Plymouth Whalers forward James Neal was the first Plymouth player taken today in the NHL Entry Draft when the Dallas Stars chose him in the second round, 33rd overall.
"I've been in touch with Dallas," Neal said, minutes after being selected from his home in Whitby, Ontario. "They showed a lot of interest. I had a feeling they might take me. It was between a couple of teams that talked to me a lot - Dallas and Florida. Bottom line, I'm thrilled to go to Dallas. They have a couple of slots opening up. Their general manager (Doug Armstrong) just called me, and he's going to keep in touch to let me know about training camp and other things."
Fellow Plymouth forward Dan Collins went in the third round, 90th overall, to the Florida Panthers while incoming Whalers forward Jared Boll was taken in the fourth round, 101st overall, by the Columbus Blue Jackets.
"It's gratifying to know all the hard work has paid off," Collins said. "I dreamed for this day and now that it's come and gone, it's really exciting. A lot of my hard work was done during the off-season, mostly, because I needed to gain weight. I worked out five days a week for two-and-a-half hours every day and I drove an hour-and-a-half there and an hour-and-a-half back. So I paid the price with a lot of hard work to get to where I am now."
The New York Rangers selected Saginaw Spirit forward Tom Pyatt in the fourth round, 107th overall. Fourteen picks later, Spirit defenseman Patrick McNeill went to the Washington Capitals.
Plymouth's 2005 Import Draft pick, Slovenian forward Ondrej Otcenas, was also selected in the fourth round, 123rd overall, by the Compuware-owned Carolina Hurricanes. Saginaw's 2004 Import pick, Slovakian forward Marek Kvapil, was the first pick of the sixth round, 163rd overall, by the Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning.
Fenton native and Plymouth defenseman Ryan McGinnis went to the Los Angeles Kings in the sixth round as well, 184th overall.
Defenseman Kyle Lawson, a New Hudson native who is off to Notre Dame next fall, was drafted by Carolina in the seventh round, 198th overall. His OHL rights belong to Plymouth.