Basketball season just ended. Hockey season wrapped up a week ago. NFL preseason games seem far, far away. Euro 2012 happens during the daytime. I bet you think it's baseball or bust for night sports. But you'd be wrong, because the NHL Draft is coming, live from Pittsburgh. I'm not certain when, but I think it's tonight.
1. Roberto Luongo trade scenarios. The league's best! Canada's best! Not as good as Cory Schneider! A choker! Twitter jokester! Bobby Lu is all things to all men, and probably expendable in Vancouver. And who wouldn't want a goaltending upgrade? That means trades. And trades mean draft action. OK, to be fair, Luongo almost certainly isn't getting traded tonight. His contract runs until the 2021-22 season, and I imagine two-thirds of the NHL's owners plan on being fully bankrupt by then. Even the rich ones' accountants have all gone to fish on the Bay of Quinte until September, and they don't dock until well after sundown. There's too much finagling to have the deal done before James Duthie signs off tonight. But the embedded reporters will do their best to tease us all the way through the broadcast. And then Alex Tanguay will get traded for, like, Rostislav Klesla, and we'll say to our bored terrier, who's drooling next to us on the loveseat, "Well, the night wasn't a total waste, now was it?"
2. Rick Nash trade scenarios. Nash doesn't have a ridiculous contract like Luongo's—his runs only until 2017-18. But he has a ridiculous GM: Scott Howson's asking price for Nash is "four or five major pieces." Howson won't find a trade partner until he lowers his demands, and he's held steady since winter. But perhaps there's reason to expect a breakthrough. Howson got fleeced for Sergei Bobrovsky this morning, and perhaps he's just willing to go down in a pre-draft blaze of glory. Nash to the Rangers for Wade Redden! Nash to Philly for Jody Shelley! Maybe Howson can even work out a four-teamer with the Ducks that will give the Rangers Nash, the Flyers Bobby Ryan, and the Jackets can get BOTH Shelley and Redden.
3. The draft board. The NFL draft doesn't have a big board in the room where it takes place. Fine. The MLB and NBA drafts have them. But theirs are ugly. Ug-ly. The MLB board is all old-timey manual-scoreboard green and off-white, as though we can't discern that the draft happens in a studio in Secaucus lined with fake bricks. And the NBA's typeface is just too difficult to read. But the NHL board is beautiful. It looks—if not sounds—like the old Solari departure boards. White-on-black. All caps. Bold type. Just like a train board, it tells you where you're headed. Beautiful.
CORRECTION: Steve Lepore, who is on the scene, tells us that the NHL has done away with the old style of board and replaced it with some sort of LED thing. That means there are only five reasons to watch.
4. Nail Yakupov. He's almost certainly gonna be the first pick (Edmonton holds it, for the third straight year), but he's far more interesting than the Oilers' two prairie potatoes, Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. For starters, he left Russia—where, naturally, he played for something called Reaktor Nizhnekamsk—to play Canadian major junior hockey. That means he's Don Cherry-approved! But it gets murkier. Yakupov himself said he wouldn't be another Russian stiff:
"I'm Muslim, I'm not Russian. If you [ask] what happens with the Russian factor, it's [Nikolai Zherdev's] life and I have my life.
You see, Yakupov's Tatar. Tatars live within Russia, but they're not ethnically Russian. (I took a college class a few years back called "Introduction to Peoples and Cultures of Eurasia," and that's about all I can tell you about the Tatars. No, that's not true. I can also tell you that Charles Bronson was of Tatar ancestry. And who doesn't love Charles Bronson? If you have a chance to watch Death Wish instead of the NHL draft, do that.) But Yakupov shouldn't have felt so trapped by that dumb question. Nik Zherdev was not that bad. Here is a four-minute-plus highlight reel of him doing things. He was good at scoring goals (although, eh, not much else), and Yakupov will be too. Also, his name is Nail. Sure, it's not pronounced like that thing you hit with a hammer, but it beats, like, Alexei. It'd be the best name of the top-ranked skaters if not for Sweden's Hampus Lindholm.
5. Gary Bettman getting booed. I've gotta Jonah Lehrer myself here, but there's no greater treat than watching wise hockey fans give the poor bastard hell. The Yinzers'll do it right tonight, and we need that, since Kings fans didn't heckle him last week. Like every year, Bettman will soldier on with the worst timing imaginable, as though he's deaf or giving a taped performance.