Now it’s payback time for Chris Phillips.
After the Ottawa Senators took the 18-year-old defenseman with the first pick of Saturday’s NHL Entry Draft, he immediately thought of his parents.
His father, Garth, suffers from diabetes and is legally blind. His mother, Carol, has multiple sclerosis and requires a wheelchair and a walker to move around.
“Once I make it to Ottawa I’ll be able to make them happy,” Phillips said. “I guess when the time comes when I sign it’ll be only fair to get them a house somewhere.
“They’ve made so many sacrifices for me, the whole family can take credit in me getting drafted.”
Garth Phillips, 50, built his son a rink when he was small and was his first coach.
“This started as 5-year-olds,” said the elder Phillips. “We’re the lucky people, the ones that get to come here.
“There are so many kids that have done the same thing and don’t make it through, so we feel very honored.”
Phillips, of Fort McMurray, Alberta, played for Prince Albert of the Western Hockey League last season and is in the physical mold of Scott Stevens and Chris Chelios. He was named the Canadian Hockey League’s top draft prospect, was the Western Hockey League’s rookie of the year, and was the youngest member of the 1996 gold-medal-winning Canadian National Junior team at the World Junior Championships.
Defense was a hot commodity early in the draft, with three picks in the first five and 13 overall in the first round.
With the second pick, the San Jose Sharks selected defenseman Andrei Zyuzin of Russia, one of the toprated Europeans. The Islanders followed by taking right wing JeanPierre Dumont of Val D’or of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
Defenseman Derek Morris was one of the top surprises of the round. The Central Scouting Service rated him the 85th-best prospect in North America and the WHL (Regina) player was picked 13th by Calgary.
Draft day deals
Before the draft began the Senators acquired center Shawn McEachern from Boston for right wing Trent McCleary and a third-round pick. At the end of the first round Pittsburgh and Dallas swapped defensemen, with Sergei Zubov going to the Stars and Kevin Hatcher to Pittsburgh.
Tampa Bay and New Jersey swapped goaltenders, with Jeff Reese going to the Devils and Corey Schwab going to the Lightning.
The Toronto Maple Leafs lightened their payroll considerably, sending Mike Gartner to the Phoenix Coyotes and Dave Gagner to the Calgary Flames for draft picks.
In exchange for Gartner, Toronto got left wing Vladimir Antipov - the Coyotes’ fourth-round draft pick. For Gagner, the Leafs got Ontario Hockey League defenseman Mike Lankshear, the Flames’ third-round pick.
Blues optimistic over Gretzky
The St. Louis Blues appear pretty confident that they will soon sign Wayne Gretzky.
Team president Jack Quinn and Gretzky’s agent, Mike Barnett, have been negotiating a contract in St. Louis the last two days while the Blues hosted the NHL Entry Draft. The deal is believed to be worth $14 million over two years.
The Blues had offered a three-year, $21 million deal, but pulled it off the table when Gretzky slumped in the playoffs. Gretzky, 35, can become a free agent July 1 but Blues general manager Mike Keenan doesn’t think it will come to that.
Stars sign Moog
The Dallas Stars signed goaltender Andy Moog, 36, to a one-year contract for the 1996-97 season.
No details of the contract were released when the team made the announcement Saturday. Moog spent the past three seasons of his 16-year career with Dallas.
xxxx NHL draft First-round picks: 1, Ottawa, Chris Phillips, D, Prince Albert, WHL. 2, San Jose, Andrei Zyuzin, D, Salavat Yulaev, MHL. 3, New York Islanders, Jean-Pierre Dumont, RW, Val D’or, QMJHL. 4, Washington, Alexander Volchkove, C, Barrie, OHL. 5, Stars, Richard Jackman, D, Sault St. Marie, OHL. 6, Edmondton, Boyd Devereaux, C, Kitchener, OHL. 7, Sabres, Erik Rasmussen, C, University of Minnesota, WCHA. 8, Boston, Jonathan Aitken, D, Medicine Hat, WHL. 9, Anaheim, Ruslan Salei, D, Las Vegas, IHL. 10, Devils, Lance Ward, D, Red Deer, WHL. 11, Phoenix, Dan Focht, D, Tri-City, WHL. 12, Canucks, Josh Holden, C, Regina, WHL. 13, Calgary, Derek Morris, D, Regina, WHL. 14, St. Louis, Marty Reasoner, C, Boston College, H-East. 15, Philadelphia, Danius Zubrus, LW, Pembroke, CJHL. 16, Tampa Bay, Mario Larocque, D, Hull, QMJHL. 17, Washington, Jaroslav Svejkovsky, RW, Tri-City, WHL. 18, Montreal, Matt Higgins, C, Moosejaw, WHL. 19, Edmonton, Mattheiu Descoteaux, D, Shawinigan, QMJHL. 20, Florida, Marcus Nilson, W, Djurgarden, Sweden. 21, San Jose (from Chicago) Marco Sturm, C, Lansholt, German League. 22, New York Rangers, Jeff Brown, D, Sarnia, OHL. 23, Pittsburgh, Craig Hiller, G, Ottawa, OHL. 24, Phoenix, Daniel Briere, C, QMJHL. 25, Colorado, Peter Ratchuk, D, Shattuck High School, Buffalo, N.Y. 26, Detroit, Jesse Wallin, D, Red Deer, WHL.
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