June 26, 2009
MONTREAL -- There are probably reasons why the NHL Draft is important besides creepy photos of rookies, but we're just not sure what they are.
In any event, the first round of the Draft commences tonight beginning at 7 p.m. EST, and we'll be at Bell Centre to watch the carnage. We'll be Twittering away with random thoughts, rumors and general goofy fun, so be sure to also follow the Tweets.
This post will serve as the "live blog," as we'll have news, analysis, interviews and coverage from all over the draft updated throughout the night, followed by a wrap-up post at the end of the evening.
In lieu of a live chat, feel free to use the comments section to discuss the happenings, ask us anything or curse the day your general manager was born.
7:01 p.m. - Met a New York Islanders fan outside in a John Tavares jersey and asked him, "OK, so what if it's not Tavares?"
His answer: "I can change a 91 to a 4 for Hedman." Well, hope that works out.
One bit of news already: Scott Niedermayer(notes) of the Anaheim Ducks tells TSN that he'll be back for another season. Chris Pronger(notes) elbows wall, locates suitcase. If this Pronger to the Philadelphia Flyers chatter reported by Anthony Sanfilippo happens, it will basically be the Hockey Gods' gift to bloggers.
UPDATE: TSN is reporting that Pronger has been traded. To the Flyers. Thank you, gods. Package is Lukas Sbisa, Joffrey Lupul(notes) and two first-round picks. Second time Lupul's been traded for Pronger.
• • •
7:27 p.m. - Islanders GM Garth Snow had a moment of hesitation before announcing John Tavares as the No. 1 pick in the draft that indicates the Islanders have enjoyed the constant speculation and prognostication that's surrounded this pick. Wonder how much of the Duchene talk they floated themselves.
It was Tavares, it had to be Tavares and the Islanders fans have a right to be happy. At least until Tampa Bay wins their next Cup with Victor Hedman.
Hedman's choice with the second pick by the Tampa Bay Lightning was obvious. He'll no doubt look forward to being paired with 60,000 defensemen over the next three years.
But a hearty boo for Bettman; he should have orchestrated a unity hug between the Lightning brass on stage.
• • •
8:18 p.m. EST - The reactions to the Leafs and Brian Burke in this building are hilarious. Burke's face is shown on the Jumbotron, there's a huge boo, he looks up and smirks. Fabulous interplay between these fans bases and their teams. And one hell of a "sixty-seven!" chant.
The Phoenix Coyotes taking
forward defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson with the No. 6 pick set some strange things in motion. (Ekman-Larsson, by the way, is a great skater the people of Hamilton are going to ... oh, nevermind.) The Leafs selected Nazem Kadri, a center that quite frankly many people had pegged as a player who'd drop down the draft board in the first round. So Brian Burke doesn't get Tavares, doesn't get Brayden Schenn (who went to the Los Angeles Kings with the No. 5 pick) and ends up with Kadri. Stunning.
Kadri, by the way, shared a laugh with Bettman as the crowd jeered the Leafs contingent while he was putting on his sweater.
The Schenn pick for the Kings is that kind of pick you look back on when a young team becomes a champion.
Matt Duchene went to the Colorado Avalance at No.3, and Evander Kane went at No. 4 to the Atlanta Thrashers. Neither was a surprise, obviously. Well, Duchene might have been a surprise to NY Newsday.
Duchene had no idea where he was going to fall until Tavares was selected. He also said that he checked team Web sites periodically to see where the winds were blowing.
Hedman's press conference was short and uneventful, because no one had the stones to really pepper him with questions about Koules and Barrie.
Tavares took forever to get to the mic after his post-No. 1 pick interviews, but was enthusiastic and compelling when he spoke to the media.
He's got the "restore the glory of the Islanders" stuff down, and the NY press will eat that up.
But Johnny - stop slipping and calling them the "Long Island Islanders." Doesn't really make your case for wanting to be there.
• • •
8:51 p.m. - Try not to giggle: Flyers GM Paul Holmgren said he traded for Chris Pronger in part because he liked "his character and his willingness as a leader."
Of course, Pronger is usually a popular guy with his teammates, because he has a willingness to use his size to exact revenge on opponents with cheap shots behind the play. Every team needs that guy, right?
Holmgren said he didn't get any assurances from Pronger's agent that there would be a contract extension coming, as Pronger has a year left before unrestricted free agency.
