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Coburn keeps cool for draft day

The Winter Hawks standout should be a top 10 pick in the NHL draft

'Something new' awaits Braydon Coburn in the next three weeks, and he can hardly wait to see what.

This weekend, the Portland Winter Hawks defenseman and many other NHL draft prospects will attend the Central Scouting Bureau camp in Toronto, where they will undergo tests and interviews.

'I could realistically talk with 30 teams, all for 30 minutes,' he says. 'I'm nervous. But I'm at the top of my physical level.'

He graduates from Milwaukie High School on Tuesday. He got all As, except for a B in pre-calculus.

Coburn and his family plan to take an extended vacation, trading their way to Nashville, Tenn., site of the draft. It'll be his first trip south of Portland, where he lives with Keith and Cindy Miller during the season and the school year.

And, on June 21, Coburn hits the jackpot. All signs are that the big defenseman will be one of the top players chosen in the NHL Draft. The independent Red Line Report had him rated No. 6 among all prospects, and Central Scouting had him rated No. 6 among North American skaters Ñ the top defenseman.

The Winter Hawks have never had a No. 1 overall pick. If Coburn, 18, goes No. 1, he could command a $10 million contract. Rick Nash got $9 million last year, and Ilya Kovalchuk $8 million in 2001.

Millions are inconceivable for somebody coming from tiny Shaunavon, Saskatchewan, but Coburn says that 'it comes with the territory. As long as I have good people around me and I'm prepared, it shouldn't be that big of a deal.'

The top five picks belong to Florida, Columbus, Pittsburgh, Columbus and Buffalo. Coburn could be the top Western Hockey League player chosen, right there with Calgary's Ryan Getzlaf and Red Deer's Dion Phaneuf.

Eric Staal, Dustin Brown, Thomas Vanek, Nathan Horton and Getzlaf were rated ahead of Coburn in the latest Central Scouting North American rankings. 'Even being top 10 is rare ground,' says Coburn's agent, Gerry Johannson of Edmonton.

Coburn, a prototypical NHL-style defenseman at 6-5, 210 pounds, had an ordinary year for the Winter Hawks. He missed 19 games because of injuries, mostly a bothersome ankle, and had only three goals and 16 assists.

But NHL scouts draft on potential. And, potentially, he could man an NHL team's blue line for many years and be the captain. He wore the 'C' in April in helping Canada win the World Under-18 Championships in Russia.

Portland coach Mike Williamson calls Coburn 'an exceptional athlete and person. He's the whole package.'

'Braydon is one of the most special kids in the draft,' Johannson says. 'He's got character, leadership qualities, he works hard and he's committed. And he's really talented. He's 6-6 and skates well.

'What other qualities could you want?'

The only knock on Coburn seems to be toughness. He doesn't fight, which, obviously, should not be held against him.

'To me, toughness is being strong 1-on-1, battling in front of the net or being able to beat somebody in the corner,' Williamson says.

Johannson also represents former Winter Hawk Andrew Ference.

'What you want in a defenseman is somebody who can play for 30 minutes,' Johannson says. Coburn, he says, 'doesn't make mistakes. Plays within himself. That makes him effective. He's a lot like Ference in that way.'

Coburn has been working out with teammate C.J. Jackson since the end of Portland's season, except for the week in April when he helped Canada win the Eight Nations Under-18 championship as team captain.