A look at how things should turn out during Friday's first round of the NHL draft in Columbus, Ohio (Final rankings are separated between North American and European players and are from the NHL Central Scouting Service):
1. Chicago Blackhawks
Patrick Kane, RW, London Knights (OHL)
Kane was considered a potential first-round pick as the season began, but the combination of a superb season for the Knights and an exceptional performance at the 2007 World Junior Championships have pushed him to the head of the class. The U.S.-born player's game is all about offense, and despite his limited size at 5-foot-9, he has proven time after time he can compete and dominate against older, stronger competition. Another intriguing factor will be to see him and Jonathan Toews grow up together, a pairing that could re-energize the stagnant Windy City franchise and remind observers of the old Hull and Oates pairing in St. Louis.
• HT: 5-10; WT: 160; Shot: Left; Born: 11/19/1988 (Buffalo, N.Y.); Final ranking: 2.
2. Philadelphia Flyers
Jakub Voracek, C, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
Voracek was discussed as a potential No. 1 pick at the start of the season. Although he had a slow start to the year, his dominance in the second half will make the Flyers happy to select him. His slow first half culminated in an average World Junior performance, but upon his return to North America in the new year, he seemed like a man possessed. His strength definitely lies in the ability to distribute the puck and create offense for his linemates. Although Philly had a tough year, don't forget the Flyers have some of the best young forwards in the NHL in Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, R.J. Umberger and Simon Gagne. Along with those studs, they have Steve Downie and Claude Giroux working their way toward the NHL, and Voracek will have plenty of finishers to feed the puck to in the years to come.
• HT: 6-1; WT: 187; Shot: Left; Born: 8/15/1989 (Kladno, Czech Republic); Final ranking: 7.
3. Phoenix Coyotes
Sam Gagner, C/W, London Knights, OHL
Phoenix has drafted for significant size up front, picking players like Martin Hanzel, Blake Wheeler and Peter Mueller. But what the Coyotes are really lacking as they head forward is a smart, skilled center that can take advantage of the new rules and create offense on a consistent basis, making Gagner a likely third overall pick. Don't be surprised to see the Coyotes attempt to move down a couple of spots and get an extra pick, but either way, Gagner will be the man. A teammate of Kane's, Gagner has also had a phenomenal season in London, tied with Kane for second in the league in assists (83). He possesses a tremendous hockey IQ and distributes the puck as well as anyone in the draft. The son of former NHL player Dave Gagner, he was used in mostly a defensive role in the 2007 World Junior Championship; but upon his return to the OHL, he continued the torrid offensive pace he established early on and maintained right through the season.
• HT: 5-11; WT: 191; Shot: Right; Born: (London, Ontario); Final ranking: 6.
4. Los Angeles Kings
James van Riemsdyk, LW, NTDP, USHL
Van Riemsdyk is a player that has continued to improve throughout the past couple of years and may ultimately have the biggest upside of anyone in the draft. His competitive hockey prior to joining the U.S. national development program last year consisted of playing high school hockey at Brick High School in New Jersey, which isn't exactly Shattuck St. Mary's or Notre Dame in Wilcox, Saskatchewan. Because of this, he still may have a great deal of improvement in his future, which could allow this huge physical specimen to become an NHL superstar in a few years. He possesses long arms and legs and is learning how to use this to his advantage. Despite a noticeable improvement in his strength over the past couple of years, he could top out at 220 pounds. Still, he had a tremendous Under-18 World Championships and single-handedly eliminated the powerful Canadians en route to the silver medal for the Americans. The Kings have scouted him extensively and would be ecstatic to get him at No. 4.
• HT: 6-3; WT: 200; Shot: Left; Born: 5/4/1989 (Middletown, N.J.); Final ranking: 3.
5. Washington Capitals
Karl Alzner, D, Calgary Hitmen, WHL
Washington has loaded up on various offensive stars in past drafts (Alexander Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Chris Bourque and Eric Fehr), but the Capitals know their back end is questionable at best. As a result, the Caps would love to grab Alzner, the best defender in the draft. The completeness of Alzner's game, and the fact that he is virtually assured of becoming a solid NHL defenseman, will make the pick very easy for the front office. He has all of the tools that you like in a defender and should become a fixture on the Caps' blue line in a couple of seasons after some AHL duty.
