The 2015 NHL All-Star Fantasy Draft wrapped up on Friday evening. While Blue Jackets forward Nick Foligno and Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews, selecting for their respective squads, may not have approached the draft with the same seriousness as the NHL's regular draft, Friday night's picks were not without some of the drama that usually accompanies player selections.
Foligno played up to the home crowd by taking linemate Ryan Johansen with the first pick, but it was Toews who really got the Interwebs buzzing with his first selection: Phil Kessel.
A pity pick? Toews wasn't denying it. “We know Phil had a tough one a couple of years ago," he said before riffing on Kessel's difficult reputation. "The three of us were just talking that he’s one of the most coachable players out there so..."
Sadly, the Toews-Kessel bromance was short-lived. Less than an hour later, Kessel was part of the first ever All-Star Fantasy Draft trade, sent to Team Foligno in exchange for...yep, Tyler Seguin. Perfect. In late 2009, the Boston Bruins traded Kessel to Toronto for several draft picks, one of which was used to select Seguin.
That trade, as can be seen below, has not faded from memory.
Though they were initially surprised, Kessel and Seguin enjoyed the moment, helping to put the tension, like Sunday's game, on ice.
Both teams' selections are listed in full below.
|Team Foligno||RD.||Team Toews|
|RW Patrick Kane||A||C Ryan Getzlaf|
|D Drew Doughty||A||LW Rick Nash|
|C Ryan Johansen||1||C Tyler Seguin*|
|D Duncan Keith||2||D Shea Weber|
|C Anze Kopitar||3||RW Jakub Voracek|
|C Steven Stamkos||4||G Corey Crawford|
|RW Phil Kessel*||5||C John Tavares|
|G Carey Price||6||G Roberto Luongo|
|C Claude Giroux||7||D Brent Seabrook|
|D Dustin Byfuglien||8||RW Vladimir Tarasenko|
|G Marc-Andre Fleury||9||C Patrice Bergeron|
|G Brian Elliott||10||G Jaroslav Halak|
|D Brent Burns||11||D Aaron Ekblad|
|D Kevin Shattenkirk||12||LW Patrik Elias|
|RW Bobby Ryan||13||D Ryan Suter|
|RW Radim Vrbata||14||D Mark Giordano|
|D Olivier Ekman-Larsson||15||D Justin Faulk|
|C Zemgus Girgensons||16||RW Alex Ovechkin|
|C Ryan Nugent-Hopkins||17||C Filip Forsberg|
|LW Jonathan Drouin||R||LW Johnny Gaudreau|
|LW Jiri Sekac||R||LW Mike Hoffman|
It was a great bit, and one that set the course for a fairly entertaining back half of the program. There was some quality hair-based chirping and plenty of locker room-quality humor that made it feel a bit like hockey's version of the Golden Globes.
The best running gag of the night was perpetuated by Washington Capitals right wing Alex Ovechkin, whose attempts to lobby his way into the last spot may not have been as much about winning the car as they were an effort to remain backstage where the drinks (apparently) were flowing. Toews seemed genuinely concerned before finally taking Ovechkin with the second-to-last pick ("He's gonna be pissed!"), but alternate captain Ryan Getzlaf laughed him off ("Aw, who cares? What's he gonna do?"). A word of advice, Getzy: you might want to check your skates before getting dressed on Sunday.
Picking Ovi left Filip Forsberg of the Nashville Predators and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of the Edmonton Oilers as the final players on the board. Rather than hang one of the two young stars out to dry, the league came up with an interesting twist: allowing fans to vote on which player was a better fit for Team Foligno. Nugent-Hopkins squeaked by on a 51-49 split, but both players were awarded a new cars as co-winners of Fantasy Draft Mr. Irrelevant. Nice touch.
At its best, the draft was loose and irreverent, offering a glimpse into the way the game's best players interact with one another. And that's an angle the league should double down on next year. No doubt broadcasters NBCSN and Rogers each wanted one of their own personalities to host the show, but both Kathryn Tappen and Darren Millard stumbled repeatedly as they tried to fit into the flow. The solution: enlist a current player to do the heavy lifting next season. Put P.K. Subban or another sparkplug in their place--and keep the cocktails flowing backstage--and you've got 90 minutes of must-see TV.
Next up this weekend: the All-Star Skills competition, scheduled for Saturday night at 7 p.m. EST. The All-Star game itself will follow on Sunday at 5 p.m. EST.