Sunday, June 27, 2010

Top Four

Here are 4 things I took away from the 2010 NHL Entry Draft:

4. Tyler Seguin is a class act:

As I stood outside of the California Pizza Kitchen food stand on day two of the draft enjoying a hot cheese pizza, a crowd emerged around a young kid wearing a suit. At that point I had encountered many young prospects wearing suits but few had drawn a crowd such as this young gentleman. Sure enough it was Tyler Seguin signing autographs for each fan that approached him. After crowd #1 got their autographs, crowd #2 spotted the number two pick overall and made their way toward him. Seguin apologetically asked if he could get some food then come be back to sign autographs while he walked toward the same CPK food stand where I was chowing down. He turned away from the crowd and muttered "Jesus Chri#t" but not out of frustration -- more out of being overwhelmed at the attention. I smiled and said, "must be fun being on top, congratulations." He replied, "yeah, no kidding. Thank you."After Seguin got his pizza he walked by me again and said, "well, I got to get back out there."I smiled again, "have fun and good luck next season." And back he went signing more autographs and taking pictures with fan. I was impressed with his poise and patience with all the attention.

3. North America Rules:

As the World Junior Championship and the Olympic games would dictate, North American hockey players dominated the draft with 99 Canadians and 59 Americans selected. The 59 Americans included a record 11 in the first round and 22 total in the first two rounds. It was particularly exciting for me, being a California hockey native, that Beau Bennett and Emerson Etem were both selected in the first round numbers 20th and 29th respectively. This feat is proof that NHL expansion into non-traditional hockey markets has worked, and that California is producing great hockey players.

2. Not being selected on the first day is saddening to most:

For a hockey player like myself, just thinking that having your name called in any of the 7 rounds by an NHL GM would be a lifetime achievement and tremendous honor. But to many of the top ranked prospects, not having their names called in the first round was both disappointing and saddening. Still overwhelmed by the first round spectacle I witnessed, when I returned to the hotel, I must have seen at least a dozen prospects walk into the hotel with their heads hung low and a look of disappointment on their faces. It hit me that their goal is not just to be drafted but to one day play in the NHL. Many of these players do not have much to fall back on if they do not make it to the show and their chances of making it to the NHL diminish with each passing round.

1. Kirill's plummet was no surprise to me:

On the morning of Round 1, I was in the hotel lobby seeing all the prospects hanging with their families -- I saw Taylor Hall walk through a few times, broadcaster Dave Amber was setting up in the bar for an interview with Tyler Seguin, and I saw a skinny Russian kid in a cut-off and shorts all tattooed and acting cocky. It dawned on me that he was Kirill Kabanov, the troublesome Russian with top 10 skill but  off-ice issues that saw him go through several agents, kicked off the Russian World Junior team, and removed from his QMJHL team this season. Coming back to the hotel that evening without wearing a jersey and hat from an NHL team should have been humbling for the 17 year old, but I overheard him tell a gentleman in the lobby that he would for sure hear his name called early on Saturday morning. Well, it was a good thing he did not get picked until Round 3 because he may not have even been in the building had he been selected early in Round 2. The draft resumed Saturday morning at 10 am pt and at about 9:51 I was 2/3 of the way from the hotel to the Staples Center when I spotted Kirill Kabanov. Not being in his seat less than 10 minutes before the draft resumed was probably not a good thing, but to make matters worse was that he was running back towards the hotel! I don't know why he was going back but what I witnessed speaks to his character which was a deciding factor for teams to take a pass on selecting him.

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