All 30 National Hockey League general managers and their scouting staffs, plus a bevy of draft-eligible players from around the world, are not the only ones in Montreal excited about the NHL Entry Draft which takes place this Friday and Saturday at the Bell Centre.
The people who live and work here in the host city of the 2009 draft are just as fired up as those whose careers will be defined, in part, by what takes place this weekend.
|The old Montreal Forum hosted the NHL Entry Draft a total of eight times, but the 2009 NHL Entry Draft is the very first for the Bell Centre, a hub of hockey activity that also hosted the NHL All-Star Game. |
From the cab driver who pontificates about whether or not the Islanders will choose John Tavares or Victor Hedman with the first overall selection, to the group of young men on a street corner arguing about what the Canadiens best plan of attack is at the draft table, to the waiter who wonders if the Maple Leafs will decide to trade the seventh overall pick, the citizens of Montreal are quite invested in this weekend’s action at their beloved Bell Centre
And let’s not forget about the autograph seekers who have staked out their positions outside the hotel where most team executives and draft hopefuls are lodging. No taxi can pull up to the hotel without being besieged by the autograph hounds, who quite often turn away unhappy when they deem no one of import is set to emerge from the cab.
The passion felt in this city for the NHL, and for the entire sport of hockey, is unmatched. It is part of what makes Montreal the perfect city to host an event such as the draft, which has been held here more times than in any other city but is back for the first time in 17 years.
Other cities in the National Hockey League have done credible jobs in hosting the draft in previous years, but none are fueled by the passion of the fans in Montreal. Specifically these fans in Montreal -- and more generally, hockey fans throughout Canada -- know more about the draft prospects than many members of media who have traveled here to cover the big event.
Fans in the States can liken this knowledge to what U.S. football and basketball fans know about the prospects heading into the drafts of those respective sports. The NFL is more likely the better comparison since its draft lasts several rounds like the NHL draft, whereas the NBA concludes its draft in two rounds.
Nonetheless, the excitement is building in Montreal, and that includes the Rangers who own the 19th overall selection in the first round. Similar to last year’s draft when they used the 20th overall pick on defenseman Michael Del Zotto
, the Rangers will see many top players come off the board before they get the opportunity to make a selection.
Rangers President and General Manager Glen Sather and his staff, headed by Director of Player Personnel Gordie Clark, have drafted defensemen Marc Staal
, Bobby Sanguinetti, and Del Zotto with three of their last four first-round selections, so the Rangers might be looking for a solid forward this time around. The 2009 draft pool is much deeper at forward than at the defense or goaltender positions.
Two players with ties to the Rangers are expected to be chosen within the first two rounds of this year’s draft. Right-wing Landon Ferraro, son of former Rangers center Ray Ferraro, scored 37 goals this past season for Red Deer in the Western Hockey League. And defenseman Tim Erixon
, son of ex-Rangers forward Jan Erixon, is a solid two-way player who was a member of Sweden’s entry in the 2009 World Junior Championships.
Draft day is always a special day for those involved. This year, it just seems as though there are many more people involved, which is a tribute to the host city and its passion for the game.