Draft Wrap

So final thoughts from the 2008 NHL Entry Draft:

College hockey still made out well

As bad as the opening round of the Draft might have been for collegians, the final six rounds certainly proved to be fruitful.

In all, 62 players who are either currently enrolled in college or will be making their way there in the next year or two are now NHL property. Breaking it down by league, it’s no surprise that the WCHA led the way with 22 selections. After that, Hockey East and the CCHA were tied with 15 draft picks each. The ECAC had just 10 players selected, and most of those came over the final three rounds.

The ultimate class from Tampa

Tampa Bay will be most remembered at the 2008 NHL Entry Draft for selecting standout Steven Stamkos with the number one overall pick. However, in the minds of many, including this writer, that’s not the best reason to remember the Lightning’s trip to Ottawa.

With things just about wrapped up, the Lightning decided to sacrifice its final draft pick to pay tribute. David Carle, who had committed to play in Denver next fall, found out just before the Draft that he had a heart condition, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, that would end his hockey career. The condition, similar to that which took the lives of former Loyola Marymount basketball player Hank Gathers and Boston Celtic Reggie Lewis, was found during the NHL Combine. The Combine tests the physical agility of top prospects prior to each year’s Draft.

Carle’s agent let all NHL teams know that, despite being ranked 60th among North American skaters for this year’s Draft, he would withdraw his name from consideration. Still, the Lightning chose to pay tribute to Carle’s far too short career, selecting him with their final pick in the seventh round of Saturday’s draft.

Lighting GM Jay Feaster told NHL.com that the pick was the idea of new Lightning owner Oren Koules.

“He had some discussions with some people, but he came and asked us if we would make that pick. He said the young man worked his whole life to be in a position to be drafted today. He wanted us to make the pick and that’s why we did it.”

To say the move is classy would be an understatement.

Habs continue to turn to Americans

Not so wonderful flight scheduling on the way home yielded a connection flight through Montreal’s Trudeau airport that included a three-hour layover. Though probably the worst way to end a tiring trip, it did produce the opportunity to speak to some of the locals about their thoughts on how the Canadiens did in this year’s Draft.

The consistent question that came up was why is Montreal focusing so much of its Draft resources on American prospects.

Remember, Montreal is the oldest and richest NHL franchise in terms of tradition. They’re also the most successful all-time and for a very long time, the club never ventured much past the Quebec border for its players, and virtually ignored the U.S.

However, for the past three years, the Habs have spent their top Draft picks on Americans. This year, after trading away its first round pick, Montreal took American Danny Cristo, a U.S. National Team Develop Program player who won’t matriculate at North Dakota until 2009.

A year ago, Montreal picked up two Americans with two first-round selections: Ryan McDonagh, who plays at Wisconsin, and Michigan’s Max Pacioretty. The Canadiens also selected Minnesota’s David Fischer in the first round in 2006.

It would be surprising to see this trend continue in 2009, as the Canadiens will play host to next year’s Draft. One can only imagine how the Bell Centre crowd would react should the blue, blanc et rouge turn to another Yankee. Another American-Canadian war could result.

“We’re having some issues, Ottawa”

I wrote on Saturday about the wireless Internet issues that plagued this year’s Draft. It seemed fitting that these problems remained prominent all the way until the final pick.

As Detroit attempted to make their final selection, the 211th overall, it was clear standing beside the table that the team was having issues. NHL Vice President Jim Gregory stood at the podium asking Detroit to submit its pick. Said Gregory, “This kind of doesn’t matter at the point but please pick or take a timeout, Detroit.”

The silence from the Detroit table was deafening.

Indeed there was little that either Detroit or Gregory could do, as the computer system, every time the Wings picked, kept spitting an error message back. With every eye on the Red Wings table, things finally worked, but only after a good eight minute delay. At 2:06 PM ET, the 2008 NHL Entry Draft finally wrapped up.