CHICAGO — Welcome to Hockey Christmas.
The first round of the NHL Draft is always a spectacle, moreso on TV than in the arena, just because of the requisite breaks for commercials and the like that interrupt the flow of the selections, not to mention dragging the event out to a seemingly interminable length.
But for 31 players who have trained the majority of their lives for this moment, the bellyaching of jaded sportswriters working on deadline won’t come anywhere near overcoming the euphoria that comes with going up on stage, shaking Gary Bettman’s hand, and putting on an NHL jersey for the first time.
Peter and I are live at United Center tonight and we’ll have updates throughout the night. Keep it here for live picks, as well as thoughts on the Canes’ pick - if they don’t trade it. (dramatic piano chord)
One thing to note: on the draft floor, we will almost always be the last to hear a trade officially announced. We’ll probably be able to update Twitter @CanesCntrySBN faster than we’ll be able to do any analysis here, but if the Canes do make a trade, we’ll have it totally covered.
And here we go! The New Jersey Devils are on the clock starting at 7:00.
Draftt Order (updated after every pick)
1. New Jersey Devils - Nico Hischier, C, Halifax (QMJHL)
2. Philadelphia Flyers - Nolan Patrick, C, Brandon (WHL)
3. Dallas Stars - Miro Heiskanen, D, HIFK (Finland)
4. Colorado Avalanche - Cale Makar, D, (AJHL)
5. Vancouver Canucks - Elias Pettersson, C, Timra (Sweden)
6. Vegas Golden Knights - Cody Glass, C, Portland (WHL)
7. New York Rangers (from Arizona Coyotes) - Lias Andersson, C, HV71 (Sweden)
8. Buffalo Sabres - Casey Mittelstadt, C, Eden Prairie HS (Minnesota)
9. Detroit Red Wings - Michael Rasmussen, C, Tri-City (WHL)
10. Florida Panthers - Owen Tippett, LW, Mississauga (OHL)
11. Los Angeles Kings - Gabriel Vilardi, C, Windsor (OHL)
12. Carolina Hurricanes - Martin Necas, C, Brno (Czech Republic)
13. Vegas Golden Knights (from Winnipeg Jets) - Nick Suzuki, C, Owen Sound (OHL)
14. Tampa Bay Lightning - Callan Foote, D, Kelowna (WHL)
15. Vegas Golden Knights (from New York Islanders) - Erik Brannstrom, D, HV71 (Sweden)
16. Calgary Flames - Juuso Valimaki, D, Tri-City (WHL)
17. Toronto Maple Leafs - Timothy Liljegren, D, Rogle (Sweden)
18. Boston Bruins - Urho Vaakanainen, D, JYP (Finland)
19. San Jose Sharks - Josh Norris, C, USA U-18 NTDP
20. St. Louis Blues - Robert Thomas, C, London (OHL)
21. New York Rangers - Filip Chytil, C, Zlin (Czech Republic)
22. Edmonton Oilers - Kailer Yamamoto, C, Spokane (WHL)
23. Arizona Coyotes (from Minnesota Wild) - Pierre-Olivier Joseph, D, Charlottetown (QMJHL)
24. Winnipeg Jets (from Columbus Blue Jackets via Vegas Golden Knights) - Kristian Vesalainen, LW, Frolunda (Sweden)
25. Montreal Canadiens - Ryan Poehling, C, St. Cloud State (NCHC)
26. Dallas Stars (from Chicago Blackhawks) - Jake Oettinger, G, Boston University (Hockey East)
27. Philadelphia Flyers (from Washington Capitals via St. Louis Blues) - Morgan Frost, C, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
28. Ottawa Senators - Shane Bowers, C, Waterloo (USHL)
29. Chicago Blackhawks (from Anaheim Ducks via Dallas Stars) - Henri Jokiharju, D, Portland (WHL)
30. Nashville Predators - Eeli Tolvanen, RW, Sioux City (USHL)
31. St. Louis Blues (via Pittsburgh Penguins) - Klim Kostin, C, Dynamo Moscow (Russia)
5:40 p.m.: Not bad digs here.
