The results are in, and we now know (a little) better who'll go where in July. Who won the first overall selection? Will they use it on Stamkos?
Five teams entered this evening with a shot at #1: the St. Louis Blues, New York Islanders, Atlanta Thrashers, Los Angeles Kings and Tampa Bay Lighting. However, every team had a chance to win the lottery. Although Tampa had the best odds statistically, the first decade of the 2000s had never seen the last-place team retain first overall.
That changed today.
1. Tampa Bay Lightning
Dave Andreychuk said it all. Literally. When asked if he felt Steve Stamkos could be the new member of the 'Big 3', the former garbage man couldn't wait for James Duthie to finish his sentence before answering.
Tampa will take: Duh. The only worry for poolies next year is that Stamkos isn't a winger, and thus will have to learn the NHL game by himself if he makes the team. This could of course change with some nice free agent additions, but...
2. Los Angeles Kings
'Lucky Luc' couldn't come through today. However, I've long said it's the best thing for the Kings if they don't take Stamkos. The team is purely loaded up front, and while the Greek God would've been a welcome addition, LA needs franchise talent on the backend. They have plenty of choices at #2.
LA will take: D Drew Doughty. In the past five years, the Kings have traded for a nasty, physical blueliner (JJ) and drafted a smooth skater with offense on his mind (Hickey). They have the opportunity to take a player who has both.
3. Atlanta Thrashers
From a pure fantasy standpoint, Atlanta was the best place Stamkos could've possibly gone; he'd have been a shoe-in on a line with Ilya Kovalchuk. Now, however, the Thrashers must target their other big weakness: a franchise blueliner.
Atlanta will take: D Alex Pietrangelo. Pietrangelo is a clone of Atlanta's ROTY, Tobias Enstrom. The pair would be a formidable force up both ends of the ice.
4. St. Louis Blues
A franchise forward would've been great, but the Blues have always been a team built on the strength of an outstanding D. Erik Johnson has been compared to Chris Pronger, so why not pick up someone who shows shades of Al MacInnis?
St. Louis will take: D Luke Schenn. In contrast to EJ- and Pronger- who both play with tremendous passion and force, Schenn is a calming presence. He may not have AlMac's offensive prowess, but that'll come with time.
5. New York Islanders
Stamkos and Okposo would've been nice. But when your best blueliner is Radek Martinek, a potential #1 D is more of a priority. Okposo, Mike Comrie, Bill Guerin, Ruslan Fedotenko and Jeff Tambellini can hold the fort for now; a hometown boy at the position they need most just happens to be available.
NYI will take: D Zach Bogosian. A monster shooter and hitter with a visible passion for the game, Bogosian is fun as all heck to watch. He'll need to tone it down and learn to pick his spots, but the New York native can be a top pairing blueliner.
6. Columbus Blue Jackets
No Stamkos, but that's okay; the Jackets have invested a lot of picks in forwards, drafting Nik Zherdev, Gilbert Brule, Derick Brassard and Jakub Voracek since taking Rick Nash 1st in '02. Columbus just misses out on the four big names on D, but there's an even bigger name still on the board, and I'm not talking just hype...
Columbus will take: D Tyler Myers. A 6'7, 230 lbs rearguard with great skating ability, Myers is considered a project due to his relative softness and still-growing offensive game. Ken Hitchcock has done an admirable job in Columbus building a responsible 1-6 unit, getting more out of less than anyone. They can wait for Myers and his potential big impact.
7. Toronto Maple Leafs
Heartbreak again in the Centre of the Universe. They never stood a chance at Stamkos to begin with, but Leafs Nation won't let that get in the way. While they deem Stamkos wishing to play in T.O. every year until he's 40, fans will have an elite offensive talent to cheer on. Nikita Filatov, Mikkel Boedker and Cody Hodgson would all still be available if five defenders make up the top six, but only one can be a Leaf. It may be...
Toronto will take: I'm going to flipflop on this every day until Draft Day, but for now I'll go with C Cody Hodgson. While the Leafs won't get Stamkos, they can Stamkos-lite. Born 11 days later, with 20 less points and 18 less goals, Hodgson was even a teammate of Stamkos' in minor hockey. He's a potential #1 C, something Toronto needs in spades.
8. Phoenix Coyotes
The Yotes had no chance at Stamkos, but they're probably still mad they lost the lottery. An extra forward will make a core of Turris, Mueller, Hanzal and MacLean even deadlier, but a bluechip blueliner would have completed the Royal Flush.
