June 24, 2011
NHL Draft: Dear Diary
By Mike Eidelbes
I love the National Hockey League Entry Draft. Not for any reason, but I just do. It’s probably mostly due to the trade chatter and other hot stove, err, cold air-conditioner speculation. And it’s the chance to talk to general managers and scouts about various matters and reconnecting with other hockey people.
That said, I haven’t been in three years for a variety of reasons. One issue is that the dynamic of the draft has changed. Once upon a time, you could count on a bunch of college kids getting selected. Nowadays, most of the kids with college ties who are picked are incoming freshmen—players we haven’t developed any connections to, at least not yet.
Also, with the first round now a stand-alone piece, it makes the first day kind of a hurry-up-and-wait thing. And did we mention the cliches? Players are asked the same questions over and over. And over. And over. So as a way to spice things up this year, I’ll try live blogging the first round. Here goes nothing.
7:17 p.m. Gary Bettman makes the smartest decision of his tenure as commissioner, coming out to the podium with the family of E.J. McGuire, the NHL Central Scouting head who died in April. Pretty tough to boo the wife and kids of a guy who died.
7:18 p.m. Winnipeg’s in the house. Welcome back, Jets. Looks like a few fans made the relatively short trip from Manitoba to St. Paul.
7:24 p.m. The first pick is Red Deer forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who goes to the Edmonton Oilers. His name will look horrible on the back of a sweater.
7:27 p.m. The Versus coverage is actually pilfered from Canadian sports network TSN, which is great. In addition to the incomparable Bob McKenzie (father of ex-St. Lawrence skater and INCH Twitter fave Mike McKenzie), TSN is including tweets from current players and commentators at the bottom of its page.
7:30 p.m. Colorado picks Swedish forward Gabriel Landeskog (by way of Kitchener of the Ontario Hockey League) with the second overall pick. TSN commentator Pierre McGuire says the franchise had success a few years ago when it picked Peter Forsberg, forgetting that Forsberg was actually selected by Philadelphia and flipped to Quebec as part of the Eric Lindros deal.
7:32 p.m. Versus loses its feed from TSN. Since Versus is owned by Comcast, I expect the feed to return sometime between 2-6 p.m. Tuesday.
7:38 p.m. The Florida Panthers, who own the third overall pick, have missed the playoffs for 10 straight seasons which, says TSN, is an NHL record. Seems like it should be a lot longer than that. The Panthers take forward Jonathan Huberdeau, who played for Saint John in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and rocks a pretty sweet mustache … for a 13-year-old. Huberdeau shaved his puberty ‘stache. We are all worse for the decision.
7:40 p.m. Tweet from Oiler defenseman Ryan Whitney, the former BU standout, on TSN: “RMH, welcome to Oil Country. Now go get me some tape.”
7:43 p.m. Florida GM calls Huberdeau “Justin”. Sort of explains why the Panthers haven’t appeared in the playoff in a decade.
7:47 p.m. Swedish defenseman Adam Larsson is the fourth overall pick, chosen by the New Jersey Devils. Pierre McGuire declares him the steal of the draft. I declare him owner of the creepiest eyes this side of Steve Buscemi.
7:50 p.m. What’s with the draft photo where the player poses with the brass of the team that selects him, putting his arms around the two guys flanking him? Too much personal contact with people you don’t know, at least in my opinion.
7:53 p.m. New York Islanders’ GM Garth Snow invites former Gopher Kyle Okposo to announce the team’s selection. Not invited: Don Lucia. The Isles take Niagara (OHL) forward Ryan Strome.
7:58 p.m. Ottawa’s up at No. 6. The Sens have six of the top 66 picks, which no doubt has prompted a call from Bill Belichick. The Sens take forward Mika Zibanejad. His dad is Iranian, his mother is Finnish, he played in Sweden for Djurgarden, and he speaks four languages—English, Farsi, Finnish, and Swedish. Man, I am so tired of that storyline.
8:03 p.m. Someone should arrange a debate between Ottawa GM Bryan Murray and ESPN college football analyst Lou Holtz. I’d watch. The topic is irrelevant.
