The NHL Entry Draft is in Vancouver this weekend, and the first night of the draft wasn’t short on memorable moments.
Whether it was the Canucks themselves taking a risk with their first rounder or a particular team getting a player’s name wrong, here were some of our takeaways from the inaugural night of the draft.
Aquilini gets in on the fun
It’s been a bit of a trying several months for Francesco Aquilini, but he showed some shrewd humour opening the event by congratulating the St. Louis Blues specifically for beating the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup Final.
National Aboriginal Day gets some play
The team honoured National Indigenous Day by having a drum circle on stage. They also acknowledged the draft was taking place on unceded territory.
Alex Burrows gets in the ring
One of the most popular Canucks of all time will get his rightful place in the Canucks’ Ring of Honour that lines the upper rungs of Rogers Arena. Burrows’ face and name will be embedded into the stadium before the start of next season.
Bettman hides behind the Sedins
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman always gets booed at the draft. But he rarely gets booed like that. Canucks fans absolutely serenaded Bettman with boos right from the start to the point that he could not be heard.
So he broke out the contingency plan and brought the Sedins out on stage. It worked—for a bit at least. After he was done announcing that the Sedins will have their jerseys retired as part of a week-long celebration, the crowd went back to drowning him out whenever they had the chance.
Did players request certain songs? There was no real rhyme or reason why players had certain songs, but it did feel at times like they were too different to just be coincidence. Pittsburgh Penguins draft pick Samuel Poulin walking up to Dr. Dre, for example, seemed out of place.
And then there was the attempt to give some teams a particular song while they were getting their picks in. It was apparent right off the hop when the New Jersey Devils got “Running with the Devil”. Of course, there weren’t that many teams that lent themselves very well to certain tunes like that.
Los Angeles got “California Dreamin’”, but the New York Rangers got some nondescript DJ tunes, while the Chicago Blackhawks got what sounded like Tribe Called Red? Which were not sure how to feel about.
Chicago dares for Dach
The first two picks were obvious, and the New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers surprised no one by taking Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kaako, respectively.
But Chicago, who many thought would take defenceman Bowen Byram or Alex Turcotte, went with a surprise pick in power forward Kirby Dach.
Dach may very well be a player, but it was still something of a shocker to see the Blackhawks take the Saskatoon Blades product at number three.
Joe Sakic goes back to B.C.
The Colorado Avalanche had two picks in the first-round of the NHL draft and took not one but two players with B.C. connections. Vancouver Giants defenceman Bowen Byram (at No.4) was something of a no-brainer for the Avs, but the team doubled down on B.C. players at No.16 with Victoria Grizzlies centre Alex Newhook.
Newhook was rumoured to be coveted by the Canucks, whereas Byram was one of the better prospects available. Burnaby native Sakic may have pulled off a couple of coups here.
Red Wings sip the Seider
In their first draft under new general manager Steve Yzerman, the Detroit Red Wings stunned the crowd by appearing to take a massive reach with Moritz Seider, a German defenceman.
It’ll be interesting to track this pick and whether or not the big swing works for Yzerman, who is widely seen as something of a wunderkind of a GM.
Canucks go with talent
In what some are calling the steal of the draft, the Vancouver Canucks took Russian winger Vasili Podkolzin with the 10th overall pick. There were rumours the Canucks were going to move the pick (possibly in a deal for Avalanche rearguard Tyson Barrie), but they ended up holding onto it and taking a chance on talent.
Podkolzin is an immensely talented, aggressive 6’0 190-pound scorer. Yes, he has two more years left on his KHL contract. But it’s worth the risk.
Podkolzin has dominated for Russia internationally and would have likely gone higher if his status in the NHL was more certain.
Florida goes for a goalie
The Panthers took a risk and drafted a goalie higher than we usually see, snagging ‘tender Spencer Knight with the 13th pick.
Long rumoured to be after goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky when the Columbus Blue Jackets keeper hits free agency later this summer, the Panthers seemed to get some insurance just in case with Knight. It also might be an indication that Cats don’t expect Roberto Luongo to be back between the pipes next season.
No crazy deals
After an almost unprecedented flurry of rumours, there was only one trade made on the draft floor and it was something of a dud. The Philadelphia Flyers traded down, grabbing picks No.14 and No.45 from the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for No.11.
Canadiens go small again
The Habs have never shied away from acquiring smaller forwards like Brendan Gallagher, Mike Cammeleri and Brian Gionta. They did it again at No.15 with the talented Cole Caufield. The Canucks were rumoured to be after Caufield and he seems like a savvy pick for Montreal.
The Vegas Golden Knights made a shrewd pick with their selection of Petyton Krebs with No. 17 overall. But it was a bit hard to watch the prospect take the stage after suffering a partially torn Achilles at the end of the year. He didn’t seem to love walking up the stairs to the stage.
Stars don’t align
It happens every year and this time it was the Dallas Stars who butchered a prospect’s name in the first round. The team called out “Harley Thomas” when selecting Thomas Harley. Oops.
The Tampa Bay Lightning selected forward Nolan Foote with the 27th pick two years after taking his brother, blueliner Cal in the first round of the 2017 draft. Both are sons of former NHLer Adam.
Boos for the Bs
Oh yeah, and the Boston Bruins were booed mercilessly despite Maple Ridge native and Bruins president Cam Neely taking the podium.
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