With the Stanley Cup decided for this year, the race to add talent for the future begins Friday night in Pittsburgh.
The NHL Draft is the place where the foundation of a championship team is built. Though trades and free-agent signings are important, no team can hope to win a Cup without a base of homegrown talent. The Edmonton Oilers will have the first pick, followed by Columbus, Montreal, the New York Islanders and Toronto. The first round (30 picks) will be held Friday; the remaining seven rounds will begin Saturday morning.
There's no consensus as to which player will be taken with the No. 1 pick. Russian-born forward Nail Yakupov of the OHL's Sarnia Sting is the top-rated skater in North America according to NHL Central Scouting, but there's no guarantee he'll go first.
Here are five things to keep in mind as we get ready for the NHL Draft:
1. The Oilers have the first pick for the third year in a row after winning the lottery and jumping ahead of last-place Columbus. The Oilers are just the second team ever to pick first in three consecutive years; the other was the Quebec Nordiques from 1989-91.
2. Detroit defenseman Jonathan Ericsson (2002) and St. Louis goaltender Brian Elliott (2003) were taken in the ninth round with the 291st pick in their respective years. No player has ever made the NHL after being picked higher, a distinction that appears safe since the draft is now only seven rounds; only 211 players will be chosen this year.
3. Since 1969, when NHL teams could no longer sponsor junior clubs and all players were eligible for the draft, there have been 9,756 players taken. Of that number, 4,886 -- just over 50 percent -- have come from the three major junior leagues in North America.
4. Since 1991, more players have been drafted from Canada (2,461) than anywhere else. The United States is second with 1,071. But the margin is shrinking -- there were just 79 players taken from Canada last year, while 64 Americans were chosen.
5. There have been 15 families who've had brothers selected in the first round of the NHL Draft. The Sutters (Duane, Brent, Rich and Ron) are the only one with four; the Staals (Eric, Jordan and Marc) are next with three.