With the advent of the internet, social media and ubiquitous hockey blogs, the NHL Draft is no longer a niche event. The Draft used to be at the league office or in a hotel suite. It is now a made for TV extravaganza watched by an international audience with NHL teams and cities bidding for the right to become the host city. As you wait to watch the drama unfold there are some items to keep in mind.
Canadian Made: The only way to watch the draft in the United States is through a feed produced by a Canadian TV network. This is a Canadian production aimed at the home country audience The only way it could have a more Canadian feel is if the announcers were at a Moose Lodge with catering from Tim Horton’s and refreshments provided by Molson. Sometimes broadcasters and experts get a little hyped at this display of home country superiority. Fans watching in the United States need to be aware of certain “phrases” that will be used during the broadcast and what these codes really mean:
1) “He is a can’t miss prospect and will star in the NHL” (Translation) Any Canadian-born player who excelled in Canadian Major Junior Hockey
2) “Most consider him a can’t miss prospect but there are still some doubters” (Translation) Any player not born in Canada but excelled in Canadian Major Junior Hockey
3) “He has excelled at every level but I’d like to see him compete against better competition” (Translation) He’s a top American player but played High School, in the USHL or NCAA and not the Canadian Junior system (This opinion drives American hockey people absolutely berserk as Team USA’s repeated success in the World Juniors and U-18 tournament should have earned these kids more respect)
4) “There are questions about his toughness” (Translation) He’s European
Mock Drafts: A nice way to kill time at work and also start a few arguments with hockey geeks in a chat room. In reality Mock Drafts are completely wrong. If lucky, an expert can pick the top 5 picks but after that, it’s anyone’s guess. Unlike the NFL or NBA draft, teams are not selecting for immediate help. It’s a process of guessing how a teenager is going to progress over time. If you can predict how an adolescent will grow physically, mentally and emotionally three years from today, I consider you a genius and would like to borrow your talents for future use. Despite the Once-In-A-Generation talent in the 2013 draft, almost no mocks had Seth Jones falling to 4th and NONE had Val Nichushkin falling into the open arms of the Dallas Stars at the 10th spot.
Monster Drafts: It doesn’t happen very often, but when it does…WOW! There are two types of Monster Drafts. The first is the draft when a large number of star players are all selected in the same year. In recent history the class of 2003 is the gold standard. This draft was so loaded that Shea Weber, Patrice Bergeron, Loui Eriksson and David Backes waited until the 2nd round to be picked. Joe Pavelski was a 7th rounder. As for the first round, Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Suter, Brent Seabrook, Jeff Carter, Corey Perry, Zach Parise and Dustin Brown are just the tip of the iceberg. This is the draft that all others are compared. The 2013 selections may come close someday in the future.
The other Monster Draft refers to a team getting several superstars in the same selection year. In 1979, the Edmonton Oilers drafted Kevin Lowe, Mark Messier and Glen Anderson. In 2003, Anaheim drafted both Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry in the first round while Nashville found three quality NHL blueliners in Ryan Suter, Shea Weber and Kevin Klein. The Los Angeles Kings had 8 selections in the 2005 entry draft and completely whiffed on 6 of the players taken. However the other two players were Anze Kopitar and Jonathan Quick, monster level year.
The Stars may have their own class to remember heading to training camp this fall. In 2011, Dallas selected Jamie Oleksiak (1st), Brett Ritchie (2nd) and Jyrki Jokipakka (7th). All three were key components in the Texas Stars run to the AHL championship. All three are expected to battle for a spot on the NHL roster this fall. If they are wearing Victory Green for years to come, add 2011 to the Monster Draft list.
Late Round Picks: The Dallas Stars have their poster boy for late round pick magic. Jamie Benn was taken in the 5th round, 129th overall. All he’s done is earn the title of team Captain, win an Olympic Gold Medal and become the first Star to be named to the NHL First All-Star Team. With this year’s draft being wide open in terms of talent, a player taken after the 2nd round might be just as valuable as a player in the top 60. This draft also marks the first fully orchestrated selection process for Dallas by General Manager Jim Nill and Director of Amateur Scouting, Joe McDonnell. Both came to the Stars from Detroit with a winning pedigree and Stanley Cup rings for their efforts. During Nill’s tenure in Detroit, the Red Wings unearthed late round gems such as Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Valtteri Filppula. If there is late round magic to be had in this draft. chances are this crew will be the one to find that player.
Trades: With the UFA market being so underwhelming this year, trades might be a bigger story than normal on Draft Day. Names such as Jason Spezza, Ryan Kesler and Evander Kane are rumored to be available for the right price. The biggest news of the night could be which big name is changing cities or why not?
14th Pick: An inexact science becomes more difficult as the draft unfolds. Trades, players trending up or sliding down, make a middle of the round selection difficult to project. Defensemen have been the biggest names taken 14th, Brent Seabrook (03) and Kevin Shattenkirk (07). Jamie Oleksiak was the only Stars player ever to be taken 14th overall.
Patience: In the past 25 years only two players have skated for the NHL squad within one year of being drafted, Val Nichushkin and Mike Modano. Whoever the Stars take at number 14 will be a few years away from competing for an NHL job. Be patient, the team has a loaded farm system, no need to risk permanent damage by rushing a player not ready to move up. The Stars philosophy is built for long term success and that includes all levels including players taken this weekend.
In just a few hours the lives of several talented young men will change forever. The fortunes of NHL teams will rise or fall on decisions made this weekend. For the Dallas Stars, it’s the official beginning to the 2014-15 season. A New Star indeed did rise in 2013-14, with a return to the Stanley Cup playoffs, followed by the Texas Stars winning their first Calder Cup. Last year was successful beyond expectations, but it’s time to turn the page. The future begins now.
Bruce LeVine is the Pre-Game, Post-Game, and Intermission analyst for the Stars radio broadcasts. He can be heard 30 minutes before face-off and immediately after games all season long on SportsRadio 1310AM and 96.7FM The Ticket. Follow him on Twitter at @BruceLeVinePuck.
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