8:07 p.m. One of the best parts of the draft is the giant tote board on the stage at the rink that tracks the picks. It’s not electronic; someone behind the board slides a name card into the slot. I’d love to wrangle one of these things and hang it on the side of my garage.
8:09 p.m. WINNIPEG!!! The Thrash-beens (now officially the Jets) have the seventh overall pick. At the podium, GM Kevin Cheveldayoff is roundly booed after thanking the people of Minneapolis, forgetting or not realizing that the Xcel Energy Center is in St. Paul. The Jets take forward Mark Scheifele from Barrie (OHL).
8:13 p.m. TSN’s McKenzie reports that Scheifele was a late-round pick of Saginaw in the OHL Draft and ended up in Barrie after being thrown into a trade. Had the Colts not convinced him to come to training camp, Scheifele, says McKenzie, likely would’ve ended up at Cornell.
8:16 p.m. Best word in the English language: organization, but only when it’s pronounced OR-GAN-EYE-ZAY-SHUN. This must be emphasized.
8:20 p.m. The Flyers pick forward Sean Couturier from Drummondville in the QMJHL. As an aside, Drummondville was named after Phillip Drummond, the millionaire businessman from “Diff’rent Strokes” played by Conrad Bain.
8:25 p.m. Boston owns the ninth overall pick in the draft. The B’s take hulking defenseman Dougie Hamilton from Niagara (OHL). It’s safe to assume the Bruins were enamored with his tackling skills.
8:31 p.m. Other than the obivious benefits of ”Teach Me How to Dougie” references, shouldn’t there be a limitation on how long a guy can keep calling himself Dougie or any other “-y” or ”-ie” first name? I’m thinking once you hit 18, you have to drop it. No exceptions. Tough darts, Scotty Bowman.
8:34 p.m. The hometown Wild has the 10th overall selection. Pretty sure the team’s brass is in a heated argument about which remaining prospect projects as a third-line forward or third-pair defenseman with limited offensive skill and average skating ability.
8:35 p.m. TSN’s scouting report on the Wild selection, Swedish defenseman Jonas Brodin: he’s not physical and isn’t an offensive defenseman. Get your season tickets now!
8:39 p.m. With its second pick of the first round, Colorado takes defenseman Duncan Siemens from the Saskatoon Blades (WHL). He’s greeted on stage by former Av Joe Sakic, now in the team’s front office. Burnaby Joe was a great player, but he looks like he’s got some bad hair plugs that didn’t take.
8:42 p.m. Question: should diaries like this one put the newest information at the bottom or at the top? Does it matter? What are the odds that anyone is reading this? Tweet me at @eidelbes if you are. First person gets an INCH t-shirt. For reals.
8:46 p.m. With the 12th overall pick, Carolina picks Kitchener defenseman Ryan Murphy. TSN says he’s a one-dimensional offensive defenseman. As opposed to Jonas Brodin, who sounds like he has no dimensions.
8:50 p.m. Calgary is up at No. 13. The Flames’ cupboard, TSN says, is bare. With picks like ex-Gopher Kris Chucko, how can that be so? The Flames take Swiss winger Sven Baertschi (or Bartschi; I’ve seen it both ways), who played for Portland in the WHL last season. If Baertschi is a bust, will he be labeled a Swiss miss?
8:56 p.m. Calgary GM Jay Feaster is being interviewed by TSN. He looks like someone who should be trying to sell me appliances.
9 p.m. Still waiting for the first player with college ties to be selected, and we’re at the No. 14 pick, which belongs to Dallas. Dallas GM and Cornell alum Joe Nieuwendyk is roundly booed (because the Stars bolted Minnesota for Dallas almost 20 years ago). The Stars take Northeastern defenseman Jamie Oleksiak. There’s our first college guy.
9:07 p.m. Nice move by the Rangers, who have the 15th overall pick. They’ve invited Derek Boogaard’s brother, Aaron, to the podium to announce the selection. The Boogeyman, who died last month in Minneapolis, was beloved by Wild fans. Pretty emotional scene at the X as the fans give Aaron a standing ovation. Then the Blueshirts take U.S. NTDP forward J.T. Miller, who will attend North Dakota in the fall.
