LOS ANGELES — Welcome to the city of fake tans, botox and silicone. Welcome to the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.
You have to admit that Los Angeles is quite a unique place to hold one of the NHL’s marquee events. The sport is more known for Stompin’ Tom Connors than Tom Cruise. Zambonis and tractors more than limos and Hummers.
But this weekend, the NHL will invade Lalaland and, whether or not Jay-Z or Jack Nicholson take notice, when all is said and done the lives of hundreds of young players — and the teams that pick them — will forever be changed.
So put aside that screenplay you’ve been hoping to sell. Drag yourself away from Spago’s. Here is this writer’s list for the top five things to watch for at this weekend’s NHL Entry Draft:
1. Don’t be surprised to see things kicked off with a trade
Both the Edmonton Oilers, holder of the first overall pick, and Boston Bruins, with the second pick, are in enviable positions. Edmonton will have the choice of either Taylor Hall from the Windsor Spitfires or Tyler Seguin from the Plymouth Whalers (and don’t worry college fans, if you haven’t heard of these kids it’s because they’re playing Major Junior). Problem is, no one really knows which team wants which player. For Edmonton, they’re in the driver’s seat, picking first. But rumors are floating that Boston really wants Hall and the Oilers would be happy to take him away … unless of course Boston can make a tempting offer that would have Edmonton trade the top overall pick to the Bruins.
2. The Euro is getting weaker
This is hardly a crack at the current economic state of Europe but rather an attempt to point out that this year’s first round will not be the year of the European. Last year’s draft was overridden by the Swedes, which sent seven players to the stage during the first round. This year, Sweden — and Europe for that matter — will hardly have the same influence. I’d expect maybe three or four Europeans to be drafted in the first round and possibly none in the first 15 picks.
3. It won’t be college’s year to shine, either
It might not be music to the ears of Paul Kelly or his college hockey commissioners, but college players won’t be among those in the spotlight this weekend. No, this is the year of Major Juniors and the top overall picks are likely to be Canadian players coming from the ranks of the top junior teams in the country.
4. … But that doesn’t mean college is facing a shutout
Au contraire, mon frre. Just because you won’t see a collegian in the top five — and realistically, maybe not in the top 10 — doesn’t mean it’s going to be a thin year for college players. I expect there to be a march like wildfire for college and college-bound players as the first round comes to a close. And for those who sit through the first day patiently, they’ll be rewarded early in the second round. By the time Round 2 is over sometime early on Saturday morning (Pacific Time, that is) I’d expect no fewer than 20 players with college ties to be NHL property.
5. Biggest surprise might be in net
Although I don’t expect any college forwards or defensemen to jump ahead of their Major Junior counterparts in the opening rounds of the draft, I do think there could be an upset among goaltenders. Jack Campbell, who led the U.S. to the World Junior Championship this past winter, is ranked second among North American netminders behind Calvin Pickard, a New Brunswick native playing his junior hockey for Seattle of the WHL. All of this would’ve been a huge benefit to U.S. college hockey had Campbell not opted out of his commitment to attend Michigan and instead head to play Major Junior. Ah, the battle rages on.