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SURPRISE! DAZZLING BONK WAITS UNTIL NO. 3

SHARE SURPRISE! DAZZLING BONK WAITS UNTIL NO. 3

He has the flair. He has the hair. But he doesn't have the the honor of being the No. 1 pick.

Radek Bonk, the electrifying center from the Czech Republic, was just about everyone's top pick in Tuesday night's NHL draft - except the Florida Panthers' and Anaheim Mighty Ducks'.The Panthers, with the No. 1 pick, instead selected defenseman Ed Jovanovski from the Canadian major junior ranks. The Mighty Ducks, with the No. 2 pick, selected Russian defenseman Oleg Tverdovsky.

So where did that leave the Las Vegas Thunder's whiz kid? The No. 3 pick by the Ottawa Senators.

Even Jovanovski raised his eyebrows.

"To tell you the truth, I was shocked," Jovanovski said. "I was never rated at the number one spot (by the NHL Central Scouting Service) all year.

"And all the talk going on was that I was going to be a number two, three, four or five. The last couple of days number one has come up, but I didn't believe it until it actually happened."

Bonk had become a big hit in Las Vegas with his long flowing hair and dazzling smile, and had a stylish game to match. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound center from the Czech Republic had scored 42 goals in his first season in the professional International Hockey League and seems to be heading for greatness.

Just as important in this age of vivid marketing, Bonk's name and game seemed to be a natural for any NHL team wishing to sell its product.

Still, he didn't interest the Panthers or Ducks enough to make him the No. 1 pick.

"He scored 42 goals playing against men," Tampa Bay general manager Phil Esposito said of Bonk, who turned 18 over the 1993-94 season. "Florida and Anaheim probably passed because they drafted forwards last year and this year they wanted top defensemen."

In Jovanovsky and Tverdosky, that's exactly what they got.

Jovanovsky, who played for Windsor in the Ontario Hockey League, was the scouting service's top-rated defenseman from North America. Tverdovsky, who played with Krylja Sovetov in the Russian national league, was the top-rated player from Europe.

"I was happy and a little surprised (when made the No. 2 pick)," the 6-foot, 183-pound Tverdovsky said. "I know I'm not very big physically, but I know I have other qualifications I can bring to the Mighty Ducks."

The 6-2, 205-pound Jovanovski has been called a Scott Stevens clone - a rugged defenseman who can score goals as well as bounce opponents around the ice. Jovanovski was voted the "Best Bodychecker" in his division in a 1994 OHL Coaches Poll.

The draft, which only completed the first two rounds Tuesday night in the first split session in history, will have to go a long way today in the remaining nine rounds at the Hartford Civic Center to top opening night.

It was a night of wheeling and dealing in which the Maple Leafs also acquired Mike Ridley from the Washington Capitals and the Nordiques traded Ron Sutter to the New York Islanders for Uwe Krupp.

But as it turned out, the Maple Leafs actually outmanuevered themselves in the end. They had traded Clark, Sylvain Lefevbre, Landon Wilson and their 22nd pick to Quebec for Sundin, Garth Butcher, Todd Warriner and the Nordiques' 10th pick.

The Maple Leafs' idea was to draft Brett Lindros, brother of Philadelphia Flyers star Eric Lindros. But the Islanders got there ahead of them with the No. 9 pick which they acquired in the trade with Quebec.

Having lost Lindros, the Maple Leafs gave Washington the 10th pick in exchange for Ridley.

Overall, the Panthers cleaned up in quantity, if nothing else, over the first two rounds with four selections among the top 52.

Along with Jovanovski, they picked three other players from Canada - defenseman Rhett Warrener from Saskatoon of the Western Hockey League, forward Jason Podollan from Spokane of the WHL and forward Ryan Johnson of the Thunder Bay Junior A team.

The Edmonton Oilers, with two picks in the top six, came away with two forwards from the Canadian major junior ranks. They made Jason Bonsignore of Niagara Falls of the Ontario Hockey League the No. 4 pick and Ryan Smyth of Moose Jaw of the WHL No. 6.

Meanwhile, goaltender Jamie Storr lived up to his advance billing when he was made the No. 7 pick by the Los Angeles Kings. Regarded as the top goaltender in this year's class, Storr was the highest-placed at his position since Tom Barrasso was made the No. 5 pick by Buffalo in 1983.