Welcome to Deadspin's first and likely last annual NHL Draft Diary. Follow along with due reverence for the most thrilling pageant in all of sport.
7:00—Our first graphic: "TSN: Canada's Sports Leader." Where are we, again? My cable box says Versus, but everything's coming up maple!
7:00—Here's a gaggle of white dudes, young and old—allegedly some of hockey's top prospects and their handlers—in discount suits, walking toward something. The voice over the tape—it belongs to TSN's James Duthie—tells us that we are in St. Paul, Minnesota, and that this was at 3:50 Central Time, this afternoon. Let me submit that this is possibly the least dramatic piece of film TSN could have chosen to begin the draft. This, or a compilation of tenth-ranked defenseman Oscar Klefbom's best form checks.
7:01—TSN's Duthie, over the reel, just uttered the phrase "about to find out," with deliberately Canadian intonations. Translation: "Ha, you Americans are stuck with the Canadian draft feed." Fuck you, Duthie.
7:01—"It's the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, on TSN!" Oh, shove it.
7:01—Let's talk about Ryan Nugent-Hopkins for a second, the guy projected to go number one overall in this draft. He plays a big role in this melodramatic package of brief player interviews TSN's airing. More specifically, let's talk about how he looks. He doesn't look like a hockey player yet—we understand, he's 18. But my, my, he has the most sinister, ill earned smirk on his face in so many photos, the kind of expression that says, Why yes, my father did repossess your home last week! We want to ask him which frat he's pledging at Dartmouth, not which team he wants to join. The lesson, as always: Facial hair helps.
7:02—The NHL definitely has the highest percentage of gray- and white-haired GMs of any major sports league. (It is a major sports league, right?) I'm not sure what this means, except perhaps that hockey is the last sport without a Theo Epstein type. The GMs are old, by and large, and almost all played professional hockey. (Consider: there are former number four, number five, and number six overall picks running teams. The NBA has Larry Bird and a bunch of scrubs.) Those who didn't play are still mostly descended from hockey types.
7:03—Split screen showing two of the league's most raucous draft parties: Edmonton and Winnipeg. We get it, TSN, you own the continent! Hooray for you. We expect the next shot to be a natural gas pipeline in the Northwest Territories.
7:04—Duthie finally says hello to those of us watching on Versus, then he mentions folks tuning in from "Scandinavia, the Czech Republic, and Russia." He says, "I will be seamlessly and fluently alternating between those languages throughout the night." He wins the point for the deadpan humor, but loses two for another "out." We hate you, Duthie.
7:04—He just said "throughout" again. Thankfully, he didn't say "again," because they pronounce that like "a gain." Regardless, do shot. While I was typing this, he said it again. Another shot, but of Labatt. Otherwise you'll die.
7:05—Duthie throws us to reporter Darren Dreger, who tells us Edmonton and Los Angeles are "real close" on a Ryan Smyth trade. Make a note of that moment. Dreger also shows us a list of TSN's Trade Block, which is barren: we've got Robyn Regehr (who was already dealt, pending a no-trade), Smyth, Ales Hemsky, Brent Burns, and Cory Schneider. Oh, come on, just throw Luongo on there.
7:06—Another "throughout" from Duthie. Water down your Labatt. It's gonna be a long night. But the Dreger bit allows us to see more of the scene at the Xcel Energy Center, and here we stumble upon some of the NHL Draft's genius—every team's full war room is down at ice level. The other drafts are long-distance affairs, where teams phone in their picks (or have token representatives deliver them). Here, anyone in an NHL front office is around. A GM can walk over to chat with a scout he knew from his playing days, and, soon enough, we could get a baffling trade. This is how it works in theory.
7:07— Another "throughout."
7:08— Duthie cuts to the set upstairs: Gord Miller anchoring, with Pierre McGuire and Bob McKenzie as analysts. McKenzie says the Oilers are all over Nugent-Hopkins. McGuire—we thought he was too busy annoying us on playoff broadcasts to study up on the draft—says Sweden's Adam Larsson is the best defenseman in the draft since Drew Doughty in 2008. It sounds like bullshit, but then we realize that Victor Hedman is soft as flan.
7:09— Some guy named Ryan Rishaug is interviewing Nugent-Hopkins. TSN: Your home for one white fella named Ryan from western Canada with gelled hair and a silly pattern on his blue tie interviewing another white fella named Ryan from western Canada with gelled hair and a silly pattern on his blue tie.
7:10— Thankfully, American commercials.
7:13— Wait, no! A promo for "The Extra Yard: Inside the 2011 Argos" snuck in. Well, all right then.