6:40 p.m.: We did a Facebook Live earlier. It was not very good. Nevertheless, here it is:
Draft Pregame LivePosted by Canes Country on Friday, June 23, 2017
6:45 p.m.: Jim Gregory might be the unsung hero of the NHL Draft. The 81-year-old former NHL general manager mans the podium for everything that Gary Bettman doesn’t handle. And for the umpteenth year in a row, he’s handling the roll call of teams. Surprising: The Blackhawks are popular here, the Red Wings are not.
6:50 p.m.: “In just a few moments, Mr. Gary Bett...” BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO
6:55 p.m.: They’ve never done the anthems at the draft in the past. But this is Chicago, so they are this year. And it’s spectacular.
7:10 p.m.: Gary Bettman has no problem trolling the crowd, and this may have been his best troll job ever. Reesponding to the boos that are de rigeur every time he approaches a microphone, Bettman called the crowd out directly, saying “you can do better than that.” The crowd ate it up. At this point, booing Bettman has become the equivalent of wrestling fans going “what?” at Steve Austin fifteen years ago. It’s taken on a life of its own.
Meanwhile...Nico or Nolan? We’re about to find out.
7:15 p.m.: Give the win to Nico Hischier. The Halifax center is the first pick of the draft, headed to the New Jersey Devils.
7:25 p.m.: After the Flyers took Nolan Patrick #asexpected, the intrigue began - but it didn’t last long, at least for the third pick. The Stars kept the pick and took Miro Heiskanen, in a bit of a surprise.
7:35 p.m.: Four picks in, and after the top two forwards went as expected, the next two picks were defensemen: Cale Makar went fourth to the Avalanche. This plays right into the Canes’ hands, with defensemen coming off the board early and presumably a better selection of forwards available when the twelfth pick rolls around.
7:50 p.m.: Lias Andersson to the Rangers. There’s the first big surprise of the night. This is shaping up really nicely for the Canes, who could well see the likes of Suzuki or Rasmussen fall to them. (Or...gasp...Vilardi?)
8:00 p.m.: Surprise no. 2: Michael Rasmussen is off the board to the Red Wings. Suzuki and Vilardi are both still on the board. Canes will have a good shot at one of them.
8:05 p.m.: Dale Tallon, Panthers GM who built a Stanley Cup champion in Chicago, gets a very warm homecoming as he goes up to pick Owen Tippett. The Canes will have a shot at one of the centers who are falling down the board. This is shaping up perfectly for Ron Francis, who if he takes a defenseman now may need to put on the Groucho Marx glasses for the trip back to Raleigh.
8:10 p.m.: The Kings take Vilardi. Canes are on the clock with Suzuki, Necas and Vesalainen still on the board.
8:18 p.m.: It’s Necas. Little bit of a surprise, but only a little bit.
9:09 p.m.: OK, we’re back. Went downstairs to talk with Necas, who is small but you can tell has a lot of room to grow and fill out. He said that the Canes had showed an interest in him, but he wasn’t sure if they were going to take him. If you haven’t read Peter’s story, head that way now. Kevin will also have a scouting analysis up later tonight.
9:25 p.m.: Things have gone a little sideways here lately (Filip Chytil at 19! Robert Thomas at 20! Vesalainen falling to 24!) but the Canes, who have the 11th pick of the second round (42nd overall), won’t complain. They have at least a decent chance of grabbing another one of those second-round gems at that point.
9:40 p.m.: This is a surprise: an actual trade involving actual players! St. Louis trades the 27th pick, Jori Lehtera and a conditional first rounder in 2018 to the Flyers for Brayden Schenn. That seems like a whole lot for Brayden Schenn, in my #analysis, even taking into account the fact that the Blues dumped Lehtera’s salary.
10:05 p.m.: Jim Rutherford traded out of the first round, and the St. Louis Blues make the final selection of the evening. Now, off to see Ron Francis and Tony MacDonald, and then to get some food. Back at it tomorrow.