Editor's note: Arda Ocal, an Emmy award nominated broadcaster and the voice of the NHL Gaming World Championship, will be covering the 2019 NHL Gaming World Championship for NHL.com. Here is his story about the three regional drafts:
Connor McDavid was selected No. 1 in all three regional drafts for the 2019 NHL Gaming World Championship.
In Stockholm, the Edmonton Oilers center will wear San Jose Sharks teal.
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The next week in Toronto, the hometown star will join the Montreal Canadiens.
Days later in Stamford, Connecticut, McDavid will suit up in Pittsburgh Penguins back and gold.
Speaking of the Penguins, Sidney Crosby's 'C' will be sewn above a Tampa Bay Lightning bolt, while Lightning captain Steven Stamkos dangles in the Detroit Red Wings' Red and White. Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin will don a Toronto Maple Leafs logo on his chest, and Auston Matthews will Storm Surge with a "Bunch of Jerks" in a Carolina Hurricanes sweater.
These are just some of the sights you will see at the regional finals.
After weeks of study and strategy (maybe even some strategery), all 24 competitors have selected their rosters. The European, Canadian and American regional drafts are complete.
For a refresher on the Regional Draft, read my full breakdownhere.
The snake style draft was conducted virtually behind closed doors through the app Discord. Competitors had unlimited time to make their picks each round (according to the competitors spoken to for this story, nobody abused that privilege). Each draft took around 2-3 hours to complete from first pick to last.
"The draft was cool, I liked how everyone had strategies going into it," said Harley 'Sitful' Sitko, a Canadian Regional finalist.
In the early rounds, many competitors were most concerned about picking higher overall players and focusing on getting skaters with specific skill sets and correct handed shots in the lineup. Many in preferred having wings on their off hand to better set up one-timers.
"(Victor) Hedman and (Taylor) Hall were really the two top priorities for me, and I got both," said Jeremie 'Thalup34535' Dube. "Hedman is amazing overall, 6-foot-6, amazing shape. Hall has been the best left handed (shooter) I felt after McDavid."
New Jersey Devils general manager Ray Shero has often discussed the importance of planning for every round, including the late stages of the NHL Draft, saying there is a Hockey Hall of Famer chosen outside the first round in every draft. In the NHLGWC regional draft, there were diamonds in the rough to be found in the later rounds.
"I was kinda surprised how late you could get great (defensemen)," said Paul "Pleemaker" Arontie, who placed third in the 2018 NHLGWC European Regional Finals.
"I somehow got 92 (Drew) Doughty with the 15th pick, which I did not expect but (it) really helps my team all around," said Matthew "YungGren" Grenier, a 2018 NHLGWC Grand Finalist who this season also won the Minnesota Wild and Maple Leafs NHL 19 tournaments.
One strategy that blossomed in the final rounds was competitors drafting players that completed synergies, giving certain players a boost in attributes.
"In the 22nd round, I noticed I had one player missing from completing a synergy, so I took (Lightning center Anthony) Cirelli, who had it," said Erik "Eki" Tammenpaa, the 2018 NHLGWC champion.
Winnipeg Jets center Mark Scheifele, Ottawa Senators wing Mark Stone and Boston Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy were already on Eki's roster, with the "Hammer Time (HT)" synergy attributed to each player. The minimum number of players needed on your roster to activate this synergy boost was four, so by selecting Cirelli (who is also "HT" attributed) the synergy is triggered. As a result, all 4 "HT" players receive a boost of plus-2 in body checking, slapshot power and strength.
Though a couple of the competitors mentioned they might do one or two things different if they had a chance to do the draft again, the overall feeling is that they're pleased with their rosters. Each competitor has had their fully drafted GWC roster loaded into their account, so that they have time to make tweaks and adjustments to their lines going into the respective finals.
Each competitor also selected an NHL team logo to have on their sweaters during game play. Most picked their favorite NHL team, and others based it on how much they liked the logo or color scheme.
For fans watching the tournament, it might be jarring at first to see familiar faces in completely different threads including Maple Leafs favorite Mitchell Marner, who will wear the bleu blanc et rouge of the Habs in both the European and Canadian finals. The GWC version of the "Bunch of Jerks" include Jamie Benn (Dallas Stars), Nicklas Backstrom (Capitals) and even David Pastrnak, whose Bruins are playing the Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference Final of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Eki's players will be donning the blue and white of the Maple Leafs, but hockey fans in the United States will certainly appreciate seeing Matthews, Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel and McAvoy playing on the same roster. It will be fascinating to watch these rosters in action, just like it was for the competitors to assemble them.
First up are the European Regional Finals, which will air live on Twitch from Stockholm, Sweden on May 18.
European Draft results and rosters.
Canadian Draft results and rosters.
American Draft results and rosters.