2011 NHL ENTRY DRAFT RECAP
The dust has settled on the floor of the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota, as the 2011 NHL Entry Draft has completed. The hometown Minnesota Wild made the first big splash at the draft, trading Brent Burns to the San Jose Sharks. The rest of the NHL Entry Draft weekend saw more trades, a lot of picks, and the loud and celebrated return of the Winnipeg Jets. To find out everything that went down at the center of the universe, the winners and losers, continue on after the jump.
Inside The Xcel Center
The draft weekend in downtown St. Paul was a smorgasbord of all things hockey. From the street fest that the league and Minnesota Wild put on Friday afternoon to the Stanley Cup being displayed throughout the weekend, every aspect of hockey was on display. There were booths set up for kids to test out their hockey skills. There were booths for memorabilia and hockey products. There was a who’s who of every important person connected to hockey roaming the streets all week long. In a place that lives and breathes hockey like Minnesota, the draft was the perfect event to fulfill the State of Hockey’s need for the sport.
Inside the Xcel Energy Center, nearly 15,000 people showed up to see who would be the future faces of NHL franchises. Fans from all clubs were represented, some better than others. I even spotted one brave soul wearing an Atlanta Thrashers jersey. With the home team in a celebratory mood as hosts, and a huge contingent of Winnipeg fans led to a loud and involved crowd all evening long. The Minnesota fans proudly booed their division rivals, with an extra loud cat calls for the hated Dallas Stars. The home crowd also turned up the intensity in a moving tribute to Derek Boogaard. The New York Rangers brought former Wild draft pick, and Boogaard’s brother, Aaron to announce the teams first pick. In a moment of silence before the selection, the Wild faithful, and everyone at the event, rose to their feet in respect. For one last time, the State of Hockey let out one final “BOOOOOOOOG” in memory of one of hockey’s most feared players. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
The picks themselves, at least the first night, seemed to take forever. Day Two was much quicker as there were only two minutes between picks. Oddly enough, I never spotted a clock anywhere that actually kept time between picks. Not even on the DVR coverage I watched afterwards. Other than the celebration for Winnipeg, the first round was quiet until just past the midway point when the Minnesota/San Jose trade was announced. From that moment on, the atmosphere felt different. Trades were much more prolific, and there seemed to be a new found hope in the Minnesota faithful.
Go!! Jets!! Go!!
Probably the least surprising move of the evening was made by The Franchise Formerly Know As The Atlanta Thrashers. Before announcing the seventh pick in the draft, and the first ever for the second incarnation of hockey in Winnipeg, owner Mark Chipman subtly dropped the new name of the team. Before throwing the microphone to GM Kevin Cheveldayoff for the pick, Chipman said, “draft pick on behalf of the Winnipeg Jets.” The Winnipeg section in the upper deck of the Xcel Center erupted in euphoria and broke into a raucous “Go! Jets! Go!” chant. In the end, True North Sports felt that they needed to appeal to the fans and bring back the Jets. In explaining the move, Chipman said that his quest was always to bring back the Jets. He felt that returning the name to the city was a fitting cap to his lifelong goal.
In terms of fans, nobody at the draft, other than the hometown Minnesota Wild, was as well represented as the province of Manitoba. The fans were everywhere, sporting the classic Jets jersey. So many classics with so many classic hockey names on the back. In fact, one of my highlights of Friday night was watching one Jets fan be wheeled outside in a wheel chair by event staff and paralleled by an medic. A cab was flagged down for the fan and his friends. Instead, the true hockey fan waved off the cab, hopped out of the wheelchair, and asked directions to the nearest bar. After getting a heading, they were off to drink some more, none the worse for wear. It brought a joyous tear to my eye. It’s so great to have Winnipeg involved back in the NHL again. Congratulations Manitoba on the return of the Winnipeg Jets!
1. Minnesota’s Brent Burns, 20 to San Jose for Devin Setoguchi, Charlie Coyle, 1st Round Pick
– The bombshell of the first round of the draft, and really all of draft weekend. Minnesota unloads Burns a year before he was eligible for free agency. Essentially, the Wild knew Burns’ asking price was going to be too high and probably too long, and GM Chuck Fletcher acted now instead of waiting like the former regime did with Marian Gaborik. San Jose gets a top flight, offensive defenseman that it desperately desired to get them over the playoff hump. While Setoguchi had just been signed to a new three year deal, creating cheap labor over that period of time, the real key to this trade was the inclusion of Charlie Coyle, a rugged power forward currently excelling at Boston University. Both teams got what they needed. Minnesota got scoring depth on the wing, and San Jose got a premier defenseman to help make a Stanley Cup run.
2. Philadelphia sending Jeff Carter to Columbus and sending Mike Richards to the LA Kings
– While these trades didn’t happen at the draft, it went down the day before with everyone already congregated in Minneapolis/St. Paul. The Flyers needed to created cap space for the new contract they gave Ilya Bryzgalov, and Carter and Richards were the odd men out. Rumors are that there were locker room problems regarding the captain Richards. Philly gets some talent in return for Richards from LA in Wayne Simmonds and prospect Brayden Schenn, as well as the eighth overall pick from Columbus, the money saved from both these moves is already eaten up for a long time by Bryzgalov. And goalie contracts are a lot harder to get rid of than skaters.