• HT: 6-2; WT: 206; Shot: Left; Born: 9/24/1988 (Burnaby, B.C.); Final ranking: 5.
6. Edmonton Oilers
Kyle Turris, C, Burnaby Express, BCHL
If Turris drops to the No. 6 spot, you will see Kevin Prendergast and Kevin Lowe doing backflips on their way to the podium. Turris has the ability to become the best player in the entire draft, but because of the relative weakness of his competition, there are still questions about his game. The BCHL is the best junior competition outside of the Canadian Hockey League and previous BCHL draft picks (Travis Zajac and Chris Chucko) have become solid players. Turris is committed to the powerful University of Wisconsin program, so Edmonton will be under no pressure to sign him for a few years. That adds to his massive appeal. The Oilers have always gone after great skaters with good character, and this kid fits into that mold.
• HT: 6-1; WT: 170; Shot: Right; Born: 8/14/1989 (New Westminster, B.C.); Final ranking: 1.
7. Columbus Blue Jackets
Nick Petrecki, D, Omaha Lancers, USHL
The Blue Jackets' most pressing need is on the back end. Although there was a stretch when they really coveted Keaton Ellerby out of Kamloops, some late-season issues have them concerned. So look for Columbus to select the best American-born defenseman in Petrecki. The hard-nosed defender has played for the Omaha Lancers for the past two seasons and has proven he has a chance to become a franchise player. He is the type of physical defender coach Ken Hitchcock loves. The only real knock on Petrecki is his offensive game is limited, but his defensive game balances that.
• HT: 6-3; WT: 213; Shot: Left; Born: 7/11/1989 (Schenectady, N.Y.); Final ranking: 21.
8. Boston Bruins
Angelo Esposito, C, Quebec Remparts, QMJHL
Heading into the 2006-07 season, Esposito was the consensus No. 1 overall pick. He had teamed up with Nashville's future superstar, Alexander Radulov, to lead the Remparts to the 2006 Memorial Cup and previously had been talked about in the same breath as Sidney Crosby. Fortunately for NHL teams, the scouting season is long. His problems began at the 2006 Under-17 Championships, where his play was indifferent. Upon his return to Quebec, people began to realize his productivity was directly related to the amount of time he played with Radulov. As this season has worn on, he has again been guilty of spotty efforts and has at times been terrible. That being said, Esposito is incredibly gifted and has the ability to dominate games. He has all of the tools to become a big-time NHL scorer after he adds some size and strength, but his inconsistencies see him drop to the eighth spot.
• HT: 6-1; WT: 180; Shot: Left; Born: 2/20/1989 (Montreal, Quebec); Final ranking: 8.
9. St. Louis Blues
Alexei Cherepanov, RW, Omsk, Russia
The next step in the Blues' rebuilding plan will be the selection of Alexei Cherepanov out of Russia. The exceptionally skilled winger has set records for rookie goals in the Russian Super League, supplanting players like Pavel Bure and Ovechkin. While there is no debate about his skills, his motivation at times has been less than impressive. There is a good chance he will be gone by this pick; but if he isn't, the Blues will gobble him up. If they can get through to him, he has a chance to become an NHL superstar.
• HT: 6-0; WT: 183; Shot: Left; Born: 1/15/1989 (Barnaul, Russia); Final ranking: 1.
10. Florida Panthers
Keaton Ellerby, D, Kamloops, WHL
As much as the selection of Logan Couture would excite the Panthers' staff, their previous drafts have left the team bereft of young defensive prospects. So the selection of Ellerby is a must. Ellerby has played three full seasons in the WHL, but has the potential to drop in the draft because of a late-season benching by his coach. Still, most teams seem pretty confident it was a one-time situation that has been rectified. You can bet his interviews with the teams at the scouting combine addressed it. The Panthers will love to pick the 6-foot-4 defender.