9:11 p.m. TSN compares Miller to former UMD Bulldog and current Vancouver wing Mason Raymond. A scout we spoke to for our Prospect Profiles piece told us that a Miller-Rocco Grimaldi combo at NoDak would be “a circus”. As in, entertaining.
9:14 p.m. The Sabres have pick No. 16. Owner Terry Pegula announces the selection, winger Joel Armia from Assat in the Finnish Elite League. Armia must love “Road House”, because he’s got the Dalton-esque Patrick Swayze ‘do. Pain don’t hurt!
9:17 p.m. How’d you like to be Pegula? He singlehandedly funds the Penn State college hockey program, is hailed as a savior for buying the Sabres, and, today purchases the American Hockey League’s Rochester Americans so he can bring the Sabes’ top minor league affiliate back to western New York. Pretty sure he owns a unicorn ranch, too.
9:21 p.m. A tweet from the great Brad Elliott Schlossman of the Grand Forks Herald: The only Sioux forwards to be picked higher than J.T. Miller are Jonathan Toews (third in 2006) and Drew Stafford (13th in 2004). Never would have guessed.
9:25 p.m. With the 17th overall pick, Montreal selects QMJHL defenseman Nathian Beaulieu. The Habs have had a recent tradition of picking players with college ties, but not this time around.
9:29 p.m. Just caught a Chrysler commercial that claimed Detroit was once known as “Paris of the Midwest”. Much better than the city’s current nickname—Juarez of the Great Lakes.
9:32 p.m. Holy smokes! TSN’s Bob McKenzie tweets that San Jose will trade forward Devin Setoguchi, Boston University prospect Charlie Coyle, and the N0. 28 overall pick to the Wilds for defenseman Brent Burns and a second-round pick.
9:35 p.m. The Blackhawks are up, represented at the podium by GM Stan Bowman, whose voice inflection is reminiscent of a teenage girl telling a pointless story. The ‘Hawks take Prince Albert (WHL) center Mark McNeill. TSN reports that McNeill won a gold medal at the world ball hockey championship. Please tell me John Kruk and Lance Armstrong played.
9:40 p.m. I can’t believe the Wild made a good hockey move.
9:42 p.m. Edmonton uses the 19th overall selection on Swedish defenseman Oscar Klefbom. You can’t spell “Klefbom” without “Efbom”. TSN’s McKenzie speculated that Edmonton might take Denver recruit Scott Mayfield … but called him “Curtis Mayfield”. Here’s hoping DU fans start referring to Scott as “Superfly”.
9:47 p.m. While there’s a break in the action, it’s a good time to send well wishes to former INCH scribe Jeff Howe, who’s getting hitched today. Rook now works for NESN, making good on INCH co-founder Nate Ewell’s prediction years ago saying that Rook would one day be too big for INCH. Joe Gladziszewski and I are too big for INCH, but only in the sense that we can’t sit next to one another in the press box.
9:50 p.m. Another U.S. NTDP player goes, as Phoenix selects defenseman Connor Murphy, who’ll head to Miami in the fall, with the 20th pick. TSN compares him to former Gopher and current Penguin Alex Goligoski.
9:55 p.m. With the 21st overall pick, Ottawa took Stefan Noeson, a forward from the OHL’s Plymouth Whalers by way of Plano, Texas. Yup. That happened.
9:58 p.m. Trade: Toronto acquired the 22nd overall pick in the draft from Anaheim for the 30th overall pick and a second rounder. Might the Leafs be moving up for U.S. NTDP forward and Miami recruit Tyler Biggs?
10:02 p.m. Surprised that we’re nearly three hours into the draft in St. Paul and Timberwolves GM David Kahn hasn’t busted in and tried to select a point guard.
10:05 p.m. With the 22nd overall pick, Toronto GM Brian Burke announces that the Leafs indeed take Tyler Biggs. McKenzie says he’s the toughest player in the draft, the strongest player in the draft, and the best fighter in the draft. Yeah, that sounds like a Brian Burke-type player.