3. Chicago’s Brian Campbell to Florida for Rotislav Olesz
– The Blackhawks were able to convince Campbell to waive his no trade clause and accept the deal to Miami is one huge thing. The fact that they cleared more than $7 million off the salary cap is the biggest coup for Chicago. Florida became the taker because they have to spend around $20 million just to get to the cap floor. Such is the way of business in today’s NHL.
Most NHL Ready
1. Gabriel Landeskog, Colorado: Landeskog was voted as the player most ready to make the jump to the NHL even before the draft. After being selected by the Avalanche, he will have a chance to make an instant impact right out of training camp, especially if he gels with some of the other young forwards in the organization.
2. Jonathan Huberdeau, Florida: Huberdeau has flourished down the stretch towards the draft, and played his way all the way to a top three pick. By ending up in Florida, Huberdeau will most likely get a chance to play right away, not only because of his talent, but because the money he will sign for needs to go towards getting the Panthers above the cap floor. Florida was competitive all season long, but never could find a goal. Huberdeau could change that.
3. Nathan Beaulieu, Montreal: Beaulieu is a slick skating defenseman who can handle the puck and contribute offensively. Being a French Canadian, Beaulieu will definitely be a fan favorite for Les Habitantes. Even though he slid down the draft, he could slot into a Montreal blue line with fellow youngster PK Suppan for years to come.
4. Ryan Sproul, Detroit: With the holes currently, and expected in the future, for the Red Wings defensive corps, Sproul will likely get a shot to make the team either this year or next. He has big size that will serve him well in the NHL, and is strong in his own zone, something Detroit prides itself on.
5. Mark Scheifele, Winnipeg: While a lot of experts felt the Jets took Scheifele a bit high at #7, he is a bright young kid who is excited to be a part of the new start in Winnipeg. The team was competitive last season, but faltered down the stretch when they could find any scoring. Scheifele is a playmaker with vision who should mesh well with the other forwards on the roster like Evander Kane and Blake Wheeler.
– Colorado Avalanche: Colorado took advantage of their two first round draft picks to grab a pair of players who both could potentially see playing time this season in Gabriel Landeskog and Duncan Siemens. If they can get a goalie to come in and stabilize the crease in free agency, they have gone a long way in the last two years to making their way back to the winning ways this franchise knew in their start.
– Chicago Blackhawks: Chicago was able to shed a lot of salary in trades, and then pulled in eleven draft picks to restock a depleted farm system. The picks have tremendous upside, and will give the Blackhawks a lot of young, cheap talent to fill in around the Stanley Cup winning nucleus.
– Ottawa Senators: In the first round of the draft alone, the Senators may have drafted their entire first line of the future. Mika Zibanejad, Stefan Noesen, and Matt Puempel are all quick, high flying scorers who will bring excitement to Ottawa, and bring much needed goal scorers into a system that hasn’t seen one since they shipped Dany Heatley out of town.
– Philadelphia Flyers: While the trade may have made them a little younger, and freed up some cap space, they immediately spent it on an expensive, long term deal for Ilya Bryzgalov. While Sean Couturier may be an excellent player in the future, this is a draft class that will take awhile to develop and doesn’t inject any of the scoring lost it their trades. Bryzgalov hasn’t proven himself at all in the playoffs yet, and goes into a crease haunted by failures for the Flyers. If things don’t start well next season in Philly, things could get quite ugly.
– Dallas Stars: The Stars must have seen what the size and power of Zdeno Chara did and decided to emulate the big man. Dallas drafted two defenseman 6′ 6″ or taller, but they will take a few years before they even reach the NHL level, if they even get there. Taking Jamieson Oleksiak is a bit of a stretch at the fourteenth pick, especially since more polished D prospects were available. Even worse, they didn’t convince Brad Richards to resign, or even trade his rights to someone for any type of compensation.
– Calgary Flames: While first round pick Sven Baertschi should develop into a legitimate NHL power forward, the Flames had very few picks throughout the draft, and some of the picks were rather skeptical. Markus Granlund early second round was a bit of a reach, and I don’t think he will be as good as his brother Mikael, the current title holder of World’s Greatest Goal. They also took a 5′ 6″ 136 pound player in the 7th round, potentially a wasted pick if John Gaudreau doesn’t find a growth spurt anytime soon.
With the draft over, it officially ties a bow on the end of the 2010-11 NHL season. And what a while ride it was. From the opening faceoff in Finland between the Minnesota Wild and Carolina Hurricanes, to the final seconds of Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final between Boston and Vancouver, history has been made every second of the way. And now we sit on the verge of the 2011-12 season begins July 1 with free agency opening. The roster makeovers aren’t done yet for NHL teams, now is when we find out who will skate for who this fall.
Bryan Vickroy has an addiction to hockey, and is willing to partake in all its forms. He is skating extra shifts for The Sports Bank, covering the Minnesota Wild, the NHL, and NCAA hockey all year long. Look for new articles throughout the week. He can be followed on Twitter at @bryanvickroy. If you’d prefer to speak in more than 140 characters at a time to him, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .