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Friday, 01.13.2006 / 12:00 AM ET / News
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Americans Johnson and Kessel Top-Rated Among North American Skaters

A pair of American players who were members of the 2006 U.S. World Junior Team, defenseman Erik Johnson (Bloomington, MN) of the U.S. National Under-18 team and center Phil Kessel (Madison, WI) of the University of Minnesota, are ranked one-two in North America in the mid-season ranking of eligible players for the 2006 NHL Entry Draft as compiled by the League's Central Scouting Service.

A record total of 12 U.S.-born players are ranked in the first round. The highest number of Americans drafted in the first round is eight, set in 2005. American-born players have never been selected one-two in NHL Draft history.  Brian Lawton (New Brunswick, NJ) and Pat LaFontaine (St. Louis, MO) were selected first and third overall by Minnesota and the New York Islanders in the 1983 draft.

Jonathan Bernier (Laval, QC) of the Lewiston Maineiacs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League is the top-rated North American goaltender, while right wing Michael Frolik (Kladno, CZ) of the Czech Republic and goaltender Jhonas Enroth (Sodertalje, SW) of the Swedish Junior league are the top ranked skater and goalie in Europe.

Joining Johnson and Kessel among the top North American skaters are:
#3 Jonathan Toews (pronounced TAVES) (Winnipeg, MAN), a winger with the University of North Dakota (NCAA) and a member of the 2006 Canadian team that won the gold medal at the World Junior Championships; and  #4 center Jordan Staal (Thunder Bay, ONT) of the Peterborough Petes (OHL), who will become the third Staal brother to be drafted into the NHL.  Staal's brother, Eric, has 26 goals and 54 points this season with the Carolina Hurricanes, while Marc, a defenseman, was drafted in the first round of the 2005 Draft by the New York Rangers and played on Canada's gold medal-winning World Junior team.

The mid-season ranking features the top 210 skaters and 30 goaltenders in North America and top 170 skaters and 15 goaltenders from Europe.

Johnson, in his second season with the U.S. National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, was a dominant player earlier this month at the World Junior Championships in Vancouver. The 6'4", 225-pound defenseman has scored three goals, five assists for eight points in seven games with the Under-18 team that competes in the North American Hockey League.  The former Minnesota high school player lists Colorado Avalanche defenseman Rob Blake as the player he tries to emulate.

In addition to Staal, a number of 2006 top ranked prospects have family ties to the NHL.

#6 ranked Derick Brassard of Drummondville (QMJHL) - father, Pierre, was drafted in 1976 by the Montreal Canadiens.

#8 ranked Chris Stewart of Kingston (OHL) - brother Anthony plays for the Florida Panthers.

#17 ranked Nick Foligno of Sudbury (OHL) - father Mike played 15 seasons in the NHL with Detroit, Buffalo, Toronto and Florida.

#31 ranked Francois Bouchard of Baie Comeau (QMJHL) - brother Pierre-Marc plays for the Minnesota Wild.

#45 ranked Blake Geoffrion of U.S. National Under-18 team - grandson of former NHL great and member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, Bernie Geoffrion.

#1 ranked goalie Jonathan Bernier's brother, Marc-Andree, was drafted by Vancouver in 2003.

The 2006 NHL Entry Draft will take place on Saturday, June 24, in Vancouver.

2006 Midterm Rankings:
* North American skaters (PDF)
* North American goalies(PDF)
* European skaters (PDF)
* European goalies (PDF)





J. Tavares 78 33 37 6 70
K. Okposo 79 22 42 -4 64
F. Nielsen 81 20 32 1 52
B. Nelson 81 26 14 -3 40
N. Leddy 81 5 35 -9 40
A. Lee 80 15 21 -2 36
J. Bailey 81 12 20 -7 32
C. Cizikas 80 8 21 4 29
R. Strome 71 8 20 -9 28
M. Grabovski 58 9 16 3 25
T. Greiss 23 11 4 .925 2.36
J. Halak 18 13 4 .919 2.30
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