• HT: 6-4; WT: 186; Shot: Left; Born: 11/5/1988 (Strathmore, Alberta); Final ranking: 4.
11. Carolina Hurricanes
Logan Couture, C, Ottawa 67s, OHL
Couture was another highly rated player coming into the 2006-07 season, but a serious bout with mononucleosis sidelined him for much of the first half. As a result, his stamina and fitness were heavily affected; teams didn't really see what he had to offer until the final month, but the result was impressive. He may drop to this spot because teams may be reluctant to take a player in the top 10 who rarely played at full strength. If Carolina does manage to get him, it will be getting a very special player that has amazing offensive instincts and a high hockey IQ. Expect him to have a huge season in the OHL in 2007-08.
• HT: 6-1; WT: 195; Shot: Left; Born: 3/28/1989 (Guelph, Ontario); Final ranking: 19.
12. Montreal Canadiens
Brandon Sutter, C, Red Deer, WHL
GM Bob Gainey learned a long time ago that character and hard work are the keys to winning hockey clubs, so the selection of Brandon Sutter should be a no-brainer. The last name alone signifies his work ethic won't be in question and he is probably as talented as any in his hockey family. His play at the 2006 Under-18 Championships was impressive and he followed it up with a great 2006-07 season with the Rebels. He still has to fill out his 6-foot-3 frame. Once that happens, he has a very good chance to become an excellent prospect for the Habs.
• HT: 6-3; WT: 170; Shot: Right; Born: 2/14/1989 (Huntington, N.Y.); Final ranking: 28.
13. Toronto Maple Leafs
Mikael Backlund, C, Vasteras, Sweden
The Maple Leafs have had significant success with Swedes in the past (Borje Salming, Mats Sundin, Alexander Steen, Staffan Kronwall) and they may dip back into that pool for Backlund. He has been hampered by knee injuries, which affected his past couple of seasons, but the latest Central Scouting Bureau rankings have him as the second-best European prospect after Cherepanov. He could turn out to be a better pro than Cherepanov because of his complete game and passion for the sport. He isn't the sexiest choice available, but the Leafs would be wise to add him to their club.
• HT: 6-0; WT: 194; Shot: Left; Born: 3/17/1989 (Vasteras, Sweden); Final ranking: 2.
14. Colorado Avalanche
Ryan McDonagh, D, Cretin-Durham HS; USHS
The opportunity to add a potential stud defender is always enticing, but Colorado's lack of defensive prospects makes it particularly pleasing. McDonagh was recently voted Mr. Hockey in Minnesota, a highly coveted award in the state. McDonagh has also committed to the University of Wisconsin, which adds to his attractiveness; his complete array of skills and size will have the Avalanche giddy over the selection.
• HT: 6-1; WT: 200; Shot: Left; Born: 6/13/1989 (St. Paul, Minn.); Final ranking: 11.
15. Edmonton Oilers
Mark Katic, D, Sarnia; OHL
Edmonton is another team looking to add defensive prospects to its list of recent acquisitions, which includes forwards Ryan O'Marra and Robert Nilsson from the Ryan Smyth trade. In keeping with the Oilers' focus on speed, the young Katic is exactly what the team needs. The CSB has been hard on him all year, but Prendergast has never been afraid to think outside the box. Katic had a great Under-18 Championships and the Oilers have watched him a lot this season.
• HT: 5-10; WT: 180; Shot: Left; Born: 5/9/1989 (Timmins, Ontario); Final ranking: 59.
16. Anaheim Ducks
Maxim Mayorov, LW, Leninogorsk; Russia
The fact Anaheim gets to pick this high is particularly frustrating for the other teams, but shrewd management has the Ducks in a great spot. GM Brian Burke has always been adamant about taking the best player available; right here, Mayorov fits the bill. His offensive skills and ability to finish slightly remind us of Radulov, and although he still needs to be more consistent, he has the kind of tools that excite fans. All things Burke has always been fond of.
• HT: 6-2; WT: 187; Shot: Left; Born: 3/26/1989 (Leninogorsk, Russia); Final ranking: 4.
