the lap.Barring a huge surprise, one of these 9 players will be André Savard’s first draft pick as GM of the Montreal Canadiens. With heavy hearts, and bated breath many Hab fans hope the player he names will become a cornerstone of this franchise for years to come.
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