Russians go 1-2 on opening day of picks

New York Rangers select Anchorage's Brandon Dubinsky in the second round

Posted: Sunday, June 27, 2004

History replaced mystery as top-rated forwards Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin became the first Russian duo to be chosen with the first two picks in the NHL draft.

The choices came as a surprise to no one.

Ovechkin was the consensus top player available Saturday, and the Washington Capitals spurned several offers for the No. 1 pick and took the total package forward.

Malkin was rated second on virtually all ratings charts, and that's where he was picked by the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Washington earned the right to go first by winning the draft lottery. After entertaining 15 trade offers, the Capitals decided the best move was to draft Ovechkin.

"We've had him rated No. 1 for a long time," Capitals general manager George McPhee said. "We could have done a trade for volume, but none of those players would have been as good as this guy."

One Alaska player was selected in the draft's first three rounds on Saturday.

Brandon Dubinsky, 18, of Anchorage, a former Service High School center who has been playing major junior hockey for the Portland (Ore.) Winter Hawks, was drafted in the second round by the New York Rangers with the 60th pick overall. It marked the ninth time in the last 11 years a player from Alaska has been selected in the draft.

Three other Alaska players could be selected when the draft concludes today. Winger Moises Gutierrez, 17, of Anchorage, winger Mike Curry, 19, of Eagle River and defenseman Dustin Molle, 18, of Anchorage also were ranked among the top draft-eligible players by the NHL's Central Scouting Service. In five of the past seven NHL drafts at least two Alaskans have been chosen.

Ovechkin, 18, was the overwhelming favorite before the NHL's Central Scouting department ranked him first among European skaters. He was praised for his speed, size and stickhandling as well as his willingness to jump back on defense.

"I've been waiting for this day for maybe two years," he said.

He might have to wait longer. Ninety-eight players - 58 from North America and 40 from Europe - were chosen in the first three rounds Saturday. The final six rounds will be held today.

But it's not clear when these players will step onto NHL ice. The league's collective bargaining agreement with its players expires Sept. 15 and, with no agreement near, a lockout is a distinct possibility.

Ovechkin's situation is also complicated. The Russian Ice Hockey Federation indicated it might not be part of a new deal between the NHL and the International Ice Hockey Federation because it wants more money for players its clubs lose to North America.



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