The Columbus Blue Jackets’ Vaclav Prospal made that point earlier this month – the players on a team don’t care about draft positioning, they only care about winning the game at hand, which is how it should be. The integrity of the game is paramount, at any juncture. There have been teams in the past that deliberately tanked their seasons to guarantee a high pick – the NHL slapped around an early version of the Ottawa Senators for doing just that – but you can understand why fans get frustrated when a team plays its best hockey in the games that don’t matter, but can’t seem to win the ones that do matter. And in Calgary, while the general consensus is that they want to see Iginla win a Stanley Cup with Sidney Crosby and the Penguins because he deserves it after all these years, if that happens, then the pick coming Calgary’s way will be 30th overall. In a deep draft, who knows what sort of player they’ll just miss with that pick.
DRAFT SCHMAFT : What are the odds that between now and the rescheduled NHL entry draft (which is taking place on June 30th in New Jersey this year), there’ll be multiple 10-year anniversary stories on the celebrated 2003 draft? Probably high, since a lot of independent scouting observers think this year’s draft could be approach 2003 in terms of its overall depth. If that projection proves accurate, then teams with multiple picks could do very well for themselves.
Columbus leads the way with three first-round picks, its own plus New York’s for Rick Nash and L.A.’s for Jeff Carter. (Quick aside: The reason the Kings were not seriously in the Iginla bidding was because they didn’t have a 2013 first-rounder to surrender; it had been traded away already, and Calgary didn’t want to wait until 2014, which was the earliest first-rounder that L.A. had available to trade).
In 2003, Anaheim had the 19th and 28th picks and hit two home runs – Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry respectively, both of whom became franchise players. Props to Alain Chainey, their director of amateur scouting, and to Tim Murray, their player personnel director. Philadephia chose Jeff Carter 11th overall and Mike Richards, 23rd. Props to Dennis Patterson, who was their chief scout. Both Richards and Carter helped the Los Angeles Kings win last year’s Stanley Cup.
The middle and later parts of the first round any year any time can be perilous ground, but it was less so in 2003, where the likes of Dustin Brown (13th), Brent Seabrook (14th) Zach Parise (17th), Brent Burns (20th), and Ryan Kesler (23rd) were picked. The bounty didn’t end there either: Loui Eriksson went 33th, Patrice Bergeron 45th, Matt Carle 47th, Shea Weber 49th, David Backes 62nd, Jimmy Howard 64th, Joe Pavelski 205th, Toby Enstrom 239rd, Dustin Byfuglien 245th, Matt Moulson 263rd and Jaroslav Halak 271st. But there were misses too: Hugh Jessiman (12th), Robert Nilsson (15th), Marc-Antoine Pouliot (21st) and Anthony Stewart (25th). Los Angeles had three picks that year, but after getting Brown, missed on both Brian Boyle (26th) and Jeff Tambellini (27th). What if they’d chosen Perry and Eriksson there instead? How differently might the NHL landscape have looked?
But if that’s how it goes in 2013, and the draft really is as deep as some scouts believe, any team with multiple choices in the opening round could begin to re-stock the prospect cupboard, with astute drafting, intelligent player development and maybe a little luck thrown in for good measure. Now that the Iginla era is officially over, Calgary, for sure, needs that to happen.