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Original Issue

In the Crease

NHL clubs are spending lots of money looking for European
talent--witness the 90 scouts who attended the six-nation junior
tournament in Yaroslavl, Russia, last month--in part because
U.S. colleges are turning out fewer NHL prospects. However,
there are some collegians ready to make the jump to the NHL.
Here are SI's top five.

1. Tom Poti, D, Boston University Poti, a sophomore, is a smooth
skater with superb offensive instincts. He needs to be more
consistent in his own end and more physical along the wall.
Recently Oilers' general manager Glen Sather, who drafted him in
the third round in 1996, scouted the 6'3", 180-pound Poti with
an eye toward bringing him to Edmonton for this season's stretch
drive. Sather liked what he saw, and there's a good chance he'll
offer Poti a contract.

2. Bill Muckalt, RW, Michigan This 6-foot, 195-pound senior has
big-time talent, speed and strength. He's also an oddity--a
sniper with toughness. The skill-starved Canucks, who drafted
him in the ninth round in 1994, could use him now.

3. Chris Drury, C, Boston University His playmaking, hockey
sense and leadership will get him to the NHL, but this senior's
lack of size, at 5'10", 190 pounds, is a hindrance. Drafted by
the Avalanche in the third round in 1994, he'll find it
difficult to crack the talented Colorado lineup. Might be better
off in another organization.

4. Marty Reasoner, C, Boston College Scouts compare this junior
to Dale Hawerchuk: Good size (6'1", 200 pounds) and very
creative with the puck, but, unlike Hawerchuk, he's not an
exceptional skater. The Blues, who picked him 14th in 1996,
think he needs to be more consistent.

5. Willie Mitchell, D, Clarkson This 20-year-old freshman is
strong, tough, smart, mobile and big (6'3", 210 pounds). College
rivals are hoping that the Devils, who selected him in the
eighth round in 1996, offer him a contract so he'll turn pro
this spring or summer.

Pierre McGuire coached the Hartford Whalers in 1993-94.

COLOR PHOTO: DAMIAN STROHMEYER A bright future Drury may be small, but he's got the skill and heart to make it in the NHL. [Chris Drury in game]