It was unfortunate that we had so many technical issues over the Thanksgiving weekend, the one statistic of the draft that was daunting was that it took us well over four hours to get done. We had two less teams in the pool this year, but three more were drafting online and that was a little bit different, something that I would like to blame on the World Cup, if anything. It was the event that pushed the last Saturday before the start of the regular season to the long weekend. For shame, NHL!
Nevertheless, we still managed to have 25 teams join this year, which gave us 350 selections over the 14 rounds and we'll quickly have a look at where these players came from.
There were three teams that led the charge for the popularity contest, as the Flames, Penguins and Jets all had 14 players taken from them to start the year. The Jets were the most curious of the three, mostly because the Flames are usually quite popular (being as though the draft is done in Calgary), while the Penguins are the Stanley Cup winners and the champs are always popular. The Jets were not short on forwards being taken, they were the better of the three teams in that regard, having eight taken, while all three goalies for Winnipeg were taken as well. Ondrej Pavelec, Connor Hellebuyck and Michael Hutchinson were all scooped up and there is only one starting position there, which makes this one really interesting.
Seven more teams in the pool had 13 players taken from them and they were Buffalo, Colorado, Columbus, Edmonton, Florida, Long Island and New York, throwing fashion out there as a possible reason for excitement. These teams are rocking some good quality young players these days and after everyone climbed on the bandwagon of Team North America at the World Cup, it doesn't come as a big surprise that this is the direction we'd all want to take.
At the other end of the spectrum, the Vancouver Canucks were avoided, almost like they were the plague. With only eight players drafted, they were the least represented team at the draft. The Los Angeles Kings and New Jersey Devils, both known for their lack of offense last season, only had nine players taken in the draft this year. This likely means that all three teams will be well represented at the Week Eight Waiver Draft, since there will be more options from these teams to choose from.
One of the interesting points in this season's draft was that we didn't know what the mini-games were going to be until after the draft. Last season's popularity of the rookie pool still seemed to resonate or maybe it was that Team North America here again, but we saw 24 rookies taken in this year's pool, way up from the 13 we saw drafted last time around (which had two more teams drafting!). It was a bumper crop for freshmen, but there is no money in it this year.
We did, however, see the return of the PIM pool and in the draft, there were 18 players taken among the 350, that registered 75 minutes or more last season. To be fair, most of them were deemed pool worthy before the draft, while defensemen Radko Gudas and Adam Larsson were more fringe players in scoring, but they each carried loads of frequent sitter's points for the sin bin.
Starting goalies are generally very popular in this pool and rightfully so. The last few years have been somewhat dominated by the goalies and getting those fairly consistent starts can go a long ways to pumping regular points into your totals. 18 goalies were taken in the 1st round, 35 goalies were taken in the first four rounds altogether. 35 goalies meant that the draft was already into back-ups before some people were filling out top forwards... the madness!
The top defensemen didn't go nearly as early as I would have thought, as we didn't see Brent Burns go until the 2nd round and Erik Karlsson wasn't too far behind. Both players finished in the top 27 of scoring last year, which would have made them 1st round picks. Blueliners were spread out quite well in the following rounds, peaking at 11 selections in the... 11th round. Go figure.
How about the most popular teams in one round? One of the things that I was noticing at the draft, as it was going on, was that there were a few teams that got popular in the same round and those suspicions were indeed confirmed, looking at the figures. The Sabres, Avalanche, Canadiens and Jets all had a round in the draft, when they saw four players taken from their team in them. Winnipeg was the 4th round, Montreal was the 5th round, Colorado was the 11th round and Buffalo was in the 12th round. It was the "hey yeah, I want a guy from that team" syndrome.
This season feels about right with 25 teams... I think we're definitely in for a good one!