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LIVE! From Montreal, It's The Draft ... Meet New Panther Dmitry Kulikov ... Islanders take John Tavares No. 1 ... Philly Gets Chris Pronger

Draft1 MONTREAL -- Happy Friday from the Center Bell, home of the Montreal Martins.

Jacques is in the house, as is Roberto Luongo. The former Florida goalie is sitting at the Vancouver draft table. He looks bored.

I may look bored too, but I'm not. No, no. I'm excited to be here. Hope we get some trades soon.

Am very interested in seeing who the Islanders take. If it is defenseman Victor Hedman (which I don't think it will be), I hear Tampa Bay will send its second pick to Toronto to take defenseman Brayden Schenn.

We'll see what happens. Enjoy Versus (err, TSN's) coverage tonight.

And stay tuned right here throughout the night...

-- Word is more than 15,000 have crammed into the Coliseum on Long Island to watch the Islanders make the first pick. If it's not John Tavares (which more and more people here are opining that it won't be) there may be a riot in Uniondale. Save the Marriott!

-- They just showed Vinny Lecavalier on the big screen, a video of him being drafted. Loud ovation from a pro-Montreal crowd that obviously wants him back. The Lightning may just send him home..

-- Got a look at the Panthers new third jersey. Just kidding, I didn't....

-- Gary Bettman booed lustily despite his attempt to speak French. And they misspelled his name on the big screen. Hello Garry...

-- Word on the street: Chris Pronger traded to the Flyers. Scratch them off the JayBo list...

-- Saw Mike Keenan and Steve Yzerman out in Montreal last night. They both send their best...

--The Isles are on the clock...lets see what they do...

-- It's John Tavares No. 1 to the Islanders...let the party begin on Long Island...

-- Now we have the Lightning (Hedman), Colorado (Matt Duchene), Atlanta and Los Angeles.

-- The place is pretty full here. Must be nothing to do in Montreal on a Friday night. OK, that's not true.

--Just heard a rumor that Jay has been dealt...haven't been able to confirm and have no other details...am working on it...

--Still just a rumor...no one with the Panthers will confirm anything...

--We're up to pick No. 10 with Edmonton...Panthers coming up soon at No. 14

-- The Islanders just traded up with Minnesota, now have the 12th pick...

--Scott Moore is still there, and the Panthers are on the clock...

AND TAKE Dmitry Kulikov with the 14th overall pick...the kid played at Drummondville and is here...will have more after we speak with him...Big kid...

OK, on tight deadline here, so this is what I wrote regarding Florida's draft so far:

BY GEORGE RICHARDS

grichards@MiamiHerald.com


MONTREAL – For the first time in years, the Panthers didn't make a blockbuster deal at the NHL Draft.

That big trade still could be forthcoming, but for the moment, Florida just handled its draft like most other NHL teams and went about building for the future. A potential trade for the negotiating rights to All-Star defenseman Jay Bouwmeester is said to be in the works, something Florida could swing Saturday when the second round kicks off.

On Friday, with no trade to announce and the 14th overall pick, the Panthers took Dmitry Kulikov, an 18-year-old defenseman whom scouting director Scott Luce said may just compete for a roster spot when the Panthers hold training camp in a few months. If Kulikov doesn't make the Panthers – an organization deep with defensemen as it is – he will likely return to play with Drummondville of the Quebec junior league.

As the draft was held in Montreal, the Panthers received loud applause when they selected Kulikov, a native of Lipetsk, Russia.

''I came here to improve my game, learn a new style of game. Everything was new, the country, the style of play,'' said Kulikov, who left his family behind in Russia when he decided to come to Quebec to improve his game. ''This was a closer step to the NHL for me. I'm an offensive defenseman who never forgets my responsibility in my own zone. I'm defense first but if I see a chance, I can do it.''

Luce was especially high on Kulikov, saying he is projected to quarterback the power play. Kulikov had a strong rookie season with Drummondville, scoring 12 goals with 50 assists in 57 games. But in training camp, he's going to have plenty of competition for a roster spot with Florida expecting to give plenty of opportunity to more seasoned players like Jason Garrison and Keaton Ellerby.

The competition doesn't seem to worry Kulikov.

''My goal is to play in the NHL next year,'' he said. ''We'll see what's going on. I love the hard work. .-.-. To make an NHL team you have to be better than someone else. That's my goal, to be better and make the NHL team this year.''

Added Luce: ''[Coach] Pete DeBoer is going to be pleasantly surprised in what we have packaged here for him in training camp. He's going to challenge for a spot.''

The Panthers took a gamble on Kulikov as Russian players have been increasingly returning to play professionally in the rival Continental Hockey League. Luce says Kulikov making the move to Canada to play junior hockey shows his commitment to playing in the NHL as Kulikov says he and his agent decided to make that move so more NHL scouts could see him play. Kulikov, who speaks clear English, adds that learning the North American game was also a reason for his big move.

''He's mature beyond his years, a very worldly young man,'' said Luce. ''His adjustment to North America was very quick and that speaks to his character. This guy can rush the puck, run the power play and is good defensively. We did extensive due diligence on this, with his coaches here and with his coaches in Russia. He's a very motivated young man to come to North America, and when he turns pro, bring his family to North America.''

The biggest news involving the Panthers at this year's draft was that the team didn't move Bouwmeester's negotiating rights. Florida knows it won't sign the All-Star defenseman as he is due to become a free agent on July 1. The Panthers had been in talks with Philadelphia, but those ended when the Flyers made a huge move in trading for Chris Pronger.

'We're going to take our time and do things in an orderly fashion,'' Sexton said prior to the draft's start. ''We're going to see what happens. Tonight's only the first round. A lot of guys I talked to are not interested in moving their first round pick. I think that's because of the economic times and the cap being deeply rooted. There was no internal deadline, no yikes! if we don't get it done by 7 o'clock.''

Bouwmeester's agent has said his client will wait until July 1 to sign with a team, although acting general manager Randy Sexton said Friday that Bouwmeester's agent had given him a list of teams Bouwmeester would be interested in.

''They were quite anxious to speak to other teams,'' Sexton said, adding he hadn't spoken to Bouwmeester's agent in more than a week. ''He gave us a list before, a clear picture of his criteria. A couple teams on the list met that criteria then but don't know. For us, it would make sense for us to move him to a team where we think he would like to go to.''

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