With the Entry Draft beginning on Friday, the NHL Network has been airing episodes from its “All-Access” series. The programs have revolved around Entry Drafts from recent years. Just the other night, I watched the All Access show from the 2002 Draft.
It was fascinating. Viewers got to experience the draft from the perspective of the soon-to-be selected players and NHL General Managers. Lightning fans might remember that Tampa Bay did not select a player in the first round that year; instead, the Bolts traded the fourth overall pick to Philadelphia in exchange for Ruslan Fedotenko and a draft pick. The pick was then moved to Dallas for Brad Lukowich. Obviously, those two players played a major role in the Lightning’s ensuing success. Even though that deal was not one of the focal points of the show, my guess is that any Lightning fan who watched the program would not have been disappointed.
I liked seeing these first-round players from seven years ago. Now, most of them are regulars in the league, but in June of 2002, they were nervous teenagers, yet to make their mark in the league. Florida had the first pick, but traded the selection to Columbus and moved into the third slot. The Blue Jackets then chose Rick Nash. Atlanta took Kari Lehtonen second and the Panthers picked Jay Boewmeester third. Soon after, we witness a tender moment involving Scottie Upshall and his parents; Upshall notes that all the players picked are sitting next to their mothers, so he asks his father to switch spots with his mom. Then, when Nashville takes him with the sixth pick, we see him exchange a hug with his mom. Interestingly, Joffrey Lupul goes seventh to Anaheim – who would have imagined then that the sixth and seventh picks from ’02 would be teammates on a different club (Philadelphia) only five years later?
But even more intriguing was the coverage of the General Managers. Don Waddell of Atlanta is featured extensively. We see him in discussions with Doug McLean of Columbus and Rick Dudley of Florida before the draft, getting the low-down on the pending deal between those clubs. Later, he is in discussion with Buffalo about a potential trade for Slava Kozlov. There are concerns about Kozlov’s health, so we get a snapshot of how Atlanta’s fears are assuaged. (With hindsight now, of course, we know how well that deal worked out for the Thrashers, who only gave up a couple of draft picks to get a player who has been one of their most productive scorers). Then, at the end of the first round, Atlanta has its sights set on Michigan State freshman Jim Slater. Columbus owns the 30th pick, (which, interestingly, it got from Buffalo, which took it from Detroit as part of a Slava Kozlov/Dominic Hasek deal in 2001!) Waddell approaches McLean several times and Columbus seems willing to move the pick for other draft picks. Columbus is talking to another team as well so Waddell gives up several later picks, including the one he got from Buffalo earlier in the draft. Columbus finally agrees and the Thrashers use the pick to take Slater, who is now a regular with Atlanta.
The show also provides us with a glimpse of how GMs deal with one another. Naturally, each manager is attempting to make his team better, but there is a fraternal respect as they converse about potential trades. (This cordiality may not be universal, as evidenced by the Brian Burke – Kevin Lowe kerfuffle over the Dustin Penner signing in 2007!).
The shows continue to air throughout the week on the NHL Network. I would strongly encourage anyone who gets that channel to check it out!
Next week, I’ll review the 2009 Entry Draft. As always, if you have questions for me, please submit them to: email@example.com