NHL Draft 2013: Fireworks and Surprises
Joe Sakic, as always, was true to his word. And the Nashville Predators are pinching themselves.
The 2013 NHL Draft was underway, with shock sprinkled in amongst the scenario of scrambled prospect rankings reflecting the reality of team needs.
The fairy tale was supposed to be highly-touted, top-ranked prospect Seth Jones -- all-everything defenseman for the USA U20 team and NBA vet Popeye Jones' scion -- being selected by his hometown Colorado Avalanche, where he was introduced to the game by Popeye's good friend Sakic and blossomed into as can't-miss a package as can be imagined, barring injury. However, this was a talent-packed draft that included the other favorite son of Cole Harbor, Nova Scotia, in super-center Nathan MacKinnon.
That's also the home town of Sidney Crosby.
Not sure what's in the what's in the water there, but MacKinnon's junior hockey career has drawn comparisons to Crosby's. The reality is MacKinnon is more of a power player at the center position, while Crosby has much better vision. Lately, the NHL is trending toward bigger centers, and that's one of the factors Sakic took into consideration when announcing days before the draft that MacKinnon's name would be the first one called.
Upon being informed of that development, Nashville's front office began checking the Florida and Tampa Bay wish lists. The holders of Picks Two and Three seemed destined to draft forwards, and with the likes of Finland's Aleksander Barkov and Halifax's Jonathan Drouin on the board, their hopes of the Central Scouting Bureau's top-rated player 'falling' to them increased.
The loss of Ryan Suter would be devastating to any team, but given Nashville's defensive system, a huge discrepancy on the blue line needed to be addressed. Seth Jones has that level of talent. Whenever he arrives with the Predators, he'll have one of the best from whom to learn in Shea Weber. He'll also have one of the league's brightest young offensive talents in Sweden's Filip Forsberg, who with the likes of Jones and 2009's first rounder, defenseman Ryan Ellis, close to being NHL-ready, GM David Poile and coach Barry Trotz should be set for the near future.
Leave it to Lou Lamoriello to light up the proceedings like a pre-Fourth of July Roman candle. The continuously crafty New Jersey GM stunned the home crowd with a dynamic move that nobody saw coming. It was enough to curtail the cacophony of boos raining down from the rafters every time Commissioner Gary Bettman made his way to the podium.
Vancouver's goalie soap opera spills over onto any stage, and it happened here. Canucks GM Mike Gillis had spent over a year assuring Roberto Luongo he'd be traded in spite of his burdensome contract. Luongo had made peace with it. So did Cory Schneider, who was promised the Number One role between the pipes as often as Luongo was promised he'd be traded.
Perhaps Gillis has faced the reality that Luongo's contract is untradeable. Whatever the reason, Lamoriello's stealthy offer of its first-round pick -- Number Nine overall -- to acquire Schneider as heir-apparent to the 41-year-old Hall of Famer in waiting, Martin Brodeur.
Bettman's announcement brought down the house. Schneider will clearly be met with open arms by the Devils community. With 2013-2014 being an Olympic year, the NHL season will be compressed again to account for a two-week shutdown to accommodate the games in Sochi, Russia. That means Schneider will have numerous starts.
And yet, he was so shocked by the move, it almost appeared he got the news moments before the transaction came down. Schneider's comments were stilted to the point of forced. At least he provided some; it was reported that Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini appeared on Luongo's doorstep in Florida to break the news to him just prior to the announcement. Luongo was so affected that he couldn't even muster a tweet until a good time later.
Lamoriello also pulled another rabbit out of his seemingly bottomless hat near the end of the evening, when he made an innocuous trade for a draft choice in order to select goalie Anthony Brodeur. It was a proud moment for his father, who was afforded the privilege of making the announcement. And knowing Lamoriello, this was more than a courtesy. He must surely feel the Brodeur the Younger can play.
The Devils fans again roared in approval at the tribute to their legend in the nets and in trust of their crusty GM, who keeps the team competitive no matter what the business sections of newspapers and websites say about New Jersey's financial state. Somehow, they always pull through.
Other story lines abounded throughout the night. For example, Donovan McNabb's nephew was chosen. And will the acorn fall far from the tree with noted pugilist Tie Domi's son being selected? Does Mike Smith's signing -- another news flash that crashed the draft -- portend good things for Phoenix hockey fans?
All in all, the NHL presented a draft night the way it should be done. Spontaneous drama, life-changing decisions, and an abundance of fodder to keep fans and media busy until the puck drops this autumn.