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Butler targets NHL prospects

BRAMPTON, Ont. – The Brampton Battalion’s weekend at the National Hockey League’s Entry Draft began ominously enough.

Stan Butler, the Ontario Hockey League club’s director of hockey operations and head coach, had his luggage lost Friday en route to Columbus, Ohio. By the time proceedings ended Saturday, Butler had his suitcase, but the Battalion failed to have a player chosen for the first time in the nine drafts in which its players have been eligible.

The Battalion went into the seven-round draft with two players on the NHL central scouting department’s rankings of North American-based skaters. Right winger Matt Smyth was rated 159th, while Justin Levac was 168th.

“It’s disappointing that we didn’t have a player taken,” Butler said Monday. “I thought Levac had a shot to go in the later rounds based on the calls I had received, but that didn’t happen. Now that the draft is only seven rounds instead of nine, it takes away a chance for a minimum of 60 players to get drafted.”

Butler paid special attention to the draft destiny of two players whose OHL rights are held by the Battalion.

Left winger James Van Riemsdyk, a 10th-round pick in the 2005 OHL Priority Selection, was selected second overall by the Philadelphia Flyers, while defenceman Colby Cohen, a fifth-round OHL Priority Selection choice in 2005, was tabbed in the second round by the Colorado Avalanche.

Butler met with Van Riemsdyk, a six-foot-three, 200-pound resident of Middletown, N.J., at the NHL’s fitness combine at Toronto this month. Van Riemsdyk, who had 33 goals and 30 assists for 63 points in 43 games last season with the United States under-18 team based at Ann Arbor, Mich., is expected to attend the University of New Hampshire in September.

“James and I discussed the possibility of him playing here,” said Butler. “Right now he’s committed to New Hampshire, but I’m sure the Flyers will have some discussions with him about this. If they decide it’s best for him to play major junior, it will be up to James and his advisers to make that decision.”

Cohen, a resident of Villanova, Pa., recorded 60 points, including 13 goals, in 53 games with the Lincoln Stars of the United States Hockey League.

Butler said he’ll talk to Craig Billington, Colorado’s director of player development, about Avalanche plans for the six-foot-two, 200-pound blueliner, who plans to attend Boston University.

“I met Colby by chance over the weekend and talked to him,” said Butler. “He’s in the same boat as Van Riemsdyk. I think he’s disappointed about where he was taken. I think he thought he’d go higher. I have a good relationship with Craig, and I’ll be putting in a call to him to see what their plans are and whether there’s a chance Colby will change his mind.”

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