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NHL

Two late picks exciting to staff

By TOM JONES
Published June 28, 2004

RALEIGH, N.C. - Let's face it, the NHL draft is a guessing game, particularly in the later rounds.

Once teams get past the second or third rounds, every player is a reach and the odds of him becoming an NHL star dwindle. A player might rank high on some lists, but low on others.

With that in mind, the Lightning thinks it found a couple of late gems Sunday.

The biggest find, according the Lightning, was sixth-round pick Jan Zapletal, a defenseman from the Czech Republic. Lightning head scout Jake Goertzen said he had Zapletal rated as a second-round pick.

His stock, though, might have fallen because he didn't make this season's national junior team after making it last season.

"It could've been a personality thing, I don't know," Goertzen said. "We were a little bit leery because we don't completely know the rest of the story. We had to take a chance, though, because he is a very talented guy."

The Lightning also was excited to get fourth-round pick Mike Lundin from the University of Maine in the fourth round. Goertzen scouted Lundin as a high school star in Minnesota a year ago. Goertzen let Lundin know he was eligible for the draft last year.

"I was hoping he would opt in and that few people had scouted him," Goertzen said. "If he had, we would've taken him last year."

TRADING DOWN: It was a slow draft for trades. The only major deal Saturday was center Radek Bonk going from Ottawa to Los Angeles to Montreal.

Sunday featured only two trades of note. Ottawa sent enigmatic goalie Patrick Lalime to St. Louis for a conditional fourth-round pick in 2005, possibly opening the door for Ottawa to acquire Detroit's Dominik Hasek. Montreal sent defenseman Stephane Quintal to Los Angeles for future considerations.

DVD PARTY: The Lightning will host a Championship DVD Preview Party tonight from 5-10 at the St. Pete Times Forum.

The DVD celebrating the Lightning's run to the Stanley Cup is set to be released Tuesday.

The party is open to the public and includes a used equipment sale, a memorabilia auction and a select-a-seat campaign. Screen highlights from the DVD will be shown at 6, 7:15 and 8:30. Also, the Stanley Cup will be there, its final appearance in Tampa until Aug. 15.

Best Buy at 1725 N Dale Mabry Highway will be open from midnight tonight until 2 a.m. selling the DVD. Lightning defenseman Dan Boyle will be there to sign autographs.

The DVD includes highlights of the season, interviews with players and Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final in its entirety.

PICK OF THE DRAFT: Rounds 4 through 9 Sunday were quick and uneventful. The selection of the day went to Los Angeles. With their eighth-round pick (238th overall), the Kings took a Japanese goalie named Yutaka Fukufuji.

When the Kings announced the selection, NHL senior vice-president of hockey operations Jim Gregory, who must repeat the pick from the podium, paused and said: "Wow."

He then repeated the name and added, "Thank you, Los Angeles. Great pick."

Fukufuji is not the first Japanese player drafted. That distinction belongs to Hiroyuki Miura, taken 260th by Montreal in 1992.

The other big - well, long - name of the day was Quebec's Pierre-Luc Leblond-Letourneau, taken by New Jersey in the seventh round.

FINAL TALLY: The draft involved 291 players from 17 countries, including a player each from Japan, the United Kingdom, Serbia, Lativa and Poland. Canadians led the draft with 125 players. The United States was next with 64.

[Last modified June 28, 2004, 01:00:37]


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