17. New York Rangers
Jonathon Blum, D, Vancouver; WHL
The Rangers spent many years wasting draft picks (see Hugh Jessiman), but their scouting staff's recent work has been nothing short of outstanding. The next defenseman that will be taken will be Blum. The expectations for Blum have always been high; despite the occasional spotty performance, he has very low bust potential, which makes New York very comfortable with the selection. He has continued to improve throughout his stay in Vancouver, and he gets overlooked at times because of the Giants' strong back end.
• HT: 6-0; WT: 160; Shot: Right; Born: 1/30/1989 (Long Beach, Calif.); Final ranking: 17.
18. Calgary Flames
Colton Gillies, C, Saskatoon; WHL
GM Darryl Sutter played in an era when the crease was a war zone, and one of the toughest forwards of the time was Clark Gillies. Fast forward to this year's draft. Sutter knows the rules have changed, but teams need a physical presence. So expect the Flames to take Clark's nephew, Colton. Although there are varied opinions on the future of Colton Gillies as a player, we love his size and strength. If he becomes half as good as his uncle, the Flames will have hit the jackpot.
• HT: 6-4; WT: 189; Shot: Left; Born: 2/12/1989 (White Rock, B.C.); Final ranking: 30.
19. Minnesota Wild
Thomas Hickey, D, Seattle; WHL
Minnesota has a large number of good prospects at forward, so a defensive one would fit. Hickey's size is a concern, but he plays bigger than his frame and his 50 points were enough to catch everyone's eye this season. The Wild's traditionally slow approach to bringing along prospects will help Hickey as he continues to get stronger and thicker. He is a future QB on the power play with his playmaking abilities and effective puck movement.
• HT: 5-11; WT: 182; Shot: Left; Born: 2/8/1989 (Calgary, Alberta); Final ranking: 26.
20. Pittsburgh Penguins
Billy Sweatt, LW, Colorado College; WCHA
After having the advantage of picking early for a number of years, the Penguins will be looking to upgrade their team speed, and there are few faster than Billy Sweatt. He had a solid freshman season for the Tigers and his development from a pure speed skater into a unique player that can do exceptional things at high speed has been impressive. The net result: He should be sharing a locker room with Crosby and his friends in a few years after he helps return CC to the top of the NCAA landscape.
• HT: 6-0; WT: 180; Shot: Left; Born: 9/28/1988 (Elburn, Ill.); Final ranking: 27.
21. Phoenix Coyotes
Kevin Shattenkirk, D, U.S. NDTP; USHL
After selecting Gagner a few hours earlier, the Coyotes will be looking for some skill on the back end to help get the puck up the ice. Shattenkirk is their man. He has good offensive skills and loves to jump into the rush; as a result, he is perfect for the new NHL. Two other factors make him attractive as a prospect. He has committed to Boston University, which gives the Coyotes an opportunity to monitor him and his development without being forced to sign him right away. He also has that rare and valuable commodity of being a right-shot defenseman. All of those factors, along with a true passion for the game, make him a future star in the desert.
• HT: 5-11; WT: 193; Shot: Right; Born: 1/29/1989 (Greenwich, Conn.); Final ranking: 34.
22. Montreal Canadiens
Tommy Cross, D, Westminster; USHS
One of the least-publicized players of this year's draft is Tommy Cross, but his skills and size haven't gone unnoticed by the scouts. His mean streak and willingness to punish opponents all over the ice puts him in the first round. We still have a soft spot for intimidating defensemen, and Cross can become one of them. He has a booming shot from the point and a solid understanding of the position, allowing him to make great decisions with and without the puck.
• HT: 6-3; WT: 195; Shot: Left; Born: 9/12/1989 (Hartford, Conn.); Final ranking: 12.
23. Philadelphia Flyers
Zach Hamill, C, Everett Silvertips; WHL
The offensive dynamo has been a tremendous point producer at the Junior level. After a couple of years of getting stronger in the minors, he should continue that habit in the NHL.
• HT: 5-11; WT: 180; Shot: Right; Born: 9/23/1988 (Vancouver, B.C.); Final ranking: 9.
