OTTAWA (AP) – Welcome to the NHL, Sidney Crosby.

As expected, the Pittsburgh Penguins took the teenage phenom from Canada with the No. 1 pick on Saturday.

“This is amazing,” Crosby said. “I’m just really relieved. It’s unbelievable. I’m so happy right now.”

The arrival of the young superstar, who’s already been compared to Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux, is just what the NHL needed after the lockout that erased the 2004-05 season. For Crosby, the waiting is finally over.

Crosby, who turns 18 next week, is a 5-foot-11, 193-pound forward with surprising strength and masterful vision on the ice. A prolific scorer, Crosby won nearly every trophy the last two seasons in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

He had 66 goals and 102 assists in 62 games, after a rookie campaign that featured 54 goals and 81 assists in 59 games, and was the Canadian major junior player of the year both seasons.

“He creates a lot of excitement,” said Lemieux, Crosby’s boss and possible linemate with the Penguins. “He has all the tools to be a great player. He sees the ice well, he’s a great skater. He says he needs to work on his shot, but it looks pretty good to me.”

Crosby will share the spotlight in Pittsburgh with Lemieux, the No. 1 pick in 1984, and will be looked upon to rescue the franchise that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2001 and desperately needs a new arena in which to play.

Pittsburgh’s luck is already changing as the Penguins won last week’s draft lottery that determined the picking order of the first round.

“I’m not really thinking about it right now,” Crosby said of the expectations. “I want to come and play in the NHL next year. That’s my goal, that’s my focus right now. I’m going to put everything into that and try to move on from there.” The Anaheim Mighty Ducks picked Bobby Ryan with the No. 2 pick. The rugged forward from Cherry Hill, N.J., had 37 goals and 52 assists for 89 points in 62 OHL games last season.

The Carolina Hurricanes drafted third and took Jack Johnson, a defenseman in the U.S. national program. Scouts have compared him to a young Scott Stevens. Johnson, who played prep school hockey in Minnesota with Crosby, plans to enroll at Michigan.

Ryan and Johnson are the first American duo to go in the top three picks since 1983, when Brian Lawton went No. 1 to the Minnesota North Stars and Pat LaFontaine was taken third by the New York Islanders.

There were eight U.S.-born players chosen in the first round, topping the American record of seven set in 1986 and matched in 2003.

The Minnesota Wild chose fourth Saturday and selected left winger Benoit Pouliot. The 6-foot-3 Pouliot had 67 points – including 29 goals – in the OHL last season.

With the fifth pick, the Montreal Canadiens took goalie Carey Price, and the Columbus Blue Jackets followed by choosing center Gilbert Brule.

The Chicago Blackhawks took forward Jack Skille with the seventh pick. Skille, of Faribault, Minn., was a teammate of Johnson’s on the U.S. squad.

Atlanta swapped the No. 8 spot with San Jose, getting the 12th, 49th and 207th picks from the Sharks. San Jose used the pick on right winger Devin Setoguchi.

Minnesota high school defenseman Brian Lee was selected by the Ottawa Senators in the ninth spot, and the Vancouver Canucks took defenseman Luc Bourdon to round out the top 10. The Los Angeles Kings used the 11th pick to grab Slovenian center Anze Kopitar, the first European selected. It was the first time since 1987 that the top 10 didn’t feature a player from Europe.

Atlanta, moving down for the second time in the first hour, traded the No. 12 pick to the New York Rangers for the No. 16 and No. 41 picks.

The Rangers took 6-foot-3 defenseman Marc Staal, the younger brother of Carolina center Eric Staal who was expected to be gone earlier.

“To have this guy available to us at this position was pretty lucky,” New York general manager Glen Sather said. “And we need some luck.”

The Buffalo Sabres next took Slovakian center Marek Zagrapan, and the Washington Capitals pulled off a surprise by selecting Cornell defenseman Sasha Pokulok, who wasn’t among first-round prospects listed by the league’s Central Scouting Service.

The New York Islanders followed by picking center Ryan O’Marra, and Atlanta finally used their No. 16 pick on forward Alex Bourret. The Phoenix Coyotes took center Martin Hanzal, and Nashville picked up defenseman Ryan Parent.

Detroit, with a first-round pick for the first time in five years, chose Czech defenseman Jakub Kindl at No. 19.

Philadelphia traded the No. 20 pick to Florida for No. 29, plus a second-round choice next year when the draft will be held in Vancouver, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said.

The Florida Panthers selected forward Kenndal McArdle, and the Toronto Maple Leafs took goaltender Tuukka Rask with the 21st pick.

Boston next took defenseman Matt Lashoff, and New Jersey picked Swedish forward Nicklas Bergfors, who intends to play in juniors next season.

St. Louis drafted Minnesota prep T.J. Oshie, Edmonton took forward Andrew Cogliano and Calgary selected defenseman Matt Pelech.

Colorado traded the 27th pick to Washington for 47 and 52, and the Capitals took Minnesota defenseman Joe Finley. Dallas followed with another defenseman from the same state, Matt Niskanen.

Philadelphia took forward Steve Downie, and the Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning wrapped up the first round with Slovakian defenseman Vladimir Mihalik.

No Russians were taken in the opening round.

AP-ES-07-30-05 1808EDT

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