Taylor Hall, Emerson Etem, Erik Gudbranson, Jack Campbell, Mark Pysyk, bottom row (L-R) Cam Fowler, Tyler Seguin, Brandon Gormley, and Brett Connolly pose together during NHL top prospect media availibilty prior to the start of the 2010 NHL Draft outside Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.
Photograph by: Jeff Gross, Getty Images
LOS ANGELES — The City of Angels hasn’t seen anything like this since, well, last week when the Los Angeles Lakers won basketball’s greatest title.
Thousands of screaming fans gathered in front of the Staples Center Thursday on the eve of the National Hockey League entry draft.
Chick Hearn Court was closed to traffic, except stretch limousines carrying young stars.
There were television cameras and 1,000 flash bulbs, and a long and winding red carpet policed by a army of security staff.
It was pure Hollywood, which is actually a few kilometres north.
And when Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin, whose selection in the first two spots of Friday night’s draft will launch them towards hockey fame and fortune, took their places in the parade of stars, nobody noticed.
Because almost everyone was there to see the pretty actors from The Twilight Saga, the movie mega-franchise that began milking its latest cash cow with the world premiere of Eclipse at the Nokia Theatre.
“We’re going to be walking down the red carpet — five gangly Canadian kids — and they’re not even going to know who we are,” Hall predicted before a handful of hockey’s top prospects attended the premiere.
“There’ll be some cute chicks there, so it will be fun. I have no idea what Twilight is.”
Spoken like an 18-year-old. Some of the chicks were nearly as old as Hall.
If only they knew who he was — or is going to become.
Hall, a left-winger from Kingston, Ont., said he loves having the draft in Los Angeles because it has allowed him to get away from all the pressure associated with hockey and the draft.
He and Seguin — first and second or second and first Friday night — briefly became anonymous.
Now, they know how it felt this season for Prince George winger Brett Connolly and Windsor defenceman Cam Fowler and Ottawa blueliner Erik Gudbranson and at least a dozen prospects that have NHL general managers salivating.
To a lot of people on the outside, they’re all racing to finish third in a two-man race.
“It kind of seems like that’s how it is,” Fowler admitted. “You just try to be the best you can be, the highest pick you can be. When a team picks you, it’s going to be because it’s the right fit and the right situation. You just have to wait for that moment.”
Connolly, who finished third in NHL Central Scouting’s final North American rankings and is expected to be the first British Columbian drafted, said he felt overlooked at times.
“A little bit,” he said. “Obviously, Taylor and Tyler deserved what they got this year. They’ve had exceptional junior careers. But for us, flying under the radar is good, too. We’re going to be someone’s first-round pick. It definitely took a lot off your shoulders.”
But being third in a draft headlined by two supposed superstars can add some baggage later on.
The last time two players so dominated the leadup to a draft, in 2004, defenceman Cam Barker was the first guy at the bottom of the cliff, chosen third after Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin.
The Chicago Blackhawks traded Barker after three seasons.
In 2001, after a yearlong debate about who would go No. 1, Ilya Kovalchuk was chosen ahead of Jason Spezza.
Alex Svitov went third to Tampa — “Svitov: Russian for dog,” former coach John Tortorella said famously — and has been out of the NHL for three seasons.
Who will go third behind Hall and Seguin?
Maybe the unlucky guy who wasn’t able to go fourth or fifth.
“Being from Edmonton, all I’ve heard about is Tyler and Taylor,” seventh-ranked defenceman Mark Pysyk said. “I don’t mind that. It will be a little more calm and quiet for myself. It’s like when Sidney Crosby was going (first overall in 2005), you didn’t really realize who was going second that year. And sure enough, he is a great player now.”
Bobby Ryan went second to Anaheim that year and has become one of the game’s best young wingers. Crosby turned out, too.
“As much as we’re proud of our rankings, you don’t have to be ranked to play in the NHL,” Central Scouting director E.J. McGuire said. “It’s how these kids will play for years and years that’s important.”
McGuire doesn’t believe 2010 will be remembered as a two-man draft.
He said this is an especially deep and balanced group of prospects. It’s so deep and balanced that Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson was shopping the fourth pick on Thursday, apparently because he believes he can get the player he covets in the middle of the first round.
Similarly, Canucks general manager Mike Gillis is believed to have been plumbing the market for his 25th pick because he could move down to the second round, still get a player he wants and add another pick or player in the transaction.
“The third and fourth round has players that are going to play in the league,” McGuire predicted.
The third pick will play, too.
He had better.
© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun