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Saturday, June 26, 2010
Locals surprise in first round of 2010 draft

By Don La Greca

It seemed to fall just right for the Rangers and Glen Sather. Their need is an offensive player on the blue line and Cam Fowler dropped right in their lap. Fowler seemed perfect for the Blueshirts; he was a point-per-game player for the Windsor Spitfires in the OHL and has been compared to former Rangers star Brian Leetch.

However the Rangers shocked the Staples Center crowd in Los Angeles and many in the NHL community by taking 6-foot-5 Dylan McIlrath. He fits the bill as a defensemen but not as a scorer. But there is one thing that he can do: Hit! His nickname is the "Undertaker." It's not a bad pick, since the division is filled with rough and ready players who love it hit. You just wonder if years from now we'll talk about Fowler, who went to the Ducks, as the better player.

The Islanders selected right wing Nino Niederreiter from Portland of the WHA. The Switzerland-born player scored 36 goals last season, with eight in the playoffs. He may not be a sexy pick but a solid one. He'll get help from his new teammate Mark Streit, who is also Swiss.

The Isles are starting to collect good young players like, John Tavares, Kyle Okposo and Josh Bailey. That's what happens when you have selected in the top 10 three of the last four years.

The Islanders were not done. They traded there 35th and 58th picks to the Blackhawks for the last pick in the first round and selected Brock Nelson, a 6-3 center who was the 11th American-born player drafted in the first round, a new NHL record. Nelson is the nephew of Dave Christian, who played on the 1980 gold medal hockey team and spent 15 years in the NHL.

The Devils did not have a first round pick. They sent that to the Thrashers for Ilya Kovalchuk. Will N.J. regret that decision? We'll see after July 1.

The biggest story to me in the first round didn't involve the locals. It's Jaden Schwartz. He's a play-making center from Tri-City of the USHL. His sister Mandi goes in Yale and has cancer; she needs a bone morrow transplant. But she was able to see her brother get draftwed by the Blues with the 14th pick, much higher then anyone thought.