NEWARK, N.J. -- There wasn’t quite the flurry of trades Sunday involving big-league players at the 2013 NHL Draft like some pundits might have been predicting, but there was a surprising twist at the top of the draft and, for the second straight year, there was a bold move by the hosts.
The top four players selected were the four every draft expert projected, but very much in an unexpected order. Nathan MacKinnon became the seventh consecutive No. 1 pick to be a forward, and he will join the last top choice that wasn’t a forward, defenseman Erik Johnson, with the Colorado Avalanche.
With 211 selections made in one afternoon and evening at Prudential Center, who were the most intriguing teams on draft day? Here’s seven clubs that, either through picks, trades or contract extensions, delivered the intrigue on a busy day in Newark.
The Devils were the story near the beginning of the 2013 NHL Draft, and again at the end of it.
Last year the Pittsburgh Penguins grabbed the headlines at the draft in their building by trading Jordan Staal to the Carolina Hurricanes. The Devils followed suit, dealing their first-round choice to the Vancouver Canucks for goaltender Cory Schneider -- much to the delight of the red-clad fans at The Rock.
After years of looking, the Devils finally have a succession plan in place for the end of the Martin Brodeur era. The transition to that point could be interesting though.
Brodeur was also part of the best moment of the draft. The Devils traded for a pick in the seventh round, and then had Brodeur announce the selection of his son, Anthony Brodeur, a goaltender who played for Shattuck-St. Mary’s this past season.
The Devils adding Schneider was the second big story to develop on Sunday. The first? That was defenseman Seth Jones, expected to be among the first two picks, having to wait a few extra minutes before hearing his name.
Jones “fell” to the Predators at No. 4, and Nashville added a potential replacement for Ryan Suter, who left 51 weeks ago for the Minnesota Wild. Jones, who is listed at 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds, wasn’t the only big defenseman Nashville added -- the Predators picked up 6-foot-5, 223-pound rearguard Jonathan Ismael Diaby in the third round.
If the Sabres are moving into a rebuilding phase, adding 11 players in what has been projected as a deep and talented draft class is a good place to start. Buffalo had a pair of first-round choices and six of the first 69 selections.
The Sabres added a pair of big defensemen in Rasmus Ristolainen with the eighth pick and Nikita Zadorov eight choices later. Zadorov was also projected as a potential top-10 selection. They also added a potential power forward and hometown kid with Justin Bailey in the second round.
Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman could have enjoyed a nice, peaceful trip to New Jersey, spending a few days being congratulated by everyone in the sport for winning the Stanley Cup for the second time in four seasons. Instead, he made a trio of trades during the draft to help shape his team’s title defense.
The Blackhawks traded away the guy who scored the Cup-clinching goal (Dave Bolland) to Toronto and the guy who had the primary assist (Michal Frolik) to Winnipeg for five draft picks and a little more than $5.7 million in salary cap relief. Later in the day, Bowman wrapped up potential unrestricted free agent and 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs breakout star Bryan Bickell with a four-year, $16 million contract.
Chicago also added a local youth product -- and a guy projected by some experts to go higher in the first round -- with Ryan Hartman at No. 30.
The Blue Jackets had three first-round picks, and general manager Jarmo Kekalainen used all three in his first draft in charge. Columbus added a trio of talented forwards in the first round, and then picked up another one at No. 89 with Oliver Bjorkstrand, a Danish wing who was ranked 36th among North American skated by NHL Central Scouting.
Columbus might also have avoided a huge problem in net. The day began with a report from TSN’s Darren Dreger that the rights to Vezina Trophy-winning goalie Sergei Bobrovsky were “in play,” but by the early evening hours Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch had reported Bobrovsky and the Blue Jackets had agreed in principle on a new contract to keep the potential restricted free agent in central Ohio.
While Colorado Avalanche management had made it known that MacKinnon was their guy, where general manager Dale Tallon and the Panthers were leaning remained a mystery in the days leading up to the draft.
Tallon surprised a lot of people when he called out Aleksander Barkov’s name and not Seth Jones. Still, the Panthers now have a pair of huge, young centers to build around with Barkov and Nick Bjugstad. Tallon also did end up adding a top defense prospect with the team’s second pick at No. 31 in Ian McCoshen.
That wraps up the teams who generated a lot of … wait, there is one more, of course.
For the second straight draft, general manager Mike Gillis was trying to trade the guy who spent the majority of the regular season as his No. 1 goaltender. This time, he succeeded. After months of trying to deal Roberto Luongo, Gillis reversed course and traded Schneider, sending him to the Devils for the ninth pick in the draft.
The Canucks added forward Bo Horvat, who will have plenty of extra pressure on him as the guy who Vancouver got with the pick for Schneider. It will be fascinating to see how the two recent goalie trades pan out. Who got the better return -- the Canucks, or the Los Angeles Kings for Jonathan Bernier? One elite prospect that might not be able to help right away, or two cost-effective role players and a future second-round pick?
Vancouver also added the sixth-ranked North American skater with the 24th pick in forward Hunter Shinkaruk, and then a well-known name in defenseman Jordan Subban -- P.K. and Malcom’s brother -- in round four.