The Blackhawks and Carolina Hurricanes go into the annual selection process, June 25-26 in Los Angeles, with 11 picks each. Fans can watch the drama play out Friday, with Round 1 starting at 7 p.m. ET on Versus and TSN. Rounds 2-7 will be televised starting at 1 p.m. ET on the NHL Network.
A major deal with the Atlanta Thrashers, which was completed early Thursday morning, saw the Hawks subtract three players from their championship roster (Dustin Byfuglien, Ben Eager, Brent Sopel), in return for a package that included a pair of draft picks -- the 24th pick and the 45th pick, which Atlanta had previously received from New Jersey in the Ilya Kovalchuk deal.
Those moves give Chicago five of the first 60 picks -- two first-round picks, three second-round picks -- in what is shaping up to be a very rich, deep draft.
"From our perspective this is exactly what we set out to accomplish, which was to get some top draft choices," Hawks GM Stan Bowman said on a conference call. "We've been planning to do this type of transaction for a long time. It accomplishes what we had to do."
The Hurricanes' approach to the draft will be a bit different. Their 11 picks start with the No. 7 selection, which they earned by finishing with the seventh-fewest points in the League. They also have three second-round picks and a pair of third-round selections.
"Unfortunately we didn't have the year we hoped to have and that's why we're in the strong position we're in now," Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford told NHL.com. "It didn't feel very good until now, and now we're about a week away from going to L.A. and our organization can get excited again."
There's also excitement building in Florida, where new GM Dale Tallon picked up the No. 15 pick from Boston in the Nathan Horton deal. The Panthers also have the No. 3 pick, as well as three second-round selections.
"It's how we did it before and that's how I plan to do it, through the draft," Tallon said, referencing his draft success in Chicago. "We have four picks in the first 36 and hopefully we'll get four quality players. That's how we'll build this thing and still stay competitive while we're doing it. That's the goal."
The New York Islanders also have 10 picks -- three in the first 58, and six in the first 95.
The Edmonton Oilers have nine picks, but it's their first one that everyone will be focused on. They also have a pair of second-round picks, giving them three choices in the top 48.
"I'm excited," Tambellini recently said on NHL Live! "When we lost our No. 1 goaltender, Nik Khabibulin, and we lost our most skilled player, Ales Hemsky, in November … what it did was present great clarity to the organization that it was time for a rebuild. It's time to restore the depth not only with the Oilers but throughout our entire system. We don't have enough players that are pushing people for jobs here."
Tambellini said he's received a number of calls from teams interested in trading for the No. 1 pick, but he didn't express a whole lot of interest in moving it.
"We're getting lots of calls on how people can help our hockey club," he said. "It's a tough year but the reward for the first pick overall … I can't tell you how excited this market is. You go through airports, baggage check people are asking, 'Taylor (Hall) or Tyler (Seguin), which one?'"
Tambellini still isn't tipping his hand on whether he's leaning toward Seguin, the Plymouth Whalers center and OHL Player of the Year ranked No. 1 among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting, or Hall, the Windsor Spitfires left wing and first-ever two-time Memorial Cup MVP ranked No. 2.
"Unfortunately we didn't have the year we hoped to have and that's why we're in the strong position we're in now. It didn't feel very good until now, and now we're about a week away from going to L.A. and our organization can get excited again."
-- Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford
While Tambellini likely will keep the top pick, other teams certainly will be looking to make moves. Among the names making their way around the rumor mill are Edmonton defenseman Sheldon Souray, Boston goalie Tim Thomas, Chicago forwards Kris Versteeg and Patrick Sharp and Toronto defenseman Tomas Kaberle. Also, a number of players eligible to become free agents July 1 could be moved if their teams can't re-sign them. Rutherford said he expects to see draft day be an active one on the trade front.
"Some teams have cap issues, some people have budget issues," said Rutherford, "so because of that I would suspect that you will see more movement and more activity."
Rutherford said his team could be among those looking to make some moves at the draft.
"We feel very strong that we're going to get a very good player at seven," he said. "Then with all the extra picks in the other rounds, there's a lot of things we can do with them."
Four teams have multiple first-round picks. Florida has its pick at No. 3 along with the No. 15 pick it just got from Boston. Anaheim will pick 12th and at No. 29, which it got from Philadelphia in the Chris Pronger trade. Phoenix has the No. 13 pick thanks to the Olli Jokinen deal with Calgary, as well as its own No. 22 selection. And Chicago will use Atlanta's No. 24 pick, as well as its own pick at No. 30.
Dallas has just four picks, the fewest among the teams. Philadelphia, Toronto and Calgary aren't scheduled to make their first picks until the third round.
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