NHL Draft night in Minnesota turned into Hockey Night in Canada.
It all started with the Winnipeg franchise announcing its nickname would be the one all the fans back in Manitoba hoped for, the Jets. Then Edmonton had the first selection again and picked up a superstar in the making in Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
Between the seven teams that now call Canada home, there were 11 selections made in Friday night's first round. That included two for Edmonton, three from Ottawa and two from Toronto. Those are some quick ways to rebuilding in a top-heavy draft.
Then among the teams with only one pick, Montreal had to be pretty pleased with its outcome. Waiting patiently at No. 17, talented two-way defenseman Nathan Beaulieu -- expected by many to go in the top 10 of the draft -- fell all the way to them. Taking the podium to a chorus of boos -- the only low moment on a night of great moments -- the Habs snatched up the defenseman who plays his junior hockey in Quebec.
We even had a bit of an old-fashioned Alberta battle between Calgary and Edmonton, who were apparently both fighting to get Ryan Smyth from the Kings. While the trade wasn't ever made official on the night, it looks like the Oilers won, getting back a player who spent much of his career in the orange and blue.
Yes, it was a good night north of the border.
Ottawa Senators: Sens GM Bryan Murray was very busy, entering the night with two first-round picks and making it three without sacrificing anybody on his current roster. In their three picks, he selected an entire line, going center then two wings. It's a good start to a rare rebuilding process in Ottawa, something that we haven't really seen since the organization was born.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Brian Burke was his old usual self, dealing on draft day. He got it started before the draft by acquiring defenseman John-Michael Liles from the Avalanche in exchange for a second-round selection. Then he improved his draft position in a draft-pick swap with Anaheim to grab a very physical power forward in Tyler Biggs. But the best move of the night was getting Liles, a good puck-moving defenseman.
Chicago Blackhawks: If for no other reason than finally unloading the albatross of a contract that is Brian Campbell. Wouldn't you know it, they found a willing partner in the man that originally signed Campbell to the massive deal, Dale Tallon in Florida. The Panthers have a ridiculous amount of cap space, so the burden isn't heavy and the Blackhawks don't get much in return (Rostislav Olesz, who makes more than $3 million per year despite a career high of 14 goals in one season). Then they picked up two forward prospects with high character. Not a bad day's work.
Minnesota Wild: I wasn't in love with their first selection in Jonas Brodin, a good defenseman from Sweden, but that's because I felt they needed to add more offense. Then they made a deal with San Jose and brought in immediate help with Devin Setoguchi and a first-round talent in Charlie Coyle as well as another pick in this year's first round, which they used on center Zack Phillips from Saint John in the QMJHL with great passing ability. And they were the host. So, kudos Minnesota.
San Jose Sharks: So they not only traded out of the first round, but sent Setoguchi packing along with their first-round pick from last season? Sure, they got an excellent defenseman in return, but they essentially traded three first-round picks for Brent Burns and a second-round selection. They obviously saw a need to bolster the blue line, but the move seems a bit excessive.
Phoenix Coyotes: This is a team for which you have to wonder how much longer the window can stay open -- perhaps it closes a bit with Ilya Bryzgalov gone -- so then they drafted a player with some injury questions who projects as a long-term prospect? The selection leaves something to be desired for me.
Pittsburgh Penguins: They had the chance at a few very solid forward prospects when they came to the podium at pick No. 23, but instead elected to take a defenseman who isn't necessarily a guy who figures to be able to command the power play, something the Penguins were lacking last season. It wasn't the worst of nights, but I thought an offensive guy would have been the better fit.
-- Brian Stubits