The NHL’s first All-Star Fantasy Draft seemed to be a pretty big hit among the players and fans, but it wasn’t perfect. Here we break down the good, the bad, and the things we’d change next year.The Good
- The intro was pretty well done. The allure of this event was that it brought the players and fans back to their youths when captains picked their teammates on the playground to make teams. Versus showed that concept briefly and then had a montage of a few different players making their cases for being picked. It wasn’t too long or overly dramatic, but it set the stage well.
- The set looked pretty cool. The captains had their podiums, similar to the real NHL entry draft, while the players were seated behind a mock-boards set up. It was a good way to get each player some face-time and allow fans to analyse how each team was shaping up. It was also pretty cool that the players actually put on their teams’ jerseys once they were drafted.
- The captains certainly looked like they were having a good time with the whole thing, and there were definitely some nerves among the undrafted players. The whole thing wasn’t overly serious, but the players were definitely uneasy about being later picks.
- The mic’d up players added a unique element to the show. Getting to see the captains debating who to pick and seeing the players’ reactions was a good way to add a human element.
- Alex Ovechkin taking a picture of the last pick, Phil Kessel, on his camera phone. Obviously no one wanted the embarrassment of being the last pick, and Kessel is sure to get some ribbing for this. But the NHL did a good job of smoothing things over by giving Kessel some money to donate to charity.
- The whole thing moved very quickly. Usually shows like this are jam-packed with commercials, but Versus only had a few quick breaks and the time between picks was seconds rather than minutes.
- The first five picks were of captains’ teammates. It was speculated that would be how the draft unfolded, but it took away from the idea of finding out who the captains actually thought were the best players in the league.
- No highlight packages? As I said, it was good that Versus kept things moving quickly, but at an All-Star event where the NHL is trying to showcase its talent, it seems logical to show at least a few clips of some of the players.
What Should Change Next Year
- No alternate captains. The alternates were added with little fanfare after Eric Staal and Nicklas Lidstrom, and they had way too much influence on the original captains. Instead of Staal and Lidstrom picking who they thought were the best players, they had to spend too much time catering to their alternates. Next year, there should be two captains, and at the conclusion of the draft they should pick alternates from their existing rosters.
- Captains shouldn’t be able to pick teammates. Going into the draft, it was hard to tell how the captains would handle their picks. Just minutes in, it became very obvious their loyalties lay with their teammates. That was fine for the first draft, but next year I want to know who the captains think are the best NHL players.
- Get rid of position restrictions. The NHL obviously thought that captains would pick all forwards at the start of the draft, but that seemed to be anything but the case. NHL players have great respect for the best players in the league, regardless of their positions. The restrictions were unnecessary and disrupted the draft’s flow.
- Show highlight packages for some players. This was a great chance for the NHL to bring exposure to its young stars, but the league totally overlooked it.
What They’re Saying
- “The key aspect from everyone here is that the players all had fun doing this. From seeing how relaxed the players are in dealing with the throngs of media here to just having fun with the whole thing it’s got to be a relief to be able to just let loose for a few days with your buddies from around the league.” – Joe Yerdon
- “Overall, the Fantasy Draft felt like an NHL Awards Show with the players slightly more engaged and the results slightly less predictable. Like last season’s Awards in Las Vegas, a looser (re: inebriated) vibe may have helped the Draft a bit. There were definitely a few players who showed up in the, ahem, proper mindset, and that relaxed the atmosphere.” – Greg Wyshynski
- “Even though the draft added a jolt of energy to the event, it remains to be seen whether it will add some spice to the game itself. A total of 17 players will be facing a teammate from their NHL squad.” – TSN.ca
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