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Class of the Class

June 22, 2002|Chris Foster

*--* Top-five prospects for the NHL draft beginning today (10 a.m., EPSN2) and Sunday. (Age in parenthesis): JAY BOUWMEESTER (19)-- DEFENSE * He is considered the top prospect in the draft and should be able to make the jump from juniors directly to the NHL. He is a strong skater, with exceptional acceleration. At 6 feet 4, he should fill out from the 206 pounds he now weighs to be able to handle the physical style of the league, as well as dish it out. The downside is scouts worry that his development has leveled off since being a 16-year-old on Canada's world junior team RICK NASH (18)-- LEFT WING * There is no doubt that he has scoring abilities, as a 61-goal season during his first Bantam Hockey season in 1999-2000 showed. There are scouts who feel he has more potential than Bouwmeester after an impressive showing at an under-18 tournament last summer. Projected as a power forward, but there are concerns about his speed. Still, he scored 63 goals the last two seasons with London of the Ontario Hockey League JONI PITKANEN (19) -- DEFENSE * This is not your typical don't-hit-me European. He likes physical play and excels in that style. Scouts have compared his skating abilities to Detroit's Niklas Lidstrom. An impressive showing for Team Finland at the world junior championships last winter did nothing to damage that image. He had one goal and four points in seven games during the tournament. He has played the last two seasons with Karpat in the Finnish league KARI LEHTONEN (19)-- GOALIE * Rated as the top goalie in the draft and some feel he may be picked right after Bouwmeester. As a rookie in the Finnish league last season, he led Jokerit to the title. He had a 1.78 goals-against average and a .940 save percentage in 11 playoff games. He stopped 55 of 56 shots in the final two playoff games and was named the MVP. At 6 feet 3, he has the size to fill up the net RYAN WHITNEY (19)-- DEFENSE * He rates a shade below Bouwmeester, Nash, Pitkanen and Lehtonen in this thin draft. But scouts like his 6-foot-3, 200-pound frame. He has a good shot and is very agile. Although not blessed with exceptional skills, he has ice smarts, which he demonstrated as a freshman at Boston University last season. He had four goals and 19 points in 31 games. He was a member of the U.S. under-18 team in 2000-01

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