OTTAWA - The top 18-year-old hockey players in the world are bracing for the biggest day of their lives. After going through the scouting combine and being interviewed by NHL teams, all they can do is wait.
The annual entry draft starts with the first round on Friday night at Scotiabank Place. Here's a closer look at some of the players who are expected to be taken early, using the league's Central Scouting Bureau's rankings and beginning with North American skaters:
1. Steve Stamkos, C, Sarnia Sting: scored 58 goals and assisted on 47 for 105 points in 61 OHL games ... added nine goals in a five-game playoff series win over Windsor ... 6-0 and 176 pounds ... considered one of the fastest skaters in the entire draft ... likes to play with an aggressive edge ... projected top-line player in the NHL ... was ranked No. 1 in mid-season and final rankings ... one of two 1990-born players to win gold with Canada at 2008 world junior championship ... lists Facebook as his favourite website ... his goal at the 2007 OHL skills competition has over 100,000 views on YouTube.
2. Zach Bogosian, D, Peterborough Petes: only OHL defenceman to lead team in scoring after putting up 61 points (11-50) ... wears No. 4 in honour of idol Bobby Orr ... 6-2 and 197 pounds ... skating ability and size set him apart ... considered NHL-ready now ... says most embarrassing song on his iPod is N'Sync's "Bye Bye Bye" ... lists fellow American Chris Chelios as his favourite NHL player.
3. Drew Doughty, D, Guelph Storm: had 13 goals and 50 points in 58 games ... named top defenceman at 2008 world junior championship after winning gold with Canada ... also represented his country at 2008 Super Series, 2007 world under-18 championship and 2006 world under-17 championship ... 6-0 and 219 pounds ... very poised, knows when to jump into the rush and when to stay back ... considered one of the draft picks most likely to play in the NHL next season ... his dream is to score a goal on Martin Brodeur ... favourite TV show is "The Hills."
4. Tyler Myers, D, Kelowna Rockets: had 19 points (6-13) in 65 games ... at 6-7, he's the tallest North American-ranked skater ... not often burned by smaller, quicker players ... has a rocket shot ... born in Houston, Texas, before moving to Alberta ... played for Canada at 2008 world under-18 championship and is no longer eligible to represent the U.S. ... moved up from mid-term ranking of No. 6 ... favourite band is 80's group Journey.
5. Luke Schenn, D, Kelowna Rockets: put up 28 points (7-21) in 57 games ... often paired with Myers in Kelowna ... played for Canada in 2008 Super Series and world junior championship ... 6-2 and 216 pounds ... big and strong, plays with edge ... reminds scouts of Ed Jovanovski ... younger brother Brayden plays for Brandon and led all WHL rookies in scoring this season ... says NHL.com is his favourite website.
6. Alex Pietrangelo, D, Niagara Ice Dogs: seventh in scoring among OHL defenceman with 53 points (13-40) ... 6-3 and 206 pounds ... very poised on the ice ... plays without fear ... needs to be a bit more assertive ... former NHL goalie Frank Pietrangelo is his dad's second cousin ... if he wasn't playing hockey, he'd love to be a fisherman ... favourite food to prepare is peanut butter sandwiches.
7. Kyle Beach, C, Everett Silvertips: had 60 points (27-33) in 60 games while adding 222 penalty minutes ... named WHL rookie of the year in 2007 ... 6-3 and 203 pounds ... considered most competitive forward in draft ... typical power forward ... looks up to Jarome Iginla, who he has met a couple times ... second cousin of Oakland A's pitcher Rich Harden ... favourite video game is "Guitar Hero."
8. Zach Boychuk, C, Lethbridge Hurricanes: second on Hurricanes with 72 points (33-39) ... led WHL in playoff goal-scoring with 11 ... 5-10 and 175 pounds ... patterns game after Daniel Briere ... skilled forwards who quarterbacks the power play ... all-around offensive player ... career highlight was winning gold at 2008 world junior championship ... nickname is Chucker ... in his own words: "I like to score."
9. Cody Hodgson, C, Brampton Battalion: scored team-best 40 goals and added 45 assists for 85 points ... won gold with Canada at 2008 world under-18 championship ... 6-0 and 185 pounds ... good on faceoffs ... often flies below the radar but can be a gamebreaker ... wears No. 19 in honour of idol Steve Yzerman ... started skating at age two ... lists chess as one of his favourite sports.
10. Colin Wilson, C, Boston University: named Hockey East rookie of the year after putting up 35 points (13-22) in 37 games ... 6-1 and 215 pounds ... had six goals for U.S. at world junior championship ... ... combination of a skilled and power forward ... reliable defensively ... father Carey spent 12 years in the NHL with Calgary, Hartford and the N.Y. Rangers ... wears No. 33 in honour of his dad ... grandfather Gerry played briefly for the Montreal Canadiens and was a team doctor for the Winnipeg Jets ... listens to Nelly Furtado's "Maneater" to pump himself up.
11. Mikkel Boedker, LW, Kitchener Rangers: had 29 goals and 73 points in only OHL season ... looking to become highest-ranked player from Denmark ever to be selected in the NHL draft (Lars Eller was taken 13th last year) ... 5-11 and 195 pounds ... versatile forward who plays the point on the power play ... needs to shoot more ... looks up to older brother Mads, also a hockey player ... favourite TV show is "Two and a Half Men."