10:08 p.m. Burke calls Biggs “a hostile player” but has offensive skills. Hostile and offensive? Maybe Biggs should’ve gone to North Dakota.
10:11 p.m. Clip n’ save for INCH’s Recruiting Rankings: an NHL scout asked us which school we’re going to rank No. 1 in the fall, then told us Miami should be first, followed by a big black line, and everyone else below. That’s a fairly solid endorsement, eh?
10:15 p.m. Portland (WHL) defenseman Joe Morrow goes to Pittsburgh with the 23rd overall pick. I’m out of stuff, but TSN tells me that Morrow’s uncle, Darrel, played for the University of Denver. Sure enough, Darrel Morrow played for the Pios from 1978-82.
10:19 p.m. Ottawa’s Tim Murray precedes the team’s third pick of the first round by thanking “the city of Minnesota” for its hospitality. Listen, Tim, if I can learn the difference between Saint John and St. John’s, you can figure out that Minnesota is not a frickin’ city. Oh, and the Sens used the No. 24 selection to take winger Matt Puempel from the Peterborough Petes of the OHL.
10:24 p.m. Domino’s Pizza is junk, but the commercial where the little girl smokes a woman in the face with a soccer ball is pretty fantastic. Probably because she ordered Domino’s.
10:27 p.m. The Leafs use the 25th overall pick to take defenseman Stuart Percy from the OHL’s Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors, which is the longest team name since the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Thought Rocco Grimaldi might be the guy here, but no go.
10:33 p.m. Now I know why the Emmys start to suck about three hours in to the broadcast. Trying to be funny is on the fly is difficult.
10:36 p.m. TSN reports that Chicago is primed to trade wayyy-overpriced defenseman Brian Campbell to Florida. Campbell makes about $2 billion a year. People wonder why the Panthers exist … it’s because every league needs a dumping ground, and the NHL’s is located in someplace called Sunrise, Fla.
10:38 p.m. Chicago has the 26th overall pick, and the Blackhawks take wing Phillip Danault from Victoriaville (QMJHL). Also, Stan Bowman makes Ben Stein look like Tracy Morgan.
10:41 p.m. Steve Yzerman strides to the podium to announce Tampa Bay’s selection, which is the 27th overall pick. I grew to like the Lightning this season; they’re a lot of fun to watch with Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier, and Steve Stamkos is tremendous. Anyway, the Lightning select forward Vladislav Namestnikov, a Russian who grew up in Michigan and played for London of the OHL. Namestnikov’s uncle, says TSN, is Slava Fetisov, Yzerman’s former teammate with the Red Wings.
10:47 p.m. The announcer touting NBC/Versus’ multi-platform coverage of the Tour de France says, “Experience the Tour like never before.” How’s that … drug free?
10:49 p.m. The Wilds, using the 28th overall pick acquired from San Jose in the Setoguch trade, select Zack Phillips, who played for Saint John in the QMJHL. Minnesota likes college prospects as much as Sarah Palin likes American history.
10:55 p.m. Two picks remain in the first round. Vancouver has the No. 29 pick. GM Mike Gillis makes his way to the podium. Surprisingly, Brad Marchand is not there to haul him down. They end up taking Nicklas Jensen, a Dane who played for the OHL’s Oshawa Generals. Meanwhile, the TSN cameraman walking in front of Jensen to the podium just yard-saled. Guess Marchand got him instead.
11:02 p.m. Minneapolis Star-Tribune tweet reports the Canucks have selected “Nicklaus Jensen”. Guess the great Dane is a Golden Bear.
11:04 p.m. Final pick of the first round belongs to the Anaheim Ducks, who takes Swede Rikard Rakell, a forward who played for the OHL’s Plymouth Whalers. Only four players with college ties go in the first round, which means Saturday’s second round could be a carpet-bombing of college kids.
Also, noticed that if Gary Bettman wore a monacle, he’d kind of looked like Count from Sesame Street.