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Blues take American Erik Johnson with No. 1 pick

| Saturday, June 24, 2006

VANCOUVER, British Columbia - The St. Louis Blues selected defenseman Erik Johnson with the first pick in the NHL draft Saturday, making him the fifth American to be taken No. 1 overall.

The Bloomington, Minnesota native joins Brian Lawton (1983), Mike Modano (1988), Bryan Berard (1995) and Rick Dipietro (2000) as the only Americans taken with the first pick.

Shortly after NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman was booed loudly by the Vancouver crowd during opening remarks, St. Louis did exactly what everyone expected and announced Johnson s name.

Blessed with great skating ability, a big body, and soft hands, Johnson is known for making both big hits and big plays offensively.

The 6-foot-4, 222-pound defenseman spent last season with the U.S. National Team Development Program, recording 11 goals and 22 points in just 38 games with the under-18 team. He became the top-ranked prospect with a strong World Junior Championships in Vancouver in January.

Johnson has said he patterns his play after Colorado star Rob Blake, but is compared more often to Edmonton's Chris Pronger, who won a Hart and Norris Trophy in St. Louis.

Johnson is scheduled to attend the University of Minnesota next season, but could instead be playing in St. Louis, where the Blues are still looking to replace Pronger after trading the all-star to Edmonton following the 2004-05 NHL lockout.

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