12. Luca Sbisa, D, Lethbridge Hurricanes: recorded 33 points (6-27) in first WHL season ... born in Ozleri, Italy but represents Switzerland internationally after growing up there ... 6-2 and 190 pounds ... very poised and calm with the puck ... still adjusting to North American game ... favourite gift was a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey with Mats Sundin's name on the back ... can't live without TV ... preferred vacation spot is Dubai.
13. Colby Robak, D, Brandon Wheat Kings: registered 30 points (6-24) in 71 games ... looks up to Nicklas Lidstrom and Rob Blake ... 6-3 and 194 pounds ... smooth skater ... has the ability to be a good offensive defenceman in the NHL ... likes the TV show "Hogan Knows Best" ... would love to have dinner with Bobby Orr, Nickelback singer Chad Kroeger and Todd Davison, a good friend who died after a fight with cancer.
14. Joshua Bailey, C, Windsor Spitfires: finished with 96 points (29-67), which is 61 more than any of his three previous OHL seasons ... had 23 points in the final nine games of the season ... 6-0 and 188 pounds ... good play-making centre ... scouts think he needs a bit more grit to his game ... nickname is Bails ... would love to have been in the movie "Superbad."
15. Michael Del Zotto, D, Oshawa Generals: third in OHL scoring among defenceman with 63 points (16-47) ... scored goal that won Team Ontario the gold medal at the 2007 Canada Winter Games ... 6-0 and 211 pounds ... offensive defenceman who likes to jump into the rush ... very mature player ... played minor hockey in Markham with Stamkos and Hodgson ... loves to shop at American Eagle Outfitters.
1. Nikita Filatov, LW, CSKA-2, Russia: scored 32 goals and added 34 assists for 66 points in 34 games ... led Russia in scoring at world junior championship ... 6-0 and 172 pounds ... known as a leader with a great work ethic and attitude ... might be the only Russian selected in the first round ... favourite NHL player is Sidney Crosby ... not currently under contract in Russia and is eager to come to North America ... he's fluent in English thanks to his mother, who teaches the language in Moscow.
2. Kirill Petrov, RW, AK Bars Kazan, Russia: had 10 points (4-6) while playing 47 games in the top Russian league ... named top forward at 2008 world under-18 championship ... 6-3 and 198 points ... good skater and playmaker ... physically strong ... leaped to No. 2 in European rankings after being 33rd midway through the year.
3. Mattias Tedenby, LW, HV 71, Sweden: played 23 games in top level of Swedish hockey and put up six points (3-3) ... also spent time with HV 71 Jr. team ... 5-10 and 176 pounds ... outstanding speed ... fearless despite small stature ... needs to improve defensively.
4. Erik Karlsson, D, Frolunda Jr., Sweden: had 37 points (13-25) in 38 games ... also appeared in seven games for Frolunda in Swedish Elite League ... 5-11 and 165 pounds ... excels on the power play ... good passer with plenty of confidence.
5. Anton Gustafsson, C, Frolunda Jr., Sweden: put up 32 points (15-17) in 33 games ... won two straight championships with Frolunda Jr. team ... 6-2 and 194 pounds ... highly skilled with strong puck-handling skills ... effective passer ... son of Swedish national coach and former NHLer Bengt-Ake Gustafsson.
1. Thomas McCollum, Guelph, OHL: was 25-17-6 with a 2.50 GAA and .914 save percentage ... received Guelph's academic player of the year award ... had a shutout in his first OHL game ... from Sanborn, N.Y. ... 6-2 and 205 pounds ... good positioning, has a solid butterfly ... handles the puck with confidence ... the most embarrassing song in his iPod is Aqua's "Barbie Girl."
2. Chet Pickard, Tri-City, WHL: an amazing 46-12-4 with a 2.32 GAA and .918 save percentage ... named WHL goaltender of the year ... wears No. 37 in honour of Americans owner Olaf Kolzig ... 6-2 and 210 pounds ... very confident ... consistent and reads the play well ... reminds scouts of Kolzig ... favourite book is "Into Thin Air" by Jon Krakauer.
3. Peter Delmas, Lewiston, QMJHL: had a record of 17-13-4 with a 2.84 GAA and .903 save percentage ... won the QMJHL Championship in 2007 ... 6-2 and 169 pounds ... nickname is Sneaky Pete ... favourite city to visit is Halifax.
1. Jacob Markstrom, Brynas Jr., Sweden: appeared in seven elite league games for Brynas while also playing for junior team ... backstopped Sweden to gold in the 2007 under-18 Ivan Hlinka Memorial ... 6-3 and 178 pounds ... covers the net well ... impressive glove ... uses size to his advantage.
2. Harri Sateri, Tappara Jr., Finland: had one shutout and 2.99 GAA in 34 games ... 6-1 and 190 pounds.
3. Anders Lindback, Brynas Jr., Sweden: had five shutouts in 36 games for Brynas Jr. ... also played 18 games for Almtuna ... 6-6 and 198 pounds.