LOS ANGELES – The draft never goes according to plan, but the first round of the 2010 edition was particularly volatile.
But other than the destruction of most media mock drafts, I don’t think teams really swung for the fences that much.
Case in point, the host Los Angeles Kings, who traded up to pick No. 15 (from No. 19) with a certain player in mind. The whole Staples Center assumed that prospect was hometown favorite Emerson Etem, but the true identity of the coveted kid was U.S. NTDP defenseman Derek Forbort.
Depth-wise, this is a savvy move by Kings GM Dean Lombardi. Forbort, all 6-foot-5, 200 pounds of him, will be off to the University of North Dakota next year and will likely spend a couple seasons there. That allows Lombardi time to lock up franchise youngsters Drew Doughty and Jack Johnson (both of whom will become RFAs after next season) and figure out the rest of his blueline while Forbort develops – and does so without a salary cap hit.
Similarly, the trade that saw Ottawa acquire defenseman David Rundblad from St. Louis for the No. 16 pick reunites the young Swede with national team partner Erik Karlsson, already patrolling the Sens blueline.
While at first it seemed odd for the Blues to jettison a 2009 first-rounder they had only just signed recently, team president John Davidson put the deal in simple terms.
“We have very good depth with offensive-style defensemen,” he noted. “It’s difficult; when you have Erik Johnson, Alex Pietrangelo and David Rundblad, there’s not enough ice to go around. Ottawa got themselves a very good player.”
But the Blues ended the evening with speedster Jaden Schwartz and Russian tank Vladimir Tarasenko, so they’re not complaining.
“We came out of the first round with two forwards we really think can help us,” Davidson said.
Colorado surprised many with the selection of undersized scorer Joey Hishon (No. 17 overall), the Owen Sound center who played just 36 games this season, but the kid himself had some nice insight into the selection.
“I was ranked pretty high going into the year,” Hishon noted. “But after my tough season, I slid a bit. Obviously Colorado still believed in me and I can’t wait to get my foot in the door and prove them right.”
Another big leaper was Niagara goalie Mark Visentin. Jack Campbell looked to be the only netminder taken in the first round, but if there was another, most assumed it would be Seattle’s Calvin Pickard. Instead, Visentin was snapped up by Phoenix with the 27th pick of the night.
“We like his size and athleticism,” said Coyotes GM Don Maloney. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder; Pickard is a very good goaltender.”
KEITH BALLARD TRADE
On the trade front, it was much quieter than expected Friday night. The biggest splash came when Vancouver shipped forwards Steve Bernier and Michael Grabner plus the 25th pick overall to Florida for defenseman Keith Ballard and right winger Victor Oreskovich. The Panthers selected Moose Jaw center Quinton Howden with the pick.
Considering what an up-and-comer Grabner is, plus the fact the deal left Vancouver without a first round selection, GM Mike Gillis faced a media barrage afterward.
“The price is steep for a defenseman that can play 25 minutes a night,” Gillis said of Ballard. “We didn’t feel there were players that late in the round that would be able to help us for several years.”
A GM doing what he believes is best for his organization. Doesn’t sound so crazy after all, does it? Of course, if Gillis is wrong, that media glare in Vancouver will only get bigger.
THN Puck Panel: Round 1 post-mortem
PRODUCER: Ted Cooper
THN is in Los Angeles covering the NHL Entry Draft.
Ryan Kennedy is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Wednesdays and his column - The Straight Edge - every Friday.
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.