7:14— The Edmonton draft party looks like it was coerced into chanting "Nugent-Hopkins Number One!" Also, it looks like it's taking place inside a Bennigan's. Do they have those in Canada?
7:15— Impressive warmup booing of Colin Campbell, before he pays tribute to late NHL scouting VP E.J. McGuire, who passed away this year. E.J. had a great mustache, which is prominently featured in this montage's photos.
7:16— Please welcome E.J. McGuire's family: his wife, Terry, his daughters Jacqueline and Erin, and the commissioner of the NHL, Mr. Gary Bettman. Oh, this is fucking unbelievable. Why attend the draft but to heckle Bettman mercilessly? And yet he comes to the podium with two adorable ten-year-old girls who just lost their father to cancer? Some brave souls still give him hell while the girls stand there, nonplussed.
7:20— Someone brings out a step stool so the girls can reach the microphone to tell us that Edmonton's on the clock. Bettman better give them all the candy they want after that human shield mission.
7:21— Gord says "throughout."
7:22— Taylor Hall, last year's first overall pick, is in Edmonton's retinue to announce the selection. Is this punishment for leading the team to another last-place finish?
7:23— Nugent-Hopkins is the pick. We now see that his jacket has purple lining. "Emotionally, 18 going on 35," McKenzie tells us, which really doesn't sound like a compliment.
7:25— Steve Tambellini, the Oilers' GM, says that Nugent-Hopkins "possested" some elite skills. Duthie then tells Tambellini they just got word that the Smyth deal is done, and asks what Tambellini has to say. Tambellini says it's not done, and he would know. Awks, Duthie!
7:28— Dreger's reporting the trade as done on the floor, for Brule and a fourth. Tread lightly, sir.
7:30— McKenzie says Colorado really likes the "grit, character, and intangibles" of Gabriel Landeskog. Does that mean that grit and character are tangible? What intangibles are left? His aura?
7:31— Landeskog is the pick. His listed comparable is Brenden Morrow. Why can't everyone just come out and say that he doesn't score that much? Landeskog is still hugging people after a minute of his highlight reel, too. That entourage will be trouble on the notorious streets of Denver. This ain't Kitchener, buddy.
7:32— McKenzie: "The question on him is whether he has elite-level skill. He's got all these great intangibles." Hell of a number two.
7:32— And the camera's cut out, just as they're telling stories of how Landeskog stared down a bunch of Canadians once (he's Swedish). Expect #gabriellandeskogfacts to trend, oh, nowhere.
7:33— Duthie, to Landeskog: "You made the decision to leave Sweden and come play major junior hockey, here in Canada." Last I checked, you're in St. Paul, Minnesota, you smarmy bastard.
7:34— Oh, and for the record, Landeskog speaks better English than Nugent-Hopkins, who's failing out of grade 12 English. So, Canada, please keep tooting your own horn.
7:35— Duthie: "We're through two picks, four picks away from the next Canadian team." Really? Hope you get hit with one of those curling stones.
7:39— Florida's pick is Jonathan Huberdeau, from the Saint John Sea Dogs. TSN cuts to one grizzled old man, in the rafters, holding up a Sea Dogs flag. How'd he cross the border?
7:43— Florida's GM just called Huberdeau "Justin" before correcting himself. Yes, this GM's hair is quite white!
7:45— Huberdeau shrugged at least ten times during his minute and change with Duthie. Either it's a tic, or he's physically quite folksy.
7:47— Devils take Adam Larsson and his New Wave hair. Pierre McGuire immediately calls it the steal of the draft even though Larsson's listed comparable is Sami Salo. Then McGuire tells us that the Devils need defense because they have lost Scott Stevens and Ken Daneyko to retirement, and Brian Rafalski and Scott Niedermayer to free agency. Daneyko retired in 2003, Stevens in 2004; Niedermayer left in 2004 and Rafalski in 2007. Pierre McGuire has not watched a Devils game since 2003.
7:53— The Islanders contingent takes the dais. They—like that other drafting morass formerly of Long Island, the New York Jets—used to provide us with reliable draft comedy, usually some wretched trade. But in recent years they've made some nice picks (John Tavares, Kyle Okposo) and are now just another mediocre franchise owned by an insufferable asshole.
7:54— Isles GM Garth Snow: "I'd like to say hello to our fans, all 10,000 of ‘em, at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum." Ha! We'd believe it if he said the Islanders only had ten thousand fans, total. But that's not what he said. The Islanders averaged 11,059 fans per game this season—67.9 percent of capacity. You're telling us almost all of them showed up for the draft party? Newsday says there were 4,000. We'll assume they meant 400.
