NEWARK, NJ – The 2013 NHL Draft started with a surprise that set the stage for the rest of the first round. General Manager Lou Lamoriello of the New Jersey Devils traded away his early first round pick to the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for goalie Corey Schneider. That move stunned many in attendance and many in the hockey world. Devils netminder Martin Brodeur has been number one in New Jersey for years and the entry of Schneider into the mix will make for an interesting year in Newark. Though Brodeur has been the consummate team and franchise player and Schneider will benefit from his tutelage in the 2013-14 season.
But it was the Colorado Avalanche that got the day started off when they opted away from consensus number one pick, Seth Jones, and opted for Nathan McKinnon. Jones ended his going to the Nashville Predators.
McKinnon was shocked at his selection at the number one position Sunday.
“This is unbelievable. I’ve dreamed about this moment for the majority of my life and for it to finally come true and to be part of an organization like this is definitely surreal,” McKinnon said of the moment he was selected.
For McKinnon, having his family with him meant a great deal to share the excitement. Asked his first reaction to the announcement of his name at number one by Joe Sakic McKinnon said he “blacked out” but leaned on his family and his father.
“My family, my dad. It’s so nice that the first person I got to hug was him, along with my mom and sister. I’m so fortunate that I had such a great family growing up, and I wouldn’t be here without them. It’s so nice that they’re here in New Jersey celebrating this with me.”
He was asked during the press conference is ability to step into the Av’s lineup.
“Absolutely. What I want to do for an NHL team, I want to try to elevate it as much as I can. They have already so many talented players, and it’s flattering that they wanted me to come help,” McKinnon said. “It’s to win a Stanley Cup as soon as we can. Like Patrick said, I’ve been following it. The team is going to be a Stanley Cup mentality, and that’s what we’ll work for from day one.”
Alexsander Barkov was selected second overall and is now headed to the Florida Panthers in Sunrise. His selection in the second slot was as surprising as McKinnon because of Jones remaining on the table. Barkov was equally stunned in his presser. He was perhaps too stunned to be surprised.
“I don’t know, but I’m very excited and happy to be a part of the Florida Panthers,” Barkov said.
Barkov at least had some hint of the Panthers’ interest prior to the draft day.
“Yeah, they told me yesterday (Saturday) that they are very interested in me and they maybe will pick me. Now they take me, and I’m very happy,” Barkov said.
Barkov comes to the NHL with some considerable experience playing in elite level hockey in Finland. The question will be his ability to adjust to the NHL schedule and style of play but regardless, Florida’s Dale Talon tapped an experienced player.
“Yeah, I played already two years against men in the Finnish Elite League, very good league and very good players, and I think it helps me very much,” Barkov said echoing a comment on his experience playing with and against older more experienced players.
The Tampa Bay Lightning selected third Sunday and opted for Jonathan Drouin who talked about being nervous as his name was called and the time leading up to the Bolts’ selection.
“Yeah, obviously I was a little nervous going there, and to be selected with Tampa Bay, that’s probably the team I wanted to go in the beginning, and obviously I’m really honored to be going there,” Drouin said.
“Obviously I’m sitting there nervous and sweating and everything, and when you hear your name, all is over, no more sweating, and obviously Tampa is the team I wanted to go, and I’m really happy about that,” Drouin continued.
Drouin also made sure to credit his junior development in Halifax.
“Yeah, it’s obviously great. Halifax knows how to develop players, and it’s going to show a lot of obviously young prospects that want to go there, and yeah, give a lot of credit to Mooseheads,” Drouin said.
Drouin’s hockey sense and vision of the ice are among the assets he cited as reasons for being selected third.
“I’m a play maker. My biggest asset is probably my vision. I see a lot of things that people maybe really don’t see, and I think I’m a character guy. I’m not only a skilled forward. I like to go into the corners and make checks a little bit,” Drouin said of moving to the Lightning.
Each of the first three picks in the draft was surprised and rightfully so. Seth Jones was first in our mock draft and slid to the fourth position in Nashville. His slide to fourth opened the door for three teams to select to their need and the players’ strengths.
Now the real work begins as training ramps up and prospect camps open leading to training camps this Fall.