Friday, 25 June 2010

Quiet Draft Day

The 2010 NHL Entry Draft went tonight in Los Angeles, California. It's the first time the NHL has had a draft hosted in the state of California, and the fans in the City of Angels seemed enthusiastic when it came to supporting the NHL. Commissioner Gary Bettman didn't get the rain of boos that he normally hears in the northern cities, at least not in the length of time that he normally hears them anyway. The city of Edmonton, Alberta was abuzz with anticipation as the Oilers held the first overall pick for the first time in their franchise history. And in the crowd, thirty young men sat waiting for their names to be called to claim the title of "first-round draft pick".

Let's run through the first round of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. I'll include my comments below about the first round, as well as a recap of the few trades that actually did happen this evening. Here are the first thirty men who will hopefully suit up in an NHL uniform one day:

  1. Edmonton Oilers - Taylor Hall, Windsor Spitfires (OHL).
  2. Boston Bruins via Toronto - Tyler Seguin, Plymouth Whalers (OHL).
  3. Florida Panthers - Erik Gudbranson, Kingston Frontenacs (OHL).
  4. Columbus Blue Jackets - Ryan Johansen, Portland Winterhawks (WHL).
  5. New York Islanders - Nino Niederreiter, Portland Winterhawks (WHL).
  6. Tampa Bay Lightning - Brett Connolly, Prince George Cougars (WHL).
  7. Carolina Hurricanes - Jeff Skinner, Kitchener Rangers (OHL).
  8. Atlanta Thrashers - Alexander Burmistrov, Barrie Colts (OHL).
  9. Minnesota Wild - Mikael Granlund, HIFK (Finland's SM-liiga).
  10. New York Rangers - Dylan McIlrath , Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL).
  11. Dallas Stars - Jack Campbell, USA U-18 (USHL).
  12. Anaheim Ducks - Cam Fowler, Windsor Spitfires (OHL).
  13. Phoenix Coyotes - Brandon Gormley, Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL).
  14. St. Louis Blues - Jaden Schwartz, Tri-City Americans (WHL).
  15. Los Angeles Kings - Derek Forbort, USA U-18 (USHL).
  16. St. Louis Blues - Vladimir Tarasenko, HC Sibir Novosibirsk (KHL).
  17. Colorado Avalanche - Joey Hishon, Owen Sound Attack (OHL).
  18. Nashville Predators - Austin Watson, Peterborough Petes (OHL).
  19. Florida Panthers - Nick Bjugstad, Blaine High School (Minn).
  20. Pittsburgh Penguins - Beau Bennett, Penticton Vees (BCHL).
  21. Detroit Red Wings - Riley Sheahan, University of Notre Dame (NCAA).
  22. Montreal Canadiens - Jarred Tinordi, USA U-18 (USHL).
  23. Buffalo Sabres - Mark Pysyk, Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL).
  24. Chicago Blackhawks - Kevin Hayes, Nobles High School (Mass).
  25. Florida Panthers - Quinton Howden, Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL).
  26. Washington Capitals - Evgeny Kuznetsov, Traktor Chelyabinsk (KHL).
  27. Phoenix Coyotes - Mark Visentin, Niagara IceDogs (OHL).
  28. San Jose Sharks - Charlie Coyle, South Shore Kings (EJHL).
  29. Anaheim Ducks - Emerson Etem, Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL).
  30. New York Islanders - Brock Nelson, Warroad High School (Minn).
I'll admit that I found a few things surprising in this draft class.

First, only one NCAA player was taken in the first round. The Detroit Red Wings went collegiate in selecting Riley Sheahan, and I was surprised that more NCAA players weren't called in the opening round. The NCAA has been producing some excellent players in recent years, and it seems odd that there weren't more players selected from that pool of talent.

Second, I was surprised - no, make that shocked - that the Islanders used the fifth overall pick to select Swiss-born right winger Nino Niederreiter. I get that the Islanders may have been targeting Niederreiter, but why didn't they offer up the pick in a trade to move down a couple of spots? I'm quite certain that Niederreiter would have been there at the eighth or ninth pick.

Third, Cam Fowler drops to the Anaheim Ducks at pick #12, and suddenly the Ducks have a budding young offensive star on their blueline to replace the retired Scott Niedermayer. Not only are they able to select the best offensive defenceman this draft has to offer, but they don't have trade to move up to get him. Why the New York Rangers didn't scoop up Fowler at tenth spot is something that Glen Sather may only be able to answer.

Fourth, the Atlanta Thrashers get Alexander Burmistrov with pick #8, and they may have themselves a new, dynamic scorer much like they had before Ilya Kovalchuk opted to leave. Burmistrov, unlike some of his Russian counterparts, has stated time and time again that he has no interest in playing in the KHL any time soon, and that should be phenomenal news to GM Rick Dudley's ears. I really like this pick, and I think Atlanta may have selected one of top-three players in this year's draft.

Fifth, Minnesota and Washington continued to build with international stars that are close to home. Minnesota went back to Finland to draft Mikael Granlund, while the Capitals continued their Russian roster building with their selection of Evgeny Kuznetsov. Both of these players appear to be highly skilled, and the other countrymen on the two teams' rosters should make these two youngsters a little more comfortable at their respective training camps.

Sixth, Pittsburgh selected Beau Bennett with pick #20, and Bennett became the highest player chosen from the state of California. What is more impressive is that ten Americans were selected in the first round of the draft, including goaltender Jack Campbell who was the highest American-born player selected at pick #11 by Dallas. It just goes to show that the American development system is growing stronger and stronger each year. Take note, Canadian teams.

The one trade that happened that actually involved current NHL players saw the Western Conference welcome back a tenacious defenceman. The Vancouver Canucks sent Steve Bernier, Michael Grabner, and the 25th overall pick to the Florida Panthers for Keith Ballard and Victor Oreskovich. Ballard provides the Canucks with a good puck-moving defenceman who doesn't shy away from the physical side of the game - something they sorely needed against the Blackhawks in last season's playoffs. For as much as they were given opportunities, both Bernier and Grabner appeared to be spare parts for the Canucks, but they will be given bigger opportunities in Florida.

The Penguins decided to relieve Philadelphia of their Dan Hamhuis problem by trading for his rights. Reportedly, Hamhuis has no interest in signing with the Flyers and was prepared to test the free agency market. However, with Pittsburgh and Sergei Gonchar seemingly at odds in their contract negotiations, Hamhuis may get some decent coin to play in Pittsburgh in place of Gonchar.

Hamhuis is reportedly looking for $4 million per season for four seasons, according to his agent Wade Arnott. The Penguins have approximately $11 million in cap space, and still need to sign a few players from last season. Dan Hamhuis, Bill Guerin, Mark Eaton, Alexei Ponikarovsky, and Jordan Leopold should attempt to be signed, especially if Sergei Gonchar doesn't return. And I would rank them in that order of importance in terms of their signings. Otherwise, Ben Lovejoy may have a roster spot next season by default. Lovejoy is no slouch, but the Penguins could upgrade to have Lovejoy as the seventh man.

All in all, it was a rather uneventful draft outside of the Taylor-vs-Tyler debate. As seen above, Taylor Hall went first overall, Dallas took the first goaltender and American in Jack Campbell, and we're on to Round Two of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft tomorrow.

Let's just see if tomorrow remains quiet as well.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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