24. St. Louis
David Perron, LW, Lewiston; QMJHL
Perron had a fantastic season in Lewiston by tallying over a point per game and becoming a big-time scorer. His size is a slight concern with some teams. Some teams believe this kid is just starting to scratch the surface. When he puts it all together, he could become one of the stars out of this year's class.
• HT: 6-0; WT: 180; Shot: Right; Born: 5/28/1988 (Sherbrooke, Quebec); Final ranking: 10.
25. Vancouver Canucks
James O'Brien, C, University of Minnesota; WCHA
One of the lacking areas in the Canucks' prospects pool is a skilled center. O'Brien can certainly shore up that deficiency. As an underage playing in the U.S. development program in 2004, there was talk of him becoming the No. 1 overall pick in 2007. While those forecasts won't be correct, he will most certainly become a first-round choice for Vancouver. Having always played up against older competition, O'Brien yearned for the opportunity to go to Minnesota early. His numbers might not reflect it, but he had a pretty solid freshman season. He was sometimes frustrated by his lack of productivity this past season, but his overall game improved.
• HT: 6-2; WT: 184; Shot: Right; Born: 1/29/1989 (Maplewood, Minn.); Final ranking: 38.
26. St. Louis
Max Pacioretty, LW, Sioux City, USHL
Max Pacioretty is a prototypical power forward in the new NHL with his great frame, long stride and ability to finish around the net. Further increasing his value is his commitment to NCAA hockey factory Michigan. He will fill out and learn to play without the puck before he turns pro. When all of that seasoning is put into place, he should come out as a valuable power forward that can draw penalties and score on the power play.
• HT: 6-2; WT: 203; Shot: Left; Born: 11/20/1988 (New Canaan, Conn.); Final ranking: 16.
27. Detroit Red Wings
Akim Aliu, RW, Sudbury; OHL
Much has been written about Aliu from his days in Windsor, where he had very public fights with Flyers prospect Steve Downie. While there is much debate about his character, there is no doubt about his skill set on the ice. He is big and strong and powerful and was clearly the top player at this year's CHL Prospects Game. Despite all of that, there are some teams who wouldn't draft him. But Detroit won't be scared away by rumors and innuendo. The potential of this young phenom will be more than enough.
• HT: 6-2; WT: 200; Shot: Right; Born: 4/24/1989 (Okene, Nigeria); Final ranking: 41.
28. Washington Capitals
Brett MacLean, LW, Oshawa; OHL
This pick falls into the same category as Aliu -- much has been written and whispered about MacLean, but he had a phenomenal year riding shotgun for John Tavares and potting 47 goals along the way. The 6-foot-2 power forward has a nose for the net and a heavy shot that he uses to bury his chances. Although his complete game still needs some work, he may become a big-time scorer as he moves through the ranks for the Capitals.
• HT: 6-1; WT: 196; Shot: Right; Born: 12/24/1988 (London, Ontario); Final ranking: 14.
29. Ottawa Senators
Joakim Andersson, C, Frolunda; SWE
Andersson is a long, lean player with above-average skills and solid understanding of the game. One scout has described him as "another coach on the ice" and his unselfish attitude makes him a valuable asset. Along with his exceptional hockey IQ, he also posted almost a point a game in the highly competitive Swedish Junior League and has an occasional mean streak that netted him 60 PIMs.
• HT: 6-2; WT: 198; Shot: Left; Born: 2/5/1989 (Munkedal, Sweden); Final ranking: 5.
30. Edmonton Oilers
Zack Torquato, C, Erie , OHL
Torquato fills that "character" need. Along with being a tremendous teammate and leader, he possesses the unique ability to score in all situations. The knock on him has been his skating, but he recently dispelled that at the Under-18 World Championships. Although he will need a few years to fill out and get stronger, he has the skills and the character the Oilers need.
• HT: 6-0; WT: 190; Shot: Left; Born: 8/2/1989 (Yaroslavl, Russia); Final ranking: 28.
Mark Seidel is a former scout for International Scouting Services and former assistant general manager of the Ontario Hockey League's Erie Otters.