OTTAWA — When walking into the Scotiabank Place on Saturday, this writer actually admits his confidence in college hockey had been a tiny bit shaken. It wasn’t the fact that only four college players were selected in the opening round on Friday; I’d been there before and seen the 1999 Draft, when there were only three collegians selected in the opening round.
It more had been shaken by the confirmation of a rumor that John Carlson, a talented defenseman from just outside of Boston, had decided to forego the commitment he had made to attend Massachusetts this fall and instead give up his college eligibility by signing with the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League.
If Carlson were alone in making this move, I may not have worried too much. However, rumors swirled that Zac Dalpe, himself committed to playing at Ohio State next season, was going to follow Carlson to the OHL as well.
It began to make me wonder: does giving your word and making a commitment mean anything these days?
On Saturday though, my faith was somewhat restored. Dalpe, whose stock dipped a bit from the second-rated college player, 16th overall among North American skaters, to 45th, when Carolina finally selected him, was candid about his future hockey plans.
“I think I’ve already made up my mind and made my decision,” said Dalpe. “I’m a pretty loyal guy and I’m going to stick to my commitment and decision to go to Ohio State.”
Music to this writer’s ears.
Truth be told, it’s becoming more of a challenge every day for college coaches. It’s difficult enough for kids to get through four years of college without the NHL knocking down their doors; now there’s a turf war that’s being waged between college hockey programs and the various Major Junior leagues across Canada and the U.S.
So when you hear a kid talk about his commitment and the fact that he gave his word and plans on honoring that, it’s certainly encouraging.
Tough Start for the Q
If you thought that Friday’s opening round was discouraging for college hockey fans, imagine trying to be a Quebec Major Junior Hockey League follower. The “Q,” as it’s known by most of its fans, didn’t produce a single first-round draft choice on Friday. A year ago, the Q produced four first-round selections.
Like college hockey, the league made up for its deficiencies early Saturday. Eight QMJHL players heard their name called in Saturday’s second round, led by Jake Allen, who was selected 34th overall by St. Louis.
Lecavalier Drafted Again?
During the 1998 NHL Entry Draft, Art Williams, the new owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning, picked Vincent Lecavlier with the first overall draft choice. On that day, Williams declared Lecavlier “the Michael Jordan of hockey.”
When the Carolina Hurricanes picked in the fourth round with the 105th overall selection, some may have thought that Lecavalier was once again drafted. The reason? Carolina picked Michal Jordan, a Czech-born defenseman who played his junior hockey last year for Plymouth of the OHL. Is Jordan the next Vincent Lecavalier?
Here are some of the biggest jumpers among collegians from Saturday’s draft:
Scott Winkler (I, ’09-Colorado College) jumped from 176th to the 89th overall pick of Dallas.
Sean Lorenz (I-Notre Dame), jumped from 203rd to 115th overall pick of Minnesota.
Ryan Hegarty (I-Maine), jumped from 186th to 113th overall pick of Anaheim.
Mark Olver (Northern Michigan), fell from 140th to 207th overall pick of Colorado.
Matt Donovan (I, ’09 Denver) was unranked and was the 96th overall pick of New York Islanders.
Lengthening a Long Day
Teams in the second through seventh round seem to have between two and three minutes to make their selection (it’s never announced how long each team actually has, nor is it available in any media materials distributed). Unlike Friday’s opening round, each pick is made from a microphone stationed at each club’s draft table.
Generally, teams are ready with their selection and it’s easy to buzz right through each pick. Last year, six Saturday rounds took less than four hours, with a very smooth flow throughout the day. This year was quite different. Each team has the ability to take a single timeout at some point in the Draft. The timeout allows the club an additional five minutes before the selection is due.
No less than nine teams exercised their timeouts on Saturday, mostly to negotiate trades as, for the second straight day, teams jockeyed to get exactly the players they wanted, even as late as the sixth round. When the L.A. Kings took their timeout in the seventh round, it was actually met with boos from the faithful that still remained inside Scotiabank Place. It was later announced that L.A. used its timeout because of a problem with the computer system that registers picks.
The Longest Wait?
Many talked about players had to wait overnight Friday into Saturday to hear their names called. These were players who felt they might be first-round prospects, but slipped to the second round or later.
Well, how about if you were waiting an entire year? Such was the case for Boston College’s Ben Smith. A year ago, all 30 NHL teams passed over Smith. Last year, he put up impressive numbers as a rookie at Boston College and was a key member of the Eagles’ national title team, notching 50 points in 44 games to finished third on the club in scoring.
Still, that didn’t seem to help his stock value. It appeared that 2008′s edition of the Draft might pass Smith by again before Chicago finally selected the crafty forward in the sixth round with the 169th pick overall.
If Smith is looking for a pick around 169 that has done pretty well in the NHL, he needs look no further than former BC Eagle Andrew Alberts, who has had a successful career with the Boston Bruins despite being selected at 179th overall.
Thumbs Up, Down to Ottawa
The city of Ottawa was certainly a gracious host to the NHL Entry Draft. Hospitality from minute one was top notch and the attention from media and fans alike that the NHL Draft gets when held in a Canadian city is unmatched.
While that earned a major thumb’s up, it’s impossible not to give a big-time thumb’s down to the management of Scotiabank Place; throughout most of the weekend, wireless internet access was non-existent. In a day and age when high-speed internet is standard, it’s rough to try to get through a fast-moving event like the NHL Entry Draft without access to search engines, e-mail and the such.
Hopefully Montreal, host of the 2009 Entry Draft, can improve.
Consistency Among Sens Fans
Gotta give it to the Senators fans (there may have been some Montreal faithful that need to be mixed into this group) who were consistent from round one through seven in their booing of the Toronto Maple Leafs each and every time the team made a selection.