Wednesday April 14th, 2010

Thank you, Steve Tambellini.

Moments after the Edmonton Oilers GM rolled with the odds and snagged the top pick in Tuesday night's NHL Draft Lottery, he kept the fun going by announcing he will not reveal the name of the player he'll select until he climbs up on that podium in Los Angeles on June 25.

Smart move for two reasons. Oh sure, some fans would prefer that he let the Taylor or Tyler out of the bag. But why spoil the surprise? Maybe that's just me talking, but, hey, I didn't want to know the sex of either of my kids before they were born, either.

So what we'll have for the next three months is talk. And debate. And speculation. And that, my friends, is a good thing for hockey. By the time the big day rolls around, everyone who doesn't already have a personal favorite between Windsor Spitfires winger Taylor Hall and Plymouth Whalers center Tyler Seguin will have heard enough about their merits to make the pick themselves. It's good business to keep the fans engaged.

But the more important reason is leverage. See, Tambellini already knows who he'll be selecting. And that player likely will be Seguin, a high-octane center who's earned comparisons to Steve Yzerman and Pat Lafontaine. He's also the perfect complement to Jordan Eberle and Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson, Edmonton's top prospects who just happen to be wingers. Given how tough it is to come by an elite pivot, this choice is a no-brainer.

Of course, he couldn't go wrong with Hall, the reigning Memorial Cup MVP whose speed, power and fearlessness evokes images of Jarome Iginla and Zach Parise. And that's the type of player that the Boston Bruins, who own the second pick by virtue of a trade with Toronto, desperately need.

What Tambellini surely recognizes is that the Bruins are stocked at center now and for the foreseeable future with Marc Savard, David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron in Boston and Zach Hamill and Joe Colborne in the system. Sure, they'd be glad to add Seguin to the stable, but the thought of filling an immediate need with an NHL-ready player like Hall had Peter Chiarelli grinning like Pennywise when he landed the second overall pick.

So maybe Tambellini takes advantage of his position by offering to leave Hall on the board for the Bruins in exchange for some consideration ... say, another pick.

It might not work but at least Tambellini keeps the option open by playing his cards close to his chest.

Beyond that bit of intrigue, there wasn't much of note to the actual lottery. With the Oilers taking advantage of their 25 percent chance to win the lottery, it marked the third consecutive year that the 30th-place team claimed top prize. Everyone else remains in a position determined by an inverse order of the standings.

It also might mark the last time that a team doesn't secure lottery protection when trading a first-rounder. As happy as the Maple Leafs were with the 30-goal performance of Phil Kessel, seeing the Bruins come away with what should be a franchise player has to sting. Maybe not Tom Kurvers for the pick that turned into Scott Niedermayer, but it definitely hurts. And that pain may get worse next year when they B's exercise their second of two first rounders acquired in the deal ... and one that could very likely land them in the lottery again in 2011.

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