Draft produces memorable moments for Halifax crew

Sunday, 06.30.2013 / 7:53 PM | Mike G. Morreale  - NHL.com Staff Writer

NEWARK, N.J. -- Halifax Mooseheads center Nathan MacKinnon was in the middle of an interview when he heard teammate Jonathan Drouin's name announced over the public address system in the early stages of the 2013 NHL Draft at Prudential Center on Sunday.

"It put a smile on my face," said MacKinnon, who was chosen with the No. 1 pick by the Colorado Avalanche.

A little over three hours later, MacKinnon and Drouin were probably both grinning ear-to-ear when teammate Zachary Fucale became the first goalie off the draft board -- going in the second round (No. 36) to the Montreal Canadiens.

It wasn't too surprising when Drouin went two picks after MacKinnon to the Tampa Bay Lightning with the No. 3 choice. After all, MacKinnon was No. 2 on NHL Central Scouting's list of the top draft-eligible North American skaters and Drouin was ranked third. They played a major role in helping lead the Mooseheads to the league's President Cup by combining for 23 goals and 68 points in 17 games.

"These guys will have permanent smiles for the next week or two," Fucale said. "It was good to see our teammates go like that and be that happy. It's awesome."

Linemates MacKinnon and Drouin struck for eight goals and 22 points in four games to lead Halifax to its first Memorial Cup.

"Obviously, Nate has been through a lot this year, and I was really happy for him to go first overall," Drouin told NHL.com. "I think he deserves that, and Colorado got a really good player."

MacKinnon feels Drouin will thrive in the Sunshine State.

"He's going to be perfect [in Tampa Bay]," MacKinnon said. "I'm sure he's so excited. That's where he wanted to go."

It marks the second straight year and fourth time overall that teammates have been selected among the top three choices at the draft. Nail Yakupov and Alex Galchenyuk of the Ontario Hockey League's Sarnia Sting were chosen first and third, respectively, during the 2012 Draft in Pittsburgh.

Daniel and Henrik Sedin of MoDo in Sweden went second and third to the Vancouver Canucks in 1999, Wilf Paiement and Rick Hampton of St. Catharines were chosen in 1974, and Rejean Houle and Marc Tardif of the Montreal Jr. Canadiens were plucked in 1969.

"It's pretty cool that we went first and third because it doesn't happen every year," Drouin said. "Me and Nate are really happy about that. I think we've been through a lot this year on and off the ice, and we're happy for each other to go this high in the draft."

Drouin, the Canadian Hockey League Player of the Year, had 41 goals, 105 points and a plus-48 rating in 49 contests for the Mooseheads. The 5-10.75, 185-pounder had an incredible 29-game point streak from Nov. 30, 2012, to March 15, 2013 -- collecting 26 goals and 65 points over that span.

He led all scorers in the QMJHL playoffs with 35 points (12 goals) and then connected for one goal and nine points in four Memorial Cup contests. MacKinnon won the Stafford Smythe Memorial Trophy as the most valuable player in the Memorial Cup after connecting for seven goals and 13 points in his team's four games.

"We know a lot of credit has to go to Halifax, the general manager [Cam Russell] and the coaching staff," Drouin said. "They helped us out all year, and I'm really happy."

Fucale, who lists Canadiens goalie Carey Price as his favorite NHL player, led all goalies in the QMJHL with 45 wins (45-5-2-1) and was second with a 2.14 goals-against average. The No. 1-rated goalie on Central Scouting's list of North Americans became the fastest 17-year-old to reach 50 career wins in the league and finished the season with 77 in 113 games spanning two seasons.

"This feels pretty crazy," Fucale said. "When you grow up and you dream of this [Canadiens] jersey on your back, and then put it on, it's something I'll remember for the rest of my life."

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mikemorrealeNHL

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