Phoenix will take: LW Nikita Filatov. One of the few teams who don't mind messing with Russians, the Coyotes have a chance at the second-most purely talented player in the whole Draft. Filatov-Turris-Hydrant. Hanzal-Mueller-Doan. Oww-Oww-Oww.
9. Nashville Predators (from Fla)
The last centre the Nashville Predators drafted was wayyy back in 1998, their very first Draft. With Tomas Vokoun failing to bring the Panthers to the playoffs- let alone the promised land- the Preds, owners of Florida's first, now have an opportunity to make that deficit history. The team prides itself on tough players, drafting Scott Hartnell, Scott Upshall, Ryan Parent, Dan Hamhuis and Blake Geoffrion. However, Jon Blum and Alex Radulov were two picks who went against the current, and the Preds have a chance to go either way.
Nashville will take: C Colin Wilson. The Boston University standout and Drury clone is a perfect fit for the Preds. A faceoff demon and two-way standout, Wilson can score clutch goals with the best release in the '08 draft class.
10. Vancouver Canucks
It was the battle of two schools of thought: the Canucks, strong from the net out, looked Northwest Division favorites. The run-and-gun Edmonton Oilers were favorites to sweep the basement. Seven months later, the young Oilers rocketed up the standings in a late-season playoff drive while the Canucks couldn't buy a win. Markus Naslund's departure leaves a big gap on the left side. Thankfully, two of the top forward prospects in the Draft play that position, and one is left here.
Vancouver will take: LW Mikkel Boedker. A super-fast skater with fine hands and technical skill, Boedker is the definition of a flashy, high-octane forward. He's no Taylor Pyatt, but he'll do on the left side of the Sedins.
11. Chicago Blackhawks
Speaking of young run-and-gun teams who pushed for playoff spots, the Chicago Blackhawks almost made it in on the back of some huge wins over the Detroit Red Wings. Unbelievably deep up front, the Hawks have the resources to gamble. A rushing blueliner is a primary need in Chi-town, and an under-the-radar prospect happens to play a game similar to a former Blackhawks superstar.
Chicago will take: D Aaron Ness. Named 2008 Mr. Hockey as the best player in Minnesota high school hockey, the 5'9 Ness is a blistering skater and great, great thinker. A Phil Housley clone in every way, the compact blueliner may need four years to bulk up- but that's what we thought about Pat Kane.
12. Anaheim Ducks (from Edmonton)
My next Haha! of the day goes to Anaheim- or rather their fans. In fact, a lot of fans predicted the Oil would give the Duck a top-ten pick. They didn't, but it may not matter. The guy Burke may really like has enough question marks to drop him into their grasp.
Anaheim will take: C/RW Kyle Beach. A below-average skater but above-average pain-in-the-ass, Beach is the prototypical Burke player. However, there's a slight chance the Ducks select a blueliner. Niedermayer, Pronger and Schneider are the best 1-3 group in the league, but for how much longer? The team doesn't have the horses in the pipeline to replace them, and as a contender, they may not pick this high for a long, long time.
13. Buffalo Sabres
It's been a bad year in Buffalo. From inconsistent goaltending to a soft D to an up-an-down offense, life post-Drury and Briere has been nothing short of difficult. While re-jigging everywhere is required, one common theme stands out: team toughness.
Buffalo will take: Zach Bogosian would have been picture-perfect, and could still happen pending a trade. The next best thing is D Colten Teubert. The mammoth, mean rearguard took a hit on my list and others throughout the year after he couldn't put the puck into the ocean off the end of a pier. However, February and March has seen Teubert's offense Spring forth (boo! hiss!). After collecting 11 points all year, the 6'4 terror had 12 over his final 17 games and has five points in six playoff contests.
14. Carolina Hurricanes
My, how the champs have fallen. From the Cup to the cusp in two years, the Canes had to compete with age, injury and bad goaltending enroute to a final-day ousting by the Washington Capitals. The team has no major holes, save for no franchise presence on D- but they've won it all without one.
Carolina will take: D Colby Robak. The Canes may not need- or get- an All-Star, but they could use a swift-skating defender who can move the puck. Brandon Wheat King Robak is Bouwmeester-lite- all 6'3, 195 lbs of him. Carolina's scouts have likely seen him; three of their five picks in 2007 were from the Dub.