NHL Draft Day is always one of the most popular days on the hockey calendar, and this year is no exception. The unofficial open to trading season coincides with the final decisions on where each of junior hockey's top prospects will begin their career. When you're a team that follows of the philosophy of Jim Nill and Les Jackson, Draft Day is when rosters are built.
The NHL Draft wasn't always the league-wide spectacle that is has become the last couple decades, however. In 1963, the league's first attempt at holding a league-wide amateur draft, it was largely ignored. Not even the player that was drafted first overall had any idea what a draft was, or that he had been drafted at all, until well after the fact. The Vancouver Sun has a neat little article with more details. [Vancouver Sun]
Times have changed, and now the draft is televised on multiple networks in multiple countries. Fans tune in to see more than just which teenager is going to play a big part in their favorite team's fortunes a few years down the road. They also tune in to see how many of the rumors and speculation of big-name player movement will actually come true. A soap-opera on top of a lottery. What's not to love? [Columbus Dispatch]
Many people expect Nathan MacKinnon to be this year's top draft pick, after the Colorado Avalanche have repeatedly reiterated that they're not interested in taking Seth Jones first overall. They can't go wrong with either selection. MacKinnon is a big-time talent that would go first overall in just about any draft year, and is ready to contribute to an NHL roster today. [The Province]
Local prospect, Seth Jones, is expected to be taken by the Florida Panthers with the second overall selection, if nothing drastic changes. Jones, a big, smart, powerful defenseman that has been called a cross between Nick Lidstrom and Chris Pronger, is ranked as the best prospect in the draft according to most scouting bureaus. [Sun Sentinel]
The third of the "Big Three" prospects in Jonathan Drouin, who is every bit as good as the two I've already mentioned. The real draft order could be a crap shoot with interchangeable parts, when all is said and done. What makes Drouin special is his vision, playmaking ability, and his silky smooth hands. While I expect him to end up on the Tampa Bay Lightning, Patrick Roy of the Colorado Avalanche is said to be very high on this kid as well. [Canoe]
Draft Day is expected to see a couple big name established NHLers changing teams as well, but the Pittsburgh Penguins claim they are putting no deadline on deciding Kris Letang's future. Letang turned down a very lucrative extension this week, which has led to his name being atop many rumor mills. That said, smart money is on the Penguins getting something done to keep him in Pittsburgh. [Canoe]
Former Dallas Stars netminder Mike Smith is probably staying put as well, as he is in negotiations on a long term extension to stay with the Phoenix Coyotes organization. [TSN]
At the same time, another former Dallas Star is looking for work with a new NHL team. Manny Malhotra is trying to prove that he still has something left in the tank, after recovering from a career threatening eye injury with the Vancouver Canucks. If he ends up finding a role somewhere, I wish him nothing but luck. It's hard not to like the guy. [The Province]
It won't be hard for Nathan Horton of the Boston Bruins to find a new home. He is expected to be one of the most coveted unrestricted free agents in a relatively bare market, after telling the Boston Bruins that he wants to test the waters on July 5th. [Boston Globe]
Vincent Lecavalier is another one of those coveted commodities, after being bought-out by the Tampa Bay Lightning. While he has been heavily linked to the Dallas Stars in recent days, he's been heavily linked to the Montreal Canadiens for years. They're quiet about their potential interest in his services, but you have to think Vinny would cherish the thought. After all, he wears #4 in honor of Jean Beliveau. [TSN]
Tobias Enstrom of the Winnipeg Jets is recovering from a minor injury he suffered as victim of a robbery in his home nation of Sweden yesterday. He was robbed at an ATM while at dinner with his family, but only sustained a small cut over his eye. Authorities have the suspects in custody. [CBC]
In lighter news, the NHL's top prospects skated with some youth hockey players in New Jersey, signing autographs and sharing some tips of the trade. Today's video is a small sample of their interaction. Good stuff.