PITTSBURGH — College hockey fans have plenty to look forward to with next year’s Frozen Four heading to Pittsburgh and the Consol Energy Center. The building is considered one of the nicest in the NHL with incredibly steep angles for the seating, making it much easier for fans to watch the game.
As well, the city certainly embraces hockey well. Massive crowds were waiting outside the building on Friday, hoping to catch a glimpse of the top prospects as they walked the red carpet.
Similar to the 2012 Frozen Four in Tampa, the NHL draft is well branded all over the city and there seemingly are few locals who don’t know this event is happening.
Despite significant buzz on Friday that Edmonton would either trade the top pick or grab defenseman Ryan Murray, the Oilers instead went with the logical thinking and grabbed top-ranked prospect Nail Yakupov from the Sarnia Sting.
The Oilers, who have had the top overall pick for three straight years, could put together a line next year of three No. 1 picks — Yakupov, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall.
Trades early … and often
Hours before Friday’s opening round began, there already was a trade made as Philadelphia shipped talented backup goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky to Columbus for three draft picks, the Blue Jackets’ second- and fourth-round picks this year and their fourth-round selection in 2013.
Shortly after the start of the draft, the Washington Capitals acquired Mike Ribeiro from Dallas for Cody Eakin and a second-round pick. The Anaheim Ducks then moved Lubomir Visnovsky to the New York Islanders for a second-rounder next year.
The biggest trade, though, belonged to the host Penguins, who shipped Jordan Staal to Carolina in exchange for the Hurricanes’ first-round pick (eighth overall) along with Brandon Sutter and former Boston College defenseman Brian Dumoulin. The Pens used the eighth pick to select Derrick Pouliot from Portland in the WHL.
Pittsburgh … a good omen?
If history repeats itself, those players drafted in Friday’s opening round have a bright future.
The last and only other time the NHL draft was held in Pittsburgh in 1997, 23 of the 26 players selected in the opening round reached the NHL. Eleven of those picks went on to play 700 or more NHL games, the third highest percentage of any past draft.
In that draft, the Boston Bruins had the No. 1 pick and selected Joe Thornton. He is the lone player from his draft class to surpass the 1,000-point mark.
The host Penguins, though, didn’t do too well with their first round pick that year. They selected Robert Dome 17th overall, and he played just 52 NHL games.
The biggest surprise of Friday’s opening round may have been how the stock of Filip Forsberg, who came into the day as the top-ranked European skater, fell.
Many considered Forsberg a top-five selection (he was second overall in USCHO’s mock draft) but he slipped all the way to 11th, where he was selected by the Washington Capitals.
Philly hears the boo birds
In one of the loudest boos in recent memory, local Penguins fans booed from the second that Philadelphia was announced as “on the clock” to the time that first-round pick Scott Laughton walked off the stage.
Part of the reason the boos were so loud had most to do with the size of the crowd. Friday was the first time in recent years that the arena was near capacity for the opening round of the draft.
Jersey, Philly gets next two drafts
Shortly before Friday’s draft got under way, the NHL announced that New Jersey will host the 2013 draft and Philadelphia will be the host in 2014. Both cities will be first-time hosts.
Philadelphia will also be the third city in four years to host the Frozen Four and the NHL draft within a year. St. Paul, Minn., hosted both last year. Pittsburgh will host next year’s Frozen Four and Philadelphia will then host the Frozen Four and NHL draft in 2014.