Everybody knows the NHL Entry Draft—quietly the most exciting draft in all of pro sports—is tonight (7 p.m., Versus), unless it isn't, but I'm pretty sure it is.
Here's why you should be watching:
1) The TSN feed! When ESPN had hockey rights, they had to pretend that they cared about the draft as much as all the other drafts, and they sent their own crew. But now hockey belongs to Versus, which is content to carry the broadcast from TSN—that's Canadian for "ESPN"—as-is. So we see the same things Canada sees, with Darren Dreger, Pierre McGuire, Bob McKenzie (no relation), and James Duthie gracing our television sets, funny accents and all. They crack Alexandre Daigle jokes! And maybe Patrik Stefan jokes, too, which is as good an excuse as any to show this clip.
2) Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the presumed first overall selection in tonight's draft, has a chance to become the second-best athlete ever with a hyphenated last name. (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar seems unlikely to be unseated from the top spot.) Maurice Jones-Drew is the consensus runner-up at this point, with Shareef Abdur-Rahim not too far behind, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Mike Sims-Walker, and Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf bunched up after that. Edmonton owns the top pick for the second consecutive year, but last year's No. 1, Taylor Hall wasn't even a finalist for the Calder Trophy (rookie of the year). And Nugent-Hopkins, a raw center, could end up in Florida with Jones-Drew, according to The Hockey News, if Edmonton decides to move down and select a defenseman.
3) But that's not all that's intriguing western Canada: the Flames are reportedly exploring a trade for Los Angeles' Ryan Smyth. Smyth, the gritty golden boy of Banff, played for ages on mediocre Oilers teams, made a Cup run in 2006, and then was sent to Long Island, with tears streaming down his ruddy cheeks. His exile carried him on to Colorado, which flipped him to Los Angeles. Now he's asked for a trade. In recent hours, per Sportsnet's Nick Kypreos, we've learned that Smyth has not yet waived his no-trade clause to head to Calgary. Smyth wants to go back to Edmonton, and the Oilers might be interested. Edmonton or Calgary would not swap a high pick for Smyth. He's 35 and paid too much next year. The Kings' young bunch—Anze Kopitar, Dustins Brown and Penner, Jack Johnson and Drew Doughty, now including Mike Richards, with Jonathan Quick in net—has little use for a slow forward at a $6.5 million cap hit. And even more breaking news: Calgary's Robyn Regehr will not waive his no-trade clause to go to Buffalo, which means Calgary might be out of the Smyth sweepstakes, for now.
Wait, that wasn't interesting, was it? OK, don't count that one:
3) Watch the draft so you can see the Stanley Cup champion Bruins tighten their grasp around the league's gullet. They have a top ten pick, thanks to the wretched Phil Kessel trade in 2009, which also gave Boston Tyler Seguin second overall last year. Word is, the Bruins are all over Ryan Murphy of the Kitchener Rangers, because he's a puck-moving defenseman and/or because Boston fans might just buy jerseys that say "Murphy."
4) That's only part of the trading frenzy that dominates the draft. The best players to get traded during last night's NBA Draft were cranky, aging swingmen Corey Maggette and Stephen Jackson. Whereas elite hockey players—Jay Bouwmeester in 2009, for one—often get moved during the draft. Yes, Philly couldn't even wait for the draft to give us two holy-shit trades yesterday, but do not despair, because...
5) NHL GMs can be crazy! This is a photo of Glen Sather, the New York Rangers' GM. You don't think that guy could swing a profoundly reckless trade? What about Jay Feaster? Most all of these fellows got their jobs after years of body-checking and undiagnosed cerebrospinal damage, which is to say that they've done risky things before, and will do them again. That Mike Milbury special, Zdeno Chara and Jason Spezza for Alexei Yashin: yes, please!
6) Canadian town names. Nugent-Hopkins plays for Red Deer. And he's the first overall pick. You'll hear Kamloops, Kootenay, Medicine Hat, and, hell, you've already read Banff. Banff!
7) Gary Bettman getting booed. This is what it looks and sounds like, every year. They'll be particularly loud in Minnesota, we imagine. How dare you take away the fucking NorthStars? We could have had Modano's prime! And instead you've stuck us with Mikko Koivu and the older Niklas Bäckström.
8) Pretty ladies. Some folks have squealed over the lovely young Eastern European eye candy of the NBA draft. Well, think about a draft in which more of the players come from Eastern Europe. And aren't quite as genetically freaky. And you have Swedes! You know? Swedes! Plus the Canadians tend to do well. Carrie Underwood!