-- The first NHL Entry Draft held in Los Angeles produced more twists and turns than a Hollywood murder mystery.
While there never was a doubt who the first two picks would be -- the only question was the order -- a number of picks after that were major surprises.
"Once it got past the first three (picks), I think, and Ryan Johansen went at four, and then it was all over the place," one GM said.
The Edmonton Oilers settled the Tyler vs. Taylor debate with the first pick, taking Windsor Spitfires left wing Taylor Hall with the No. 1 choice.
"We felt like with Taylor, if you look at his resume of playing with the best team and being the best player, back-to-back Memorial Cup MVP's, prominent in the World Junior tournament, prominent on his own team for his entire junior career," General Manager Steve Tambellini told TSN. "I haven't met a more competitive player than this young man."
With the second pick, the Boston Bruins were just as happy to take Plymouth Whalers center Tyler Seguin.
"He's a terrific player, he's got a terrific skill set," Boston GM Peter Chiarelli said. "He's still growing. His improvement has been tremendous over one year to the next to the next. Very smart, terrific hockey sense, vision, good stick, very underrated wrist shot. He's got the whole package."
There was a bit of a delay in the Bruins' contingent reaching the podium, leading to rumors of a trade, but Chiarelli said he never received a solid offer.
"Not after I spoke (to reporters) earlier today," he said. "To the point where we picked the pick, there was nothing."
At No. 3, the Florida Panthers selected 6-foot-4, 195-pound Kingston Frontenacs defenseman Erik Gudbranson. Panthers GM Dale Tallon said Gudbranson's combination of character, size, skill and toughness is the blueprint for the type of player he wants in Florida.
"His character is impeccable," Tallon said. "His size, and he's tough as nails. Good skills. He's captain material. He's really that solid of a citizen. ... We want to make it tougher to play in Florida than it has been in the past. Teams have come to Florida on a little bit of a break and come out of there with two easy points. That's not going to happen any more and this is a start."
Tallon had the same plan in mind when he made two other picks -- 6-4 Blaine (Minn.) High School center Nick Bjugstad at No. 19, and 6-2 Moose Jaw Warriors center Quinton Howden at No. 25. They moved down from No. 15 to 19 in a deal with Los Angeles to get Bjugstad, and consummated a trade with Vancouver that saw them send Keith Ballard and Victor Oreskovich for a package that included the 25th selection.
"We're going big and fast," Tallon said. "That's what we did in the Windy City and we'll try to do it in Florida. That's what the blueprint is."
After the Panthers selected Gudbranson, the Blue Jackets made the surprise choice of Johansen, a rangy, 6-foot-2 center from the Portland Winterhawks. He was the No. 10-rated skater in NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters.
"We are very pleased to add Ryan to our organization," Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson said. "He is a center with size and hockey sense. He had a strong rookie season with the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League. We are excited to add a player of his talent to our organization and believe he will become a solid NHL player in the not-too-distant future."
At No. 5, the New York Islanders picked Johansen's teammate, right wing Nino Niederreiter. He became the highest-drafted Swiss-born player ever, surpassing Michel Riesen, who had been taken at No. 14 by Edmonton in the 1997 Entry Draft.
In his first draft, Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman selected Prince George Cougars right wing Brett Connolly at No. 6, followed by Kitchener Rangers center Jeff Skinner going to Carolina at No. 7; Barrie Colts center Alexander Burmistrov went eighth to the Atlanta Thrashers; the Minnesota Wild chose Finnish center Mikael Granlund, Central Scouting's top-rated European skater, at No. 9; and the New York Rangers chose Moose Jaw defenseman Dylan McIlrath at No. 10.
The Dallas Stars took the first goalie of the draft, U.S. National Team star Jack Campbell at No. 11.
A pair of defensemen expected to go in the top six, Cam Fowler and Brandon Gormley, then went back-to-back. The Anaheim Ducks took Fowler from the Windsor Spitfires at No. 12, followed by the Phoenix Coyotes selecting Gormley from the Moncton Wildcats at No. 13. They were ranked fifth and sixth, respectively, in Central Scouting's final rankings.
"We had Gormley very high on our draft list and didn't really pay a ton of attention to him, because we thought he'd be gone in the top five or six picks," Coyotes GM Don Maloney said. "As soon as we saw him sliding ... as soon as he was at 10, I started hitting the phones very hard. I was offering our second-round pick to move up and grab him, and we liked Fowler as well. We were really surprised and I think a lot of people were surprised. ... We're thrilled. He (Gormley) should be on the Canadian national junior team, he's been a leader on his team, he's played Memorial Cup. That, for us, was found money."
St. Louis chose Tri-City (USHL) forward Jaden Schwartz at No. 14. The Kings jumped into the Panthers' spot at No. 15 to take U.S. National Team defenseman Derek Forbort. The St. Louis Blues dealt defenseman David Rundblad, last year's first-round pick, to the Ottawa Senators to secure the 16th pick and draft Russian forward Vladimir Tarasenko. Colorado chose Owen Sound Attack forward Joey Hishon at No. 17, and Nashville drafted Peterborough Petes center Austin Watson at No. 18.
After Florida chose Bjugstad at No. 19, the Pittsburgh Penguins made Gardena, Calif., native Beau Bennett, a forward with the Penticton Vees (BCHL) the highest drafted California-born player ever.
Notre Dame center Riley Sheahan went No. 21 to the Detroit Red Wings; Montreal traded with Phoenix for the No. 22 spot, where they took U.S. National Team defenseman Jarred Tinordi. Buffalo took Edmonton Oil Kings defenseman Mark Pysyk at No. 23, followed by Nobles School (Mass.) forward Kevin Hayes
to the Blackhawks at No. 24.
Howden went 25th to Florida, followed by Russian forward Evgeny Kuznetsov at No. 26 to Washington. Phoenix took the second goalie, Niagara's Mark Visentin, at No. 27, which they got from Montreal, and then San Jose took South Shore (EJHL) forward Charlie Coyle.
Anaheim looked in its own backyard at No. 29, picking Long Beach native Emerson Etem, a forward with the Medicine Hat Tigers.
"I couldn't have picked a better fit," Etem, No. 8 on Central Scouting's list, told NHL.com. "The Anaheim Ducks' organization presents me with so many opportunities here, not only growing the game of California hockey but also helping them out. I think I have so much to bring to this organization, they value so much my game. I'm just so happy to be here."
The New York Islanders traded a pair of second-round picks to the Blackhawks for the No. 30 pick, where they took Warroad (Minn.) High School center Brock Nelson, a 6-3, 205-pound center who will play at the University of North Dakota next season.
Those moves left a number of highly regarded players on the board for Day 2 of the draft, among them Sudbury Wolves center John McFarland, Ottawa 67s center Tyler Toffoli, Minnesota State center Tyler Pitlick and Seattle Thunderbirds goaltender Calvin Pickard, the top-rated North American goalie in the draft.Contact Adam Kimelman at email@example.com
Author: Adam Kimelman | NHL.com Staff Writer