The conventional wisdom is that the addition of Pronger's salary means the end of Mike Knubel in Philly, but Holmgren didn't agree: "We've been talking to Mike all along. We'd like to sign Mike and we think Mike would like to come back to the Flyers."
The full trade, by the way: Pronger and forward Ryan Dingle(notes) to the Philadelphia Flyers for defenceman Luca Sbisa(notes), forward Joffrey Lupul, two first-round picks and a conditional third-round pick in 2010 or 2011. The condition on that pick has to do with whether or not the Flyers win the Stanley Cup, Holmgren said.
Big (6-6) defensive defenseman Jacob Cowen goes to the goes to the Ottawa Senators at No. 9; the epically named Magnus Svensson-Paajarvigoes to Edmonton at No. 10, and remember that pick if he finds a scoring touch. Defenseman Ryan Ellis goes to the Nashville Predators. Is there ever a point at which you don't keep adding good young defensemen if you're the Nashville Predators?
• • •
GM Dean Lombardi of the Los Angeles Kings, on his team's motivation for taking Brayden Schenn:
"That was the main reason we took him, knowing that it would totally piss off Burkie. It was worth it. Everybody thought there was a line after the first three and the first five. We were going to be pretty happy with whoever was there."
They should be happy with Schenn, who isn't Tavares or Duchene but who is the kind of center that you need to build a winner. He's a gritty two-way forward. Really solid choice.
I asked Schenn, a native of Saskatoon, what if anything he knew about Los Angeles.
"There are a lot of movie stars?" he said. (I didn't add hookers and homeless, but I should have.)
"I don't know. They have a lot of big names there. They have the Lakers. And the Kings."
So does Schenn join that collection of stars?
"There are lot bigger names walking around than Brayden Schenn. So no."
With that, I then asked Ryan Ellis, a Freelton, Ontario native, what if anything he knew about his new city of Nashville.
"I don't know a whole lot. It's big for country music, I know that," he said. "My coach played there for a bit, so he was telling me a little bit about the town."
(That coach would be Bob Boughner, coach of the inspirational story of the hockey year in Windsor.)
Dmitry Kulikov and his very attractive female seat mate was drafted by the Florida Panthers, and it's a solid choice at No. 14.
The following picks: Center Peter Holland to the Anaheim Ducks; defenseman Nick Leddy to the Minnesota Wild (poor Jordan Schroeder of the University of Minnesota is your first-round dropper); Swedish defenseman David Runblad to the St. Louis Blues at 17; and Louis Leblanc to the Montreal Canadiens at 18. He's a scrappy forward, and one who already got his first "Loo-eee" chant from the crowd. Awesome.
• • •
Bit of a stunner, the New Jersey Devils snagging Jacob Josefson at No. 20. In the sense that he isn't, as far as we can tell, from New England.
The New York Rangers selected Chris Kreider at No. 19, and my buddy Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News thinks he's a good skater but says it's tough to determine if he's a sniper. And Kennedy smarter than me, so there you go.
The Columbus Blue Jackets traded up to select John Moore, a defenseman from Chicago (USHL), and it's a nice little pick.
• • •
Jordan Schroeder of the University of Minnesota had the bad fortune of being the Big Dropper in the first round. Some thought he was a top 10 pick; he ended up tumbling to the Vancouver Canucks at No. 22.
So what was it like sitting at Bell Centre, watching his stock fall?
"I was definitely nervous until I got picked," he said.
Schroeder said he was watching picks fly by, occasionally convinced that one of the teams was going to select him. Like, for example, when the New Jersey Devils were on the board at pick No. 20 after moving up.
"When they traded up, I had a pretty good feeling," he said. "But it didn't work out. You gotta move on, and I'm happy in Vancouver."
The first round ended with a huge cheer from the partisan Montreal crowd for the selection of Simon Despres, a defenseman from Saint John, by the Pittsburgh Penguins at No. 30. Oh, sorry: Leahy demands we call them The Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins. That won't get old.
Overall, a fairly predictable night, outside of the Pronger deal. (And The 700 Level has a big-time breakdown of the Pronger deal.) After Tavares went first overall, the first round went down pretty much as planned.
I asked Tampa Bay GM Brian Lawton how many contingency plans he had depending on what the Islanders did.
"Yeah, you know what?" he said with a laugh. "Things kind of went the way we expected, to be honest with you. We had a number of different plans. We looked at everything. We honestly looked at moving the pick, and it's something we would have done if it made us better not only in the short term but in the long term."
Round 2 on Saturday. Thanks for reading.