UPDATE: Avalanche centre Matt Duchene tweets that he’s learned that the last pick of tonight’s draft wins a car. Duchene is more than willing to accept the consolation prize.EARLIER: Tonight the NHL will host its inaugural All-Star Fantasy Draft as the league attempts to inject excitement into a weekend that has grown very stale.
There has certainly been increased interest among hockey fans and countless fans and media have posted mock drafts on the Internet trying to speculate how tonight will shape up.
We know some key bits of information already. Eric Staal and Nicklas Lidstrom are the captains, Sidney Crosby and a host of others have withdrawn from the weekend, and the captains can’t wait until the end of the draft to pick defensemen — they must be chosen by the end of round 15.
So what other burning questions will be answered during the draft?
- Will Eric Staal pick his brother? Originally, Marc said that he doesn’t want to be on Eric’s team because the elder Staal is “too mouthy”. Eric didn’t sound like he was originally planning on selecting his brother, but he has since revealed that there’s been some pressure from his mother to take his sibling. It sounds like the two will be on the same team, but it could be very amusing if Lidstrom swoops in to take Marc early.
- Who will be the first pick? The obvious top choice, Crosby, is no longer an option. In past years Alex Ovechkin would have been the unanimous pick, but he’s having an off year and right now Steven Stamkos is the best goal scorer in the land. Stamkos seems like the wise pick, but Eric Staal has made it clear that he wants Cam Ward and is probably going to have to take Marc Staal, while Nicklas Lidstrom may want a fellow Swede. There’s sure to be plenty of intrigue at the top and the first pick will give us an idea of how seriously the captains are taking the draft and how the rest of the night will progress.
- Who will be the last pick? The NHL gave plenty of thought as to whether a “Mr. Irrelevant” final choice was a good idea, but at the urge of the players, there will be a last pick. Patrik Elias, David Backes, Jeff Skinner, and Martin Havlat seem like the most logical candidates, but since we don’t know how the captains will pick, anyone could be last. As the only rookie and youngest All-Star ever, Skinner might normally be the victim of his youth, but since he’s a member of the hometown Hurricanes, that might not be the case. It will be interesting to see how the overlooked player, whoever it is, handles the embarrassment.
- How seriously will the captains take this? The fans’ ultimate hope is that this draft will provide a glimpse at which players are the most highly regarded by their peers. But will the captains actually draft that way or will they take their buddies, their teammates, and their countrymen?
- Will there be any trades or other weird twists? Nobody had really considered the possibility until this week when Eric Staal said he’ll make every effort to get teammate Cam Ward and might have to “figure something out as far as making a trade.” Staal probably said that half-jokingly, but if Lidstrom and Staal started wheeling and dealing things could get really interesting tonight.
- What impact will the alternate captains have? Staal will be joined by Ryan Kesler and Mike Green while Lidstrom will be flanked by Martin St. Louis and Patrick Kane. Will the three-man draft teams have visible disagreements over who should be chosen?
- How will the TV broadcast go? At this point we know the general rules of how the draft will be conducted, but we have no idea how it will play out on TV. Will there be a podium and a draft board like the real draft? Will players be called on stage to don their teams’ jerseys? Will the players show up to the drafts in suits or in their original teams’ jerseys? Visually we have no clue how the draft will translate on TV, but it’s up to Versus and the NHL to make this compelling.
- Will people actually watch? Hockey fans are split between two camps: the, ‘Wow this is going to be awesome, the NHL really has a great idea” group, and the, ‘I’ve heard enough about this draft for a lifetime, I can’t wait for it to be over,’ gang. Die hard hockey fans will probably watch the draft, but it’s difficult to say what the TV ratings will be like.
The draft will be televised tonight on Versus at 8:00 p.m.
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