Isles nab No. 1 pick; Leafs eye trade up

Updated: April 15, 2009, 6:14 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

NEW YORK -- The final result of the New York Islanders' worst season in nine years is the opportunity for them to land a player who just might be able to turn around the beleaguered franchise.

[+] EnlargeJohn Tavares
Claus Andersen/Getty ImagesJohn Tavares, a center for the OHL's London Knights, scored more goals in the league as a 16-year-old than even Wayne Gretzky.

The Islanders won the NHL draft lottery and the No. 1 overall pick on Tuesday night, giving them the right to take one of two highly touted prospects -- forward John Tavares and Swedish defenseman Victor Hedman.

"It put a huge smile on my face," said general manager Garth Snow, in his third year on the job. "It's a great moment for our franchise, a great moment for our fans."

Tavares was the top-ranked North American skater in final rankings by the NHL Central Scouting Bureau. Hedman was tops among Europeans.

New York finished last overall in the NHL with 61 points this season and had the best odds of landing the No. 1 pick.

The draw was held at the league's offices in New York and the results were announced in Toronto by deputy commissioner Bill Daly.

League rules stipulate that a team can move up no more than four positions in the lottery or drop more than one. Although there was no movement between the 14 non-playoff teams involved, the team to watch could be the Toronto Maple Leafs, who will pick seventh.

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Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke put the league on notice that Toronto has every intention of aggressively pursuing a top selection.

"We'll immediately attempt to move up," Burke said during a news conference Tuesday morning. "We're going to talk to everyone between us and the first pick and see what the landscape is.

"We're going to see what it costs and we're going to try and move up."

As far as trade ammunition is concerned, Burke made clear that every player under the organization's umbrella is up for discussion, and ultimately, trade.

"No player is untradeable," said Burke. "Wayne Gretzky got traded."

The Islanders have the top draft pick for the first time since 2000, when they chose franchise goalie Rick DiPietro.

Following New York will be Tampa (No. 2), Colorado (No. 3), Atlanta (No. 4) and Los Angeles (No. 5).

Colorado finished in last place in the Western Conference this season, and fired general manager Francois Giguere on Monday.

The Avalanche will have a draft pick in the top 10 for the first time since relocating to Denver from Quebec in 1995.

"It's a tremendous amount of excitement for our organization and for our fan base, to have the opportunity to select a premier player in this year's draft," said Craig Billington, the Avalanche's vice president of hockey operations. "This draft is a very strong draft."

Gretzky's Phoenix Coyotes slot in at six.

After the Maple Leafs, Dallas was slotted eighth, Ottawa got the ninth selection and Edmonton received the 10th choice.

The 16 playoff teams will have their draft positions determined at the end of the postseason.

Burke is no stranger to draft-day maneuvers, landing Chris Pronger when he was with Hartford and securing both Sedin twins as the general manager of the Vancouver Canucks.

"I don't think we're going to sneak up on anyone," he said. "They've seen that movie."

Tavares, whose honors include 2006 Canadian Major Junior Rookie of the Year and 2007 Player of the Year, broke Gretzky's Ontario Hockey League record for goals in a season by a 16-year old with 72 in 2007. He also tied and then set a new record for career goals in the OHL with 215 earlier this season.

Hedman currently plays for Modo in the Swedish Elite League and was selected to the 2008 World Junior Championships All-Star team. He has nine goals and 25 points to go along with a plus-23 rating in 82 career games in the SEL.

In brief scouting reports, Snow said Hedman is "6-foot-6 and can skate like the wind," and praised Tavares for the gaudy offensive numbers he has posted.

Snow said he has a player ranked first in his mind, but added the organization will hold meetings in the coming days to discuss who will be the right fit.

"Yeah I do, but I'm not going to share it," he said. "We're going to get a great player for this team."

The Islanders went through growing pains all season as they dived deeply into a youth movement under first-year coach Scott Gordon, who moved up from the AHL.

New York already has promising rookies Kyle Okposo and Josh Bailey, last year's first-round pick. The Islanders owned the No. 5 pick in 2008 but traded down twice and grabbed Bailey with the ninth selection.

Okposo was the Islanders' second-leading scorer with 18 goals and 39 points in 65 games. Bailey had seven goals and 25 points in 68 games. Snow admitted there would be a lot of pressure to get this pick right at the draft, which will be held at Montreal's Bell Centre on June 26.

"It's going to be a great draft day for this organization and our fans," Snow said.

The draft will be held at Montreal's Bell Centre on June 26.

Information from the Canadian and Associated Press was used in this report.

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