Some Thoughts as the NHL Draft Approaches

Coming just one day after its NBA equivalent, the NHL Draft often gets overlooked on the sports calendar. While it would be easy to posit some sort of conspiracy theory on why that's the case, there's actually two very simple reasons why. ↵

↵First of all, unlike their NBA and NFL counterparts, the players dispersed in the NHL Entry Draft don't usually have an immediate impact on the fortunes of the teams that choose them. Sure, we have seen a few notable exceptions like Sidney Crosby, a player who went from the No. 1 overall pick in the draft to NHL superstar in the matter of a few months, but for the most part, the NHL Draft is more akin to its counterpart in Major League Baseball. ↵

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↵So, while it's never a bad thing to get excited about the next great talent that your team snags in the first round, just be prepared to follow his development at a distance for a number of years. After all, it isn't out of the ordinary for draft picks to get sent home from their first training camp to be returned to their teams in Canadian juniors for another year of seasoning -- and that's before they ever get a taste of minor league hockey. ↵

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↵As for the other reason, well, it's because the draft is a uniquely Canadian experience. Sure, the number of American players taken in the first round has risen significantly in recent years -- I guess that pesky expansion strategy is working on some level -- but to this day, the draft, in Canada, is a national day of celebration of the culture of hockey. ↵

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↵You see, every kid that will be chosen this weekend has gone through a number of rites of passage that just about every Canadian family can understand: the early morning practices, the long car and bus rides, and, if you're lucky, being shipped away from home in your teens to live with a sponsor family while pursuing your dream of playing in the NHL. ↵

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↵When you see these kids stride to the podium -- and yes, they all look so impossibly young -- it's really the culmination of many years of hard work and sacrifice on the part of their families, something that only a fraction of the U.S. population really understands. ↵

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↵So if the NHL Draft seems a little goofy, with half of a team's front office executives on stage waiting to congratulate their latest first round pick, just remember that there are reasons. ↵

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↵As for my other thoughts on the draft, I'll just write the following: ↵

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↵1. Despite the fact that much FUD has been kicked up about whether or not the Islanders will select future superstar John Tavares with the first overall pick, there isn't any way the Islanders will deal the pick. ↵

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↵2. While the ownership situation in Tampa Bay is an absolute mess, you have to hand it to the team when it comes to the influence on draft strategy. For the second year in a row, the Lightning are going to come out of the first round with an absolutely transcendent hockey talent. Last year it was Steven Stamkos, and this year, more than likely, they'll be adding defenseman Victor Hedman. ↵3. Keep an eye out for Scott Niedermayer. If he decides he wants to play another season of ice hockey, the Ducks are going to need to clear some cap room, which means Chris Pronger could be on the block. If that happens, look for some serious action on the draft floor in Montreal. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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