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With No. 8 pick, expect a forward

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 24, 2000


CALGARY -- Assuming the Lightning and Islanders consummate their deal, the question becomes, what does Tampa Bay do with the No. 8 pick?

With pressing needs at goaltender and defense taken care of, general manager Rick Dudley would be free to concentrate on the scoring forward the team needs to develop.

Dudley's mold: Players need to be big, aggressive skaters and competitors.

Falling nicely into that category is Nikita Alexeev of the Ontario Hockey League's Erie Otters. The right wing is 6 feet 5, 215 pounds.

The NHL's Central Scouting Service rates him the No. 7 North American prospect and describes him as "an excellent skater with long and powerful strides. ... Very effective in front of the net. ... A big power forward who excels in a fast-paced game."

The Lightning may also take a chance on Russian Alexei Smirnov. The 6-3, 211-pound left wing is considered the most talented European player, though his consistency has been questioned.

Still, Smirnov is rated as Europe's No. 3 prospect and is described as "a constant scoring threat" and having "an extremely high overall skill level."

"We have more than enough players rated," Dudley said. "We are prepared."

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