7:55— Bob McKenzie tells us that Ryan Strome, the Islanders' pick, was once traded from the Barrie Colts to the Niagara Ice Dogs. I have no way of knowing if those are real things.
7:58— Dougie Hamilton was just mentioned twice in the last minute or so. He is apparently a teammate of Strome's on the ConAgra Mice Frogs, or whatever. We cannot wait until ESPN finally gets hockey rights back in 10 years, so we can hear a nearly senile Berman call him "Teach Me How To."
7:58— It just popped up on my Facebook newsfeed that a friend had become friends with Tie Domi's daughter. This is the most important hockey news of the night.
7:59— Ottawa selects, from Djurgarden, Mika Zibanejad. None of that was English. His TSN comparable is Bobby Holik, and he had nine points in 26 games this year.
8:00— Hopefully Mika will be able to get out of his Morning Joe contract.
8:09— Winnipeg is on the clock! Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff thanks all the new Jets fans who made it "out to Minneapolis." St. Paul crowd boos.
8:10— Winnipeg takes Mark Schiefle, which prompts McKenzie to note, "It's not a ridiculous reach, though I will tell you: a year ago, no one associated with scouting in the National Hockey League had any idea who Mark Schiefle was. A year ago, he was a seventh-round pick of the Saginaw Spirit of the Ontario Hockey League…. He thought, maybe I'll go to Cornell University instead." This describes the thought process of literally everyone who attends Cornell.
8:13— Schiefle appears in his Duthie interview wearing a black jersey with the NHL logo on it. Duthie says "logistical problems" prevented them from getting a Jets jersey, and they'll have one in a few minutes. The Bettman era in a nutshell.
8:14— Schiefle is the first player who cannot stop smiling. This is either great or horrible for Winnipeg. Cheveldayoff says they've done their "due diligence" on Schiefle. He'll celebrate the three-week anniversary of his hiring at GM on Wednesday!
8:15— Surprised we haven't heard from Dreger.
8:21— At number eight, the Flyers pick Sean Couturier, the only player to really fall a bit so far. He had back-to-back 96-point seasons for the Drummondville Voltigeurs (really), so it only makes sense that he'd get picked after two players whose top comparables are Bobby Holik and Patrick Sharp. Ugh, Philly. They do this.
8:25— The Bruins got Dougie, whose parents were both Olympians and whose GPA was a 94/100. If he isn't this thing's Jimmer, I don't know who is.
8:34— Hometown Wild take Jonas Brodin out of Sweden—he's 6' 1", 169, and McKenzie notes repeatedly that he has "no physical presence whatsoever." This seems as good a time as any to point out that Miguel Tejada is 5' 9", 220.
8:37— Ryan Rishaug now interviewing Ryan Murphy. Difference from earlier Ryan-on-Ryan action: this Ryan has a purple tie, and is from eastern Canada.
8:39— Colorado makes its second pick of the draft, Duncan Siemens from the Saskatoon Blades. (My name for my shoulders.) His listed comparable is Bryan Allen. But wait! Bryan Allen was selected fourth overall in 1998! Don't cry, Denver. Everybody loses.
8:48— They just showed highlights from Ryan Murphy—Carolina's new pick at number 12—playing at age ten. He skated through a lot of people. He played like a dick then.
8:52— The Flames just drafted someone named Sven Bartschi, who's Swiss and plays for a team in Portland, Oregon. Which means—still no Americans. You can almost see Duthie's jingo-boner under the desk.
8:52— Wait, where the hell is Dreger?
8:53— Bettman announces the Dallas Stars—once upon a time the Minnesota NorthStars—are on the clock. Crowd boos. They don't forget.
8:59— "The hashtag TSN has been trending across Canada," Duthie tells us. It's number ten on the list. One through nine are the Tragically Hip.
9:00— Dallas takes Jamie Oleksiak, out of Northeastern. (It's the hockey school in Boston that isn't good.) Gord: "Is this the first American picked? Or is he?" McKenzie: "Oh, this is a tricky one. Jamie Oleksiak was born in Toronto, raised in Toronto, has a father who's from Buffalo, he has dual citizenship, he played for Team USA in the under-18 tournament, he played and tried out for Team USA in Buffalo last year, and he's now eligible to play for Team USA or Team Canada. He hasn't made a decision, and won't until the draft's over." This Decision will air on a ham radio station somewhere in the Yukon.
9:06— The Rangers are on the clock. Aaron Boogaard, brother of dear departed Rangers and Wild goon Derek Boogaard, makes the pick, to a standing O and Boos—good ones—from Wild fans: J.T. Miller, out of something called the US National Team Development Program. Sounds delightfully Soviet. But he's the first real American picked!