LOS ANGELES — There was a lot of tension on Friday night at the Staples Center for the 2010 NHL Entry Draft when name after name was called and neither a collegiate player’s — or any American’s for that matter — name was to be heard.
But by evening’s end, there were plenty of high fives among the college hockey and USA Hockey communities.
“It was an exciting day, obviously,” said Jim Johannson, assistant executive director of hockey operations for USA Hockey. “The neat part for us is that it’s such a wide, varied background in programs and places that these kids came from.”
The wait may have been a nervous one, but Johannson felt certainly that it was worth it.
“To me, it seemed like teams targeted guys they really liked instead of the old ‘best player available’ adage,” Johannson. “It seemed like teams were filling specific needs and you just knew as the draft continued on some of these kids would meet some of those teams’ needs.”
College hockey placed nine players on the podium in the opening round, just two short of the 2007 record of 11. Eleven American players were drafted, eclipsing the record of 10 set in both 2006 and 2007.
“It’s great [to be back on the upswing],” said Johannson. “It’s exciting for our program. It’s exciting for the players involved with it.
“From a college hockey perspective, it’s an exciting day in that so many of these kids that will be playing college hockey next year were high-round picks today.”
Long Wait for American Fowler
The person who probably stressed the most on Friday was American Cam Fowler, who plays for Windsor in the OHL. He was thought by many to possibly go as high as No. 3 but he continuously dropped, and was finally picked up by Anaheim with the 12th selection.
“You know, the wait, no matter what you’re doing, the wait is always hard,” said Fowler. “When you have high expectations for yourself and people are saying certain things and it doesn’t end up working out, it’s tough.
“But I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. I think I came to a great organization who was excited to have me. At the end of the day, that’s all that really matters. You want somebody that’s confident in you and somebody that’s happy to have you aboard.”
In the End, the Beginning was Predictable
So much was made of which player would be taken No. 1 overall. Both Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin were considered similarly strong players. The question was what did Edmonton, which held the No. 1 overall pick, want.
Most knew that Boston, which held the second pick, was high on Hall. The Bruins, already deep at the center position, would’ve liked to have the crafty winger over Seguin. Some thought that the Oilers might use that as leverage for a trade with Boston. But in the end, both clubs held their picks.
Once Hall was selected by Edmonton, the name “SEGUIN” was sewed in gold letters on the back of the Bruins’ spoked “B” sweater.
“I wasn’t surprised or disappointed,” said Seguin. “I think I just came in here really with an open mind. I didn’t have any expectations. I think everyone has their own opinion.
“We’ve seen it all year with whatever scouting service there may be. You know, Edmonton decided to select Hall first overall, and good for him. He deserves it. And I’m happy to be a Bruin.”
Top Collegians Will Still Have to Wait
Though Friday was a great day for college hockey, it wasn’t necessarily the one that some of the players who will be walking college campuses next fall wanted.
Among those is Michigan incoming freshman Jonathon Merrill. Merrill, who was tabbed by Central Scouting as 21st among North American skaters, certainly knew he’d be a borderline first rounder. But what might be most difficult is watching Riley Sheahan (22nd by Central Scouting), Charlie Coyle (24th), Brock Nelson (25th), Kevin Hayes (26th), Jaden Schwartz (28th), Beau Bennett (32nd) and Jarred Tinordi (38th) all go ahead of him.
His wait won’t be too long, though, as all players, coaches and staffs will report back to the Staples Center for the second through seventh rounds of the draft at 10 a.m. Pacific (1 p.m. Eastern) Saturday.
Saturday’s draft coverage in the United States will shift from Versus to NHL Network.