Wayne Gretzky was telling his television interviewer that there was a lot more talk than he had seen at a draft in a long time.
|The Blue Jackets take a shot with Russian Nikita Filatov, who gets a positive rating from scouts. (Getty Images)|
Of course, there was no surprise in the Tampa Bay Lightning using the first overall pick on the consensus best player, Steven Stamkos, or how the top 10 rounded out essentially along the rankings that top league scouting services had created. But the number of deal that went down -- 13 in all -- was a bit over the top.
Funny thing is that only one team gave up a first-round choice, which says a lot about how good this crop really was. That's our view of the first stage of the draft. Here are a few others.
News: Defensemen dominate the draft.
Views: Championship teams tends to inspire copy cats, so after the Red Wings won the Stanley Cup with a team built around a great group of defensemen, it was a given that blue liners would be in demand at this draft. Besides, everyone craves skilled defensemen and they are the most difficult commodity to acquire. "The way the game is going now, those are the kinds of players you have to have," said Ottawa Senators GM Bryan Murray, who traded up a couple of spots to get a Swedish one named Erik Karlsson. The old adage is that you draft the best player available at the moment. And in this year's draft, there was a gold mine along the blue line, which is why 10 of the first 20 picks and 12 of all the first-rounders were defensemen.
News: Little guys are getting bigger in today's game.
Views: If you are still wondering whether the NHL is headed in the right direction when it comes to emphasizing skill, this draft seems to be pretty revealing. What it tells you is that more teams are coming to terms with the notion that it isn't only size that matters any more. There's definitely a place for skilled little guys in this game as the Martin St. Louises and Brian Rafalskis of the world will tell you. Seven teams underlined that by drafting players who would be described as small, all of them well under six feet tall and under 190 pounds.
News: Panthers score big in Olli Jokinen trade.
Views: The Panthers failed to get the first-round pick they wanted for their former team captain, at least in this year's draft. But Florida actually did pretty well for itself by getting Phoenix defensemen Nick Boynton and Keith Ballard, who were first-round picks in recent seasons and have already established themselves in the NHL. And maybe more important, it gives the Panthers some important depth along the blue line should they lose Jay Bouwmeester next month to an offer sheet. Jokinen was the Panthers' best player and the face of the franchise for at least the last couple of years, and he'll impact the Coyotes in a big way. But everyone knew he was going to be moved, so exacting this kind of return for him was a neat trick by Panthers GM Jacques Martin.
News: Canadiens make big splash without a pick.
Views: It usually takes a few years for the real impact of a draft class to become clear, but Montreal should reap some immediate benefits even though it traded away its first-round choice. That would have been No. 25, but the Canadiens sent the pick to Calgary for Alex Tanguay, a gifted offensive forward who could flourish even more playing in his home province for the first time in his career. But Montreal made even bigger news earlier in the day when it acquired negotiating rights from archrival Toronto to captain Mats Sundin. That's kind of like the Yankees letting the Red Sox talk to Derek Jeter, although if Montreal does sign Sundin before free agency begins next in July, the Leafs will get some compensation. They're not getting Sundin back under any circumstances, and there is a chance the veteran could retire. But he still has something to give at age 38 and adding him, along with Tanguay, to one of the league's top offenses, will give the Canadiens something special next season.
News: Columbus drafts Nikita Filatov
Views: This was the most intriguing pick of the first round because while Filatov was rated extremely highly by scouts, there is always the question about his accessibility. Without a transfer agreement between the NHL and the Russian Hockey Federation, there have been concerns among teams about drafting players that may not come over to North America in recent seasons, a major risk when it comes to using a first-round pick. That the biggest reason Alex Cherepanov, a top five type, dropped all the way to 17th last season. But Filatov might be more talented, speaks English relatively well and has expressed a desire to play in the NHL as soon as possible. It's still a gamble for the Blue Jackets, but one that seems to have the odds on their side.