The stage is set for what could be a fascinating evening for Columbus Blue Jackets fans. GM Jarmo Kekaläinen has done a masterful job of keeping everyone guessing as to his true intentions, though he did state that the final decision on what to do with the #3 pick will not be made until the #1 and #2 picks have occurred. Even that pronouncement is somewhat suspect, as the prospect of moving up has also been raised. The bottom line is that Columbus should emerge from Round One with one or more pieces capable of providing immediate help this season. Whether that takes the form of a simple draft choice, or a combination of a draft pick and trade return is anybody's guess.
As things have played out, the drama began well in advance of the opening of the draft, as both Bob McKenzie and Darren Dreger of TSN started reporting repeated conversations between the Blue Jackets, Flames and Oilers -- some of these occurring as a three club group. As Sherlock Holmes would say, the game is afoot . . . Of course, they could have been talking pizza orders, kids' graduations, whatever. However, it is just more fuel for the fire.
The tables are set, and momentarily Gary Bettman will climb on his booster seat to get the proceedings underway. Fasten your seat belts . . . we're off.
7:00 PM -- Roll call is over. Darren Dreger talking about the discussions between CBJ, Calgary and Edmonton. Bob McKenzie confirms that Sergei Bobrovsky may be in play, mentions Sonny Milano for the first time, and seems to suggest that the Milano thing may be a done deal. No word on to who or for what.
7:06 -- Pierre McGuire does a video sequence on Jesse Puljujarvi, pointing out that he might be underrated at #3.
7:11 -- A chorus of prolonged boos accompanies Gary Bettman to the podium. Bettman characteristically greets the reception with humor, hands out the normal praise, and gratefully keeps comments short.
7:13 -- Toronto is officially on the clock.
7:16 -- the Maple Leafs front office staff heads to the stage, and Lou Lamoriello has Mark Hunter announce the pick of Auston Matthews.
7:20 -- Bettman announces Lars Eller to Washington for 2nd Round picks in 2017 & 2018. Andrew Shaw to Montreal from Chicago for both of Montreal's second Rounders Winnipeg on the clock.
7:25 -- Winnipeg heads to the stage, and officially selects Patrik Laine, ending speculation about a shift to Puljujarvi.
7:29 -- Blue Jackets on the clock. No movement from the Columbus early.
7:33 -- Jarmo and company head to the stage. John Davidson takes the podium, makes a nice memorial mention of John Wolfe. The pick is Pierre-Luc Dubois. Wow -- McGuire notes that Jarmo is a "man of his convictions", and believes that Dubois will be playing at the NHL level this year. Michael Arace disagrees, but the kid has the size. Jarmo took heat for the Ryan Johansen pick, and also was roasted for taking some guy named Hossa. Let's see what happens when Calgary comes up at #6.
7:43 -- An obviously surprised Winnipeg staff heads to the stage and selects Jesse Puljujarvi. Vancouver on the clock.
7:49 -- Another suprise from the Canucks. With Dubois off the board, they go defense with Olli Juolevi. Matthew Tkachuk the early one falling in this draft. Jakob Chychrun also falling lower. Calgary is on the clock.
7:55 -- Calgary takes the stage, eliminating the trade speculation, and selects Tkachuk. Arizona on the clock.
8:01 -- the youngest GM in the NHL takes the stage for Arizona and selects center Clayton Keller -- another suprise, as Keller was expected to go somewhere after #10. Keller has committed to Boston University, and was also drafted by Windsor. Buffalo on the clock.
8:06 -- Darren Dreger announces that Calgary obtained Brian Elliott from St. Louis -- no word on return.
8:09 -- the home town Sabres take the stage, and selects Alex Nylander. Chychrun and Logan Brown still on the board. Montreal on the clock.
8:16 -- Montreal takes the stage. picks Mikhail Sergachev for their blue line. Also announced that Calgary surrendered the #35 pick to St. Louis for Elliott. Colorado on the clock.
8:23 -- The Colorado Avalanche select Tyson Jost, slated to enter University of North Dakota in the fall. New Jersey is up.
8:27 -- New Jersey trades the #11 pick to Ottawa for the #12 and #80 picks this year. Ottawa on the clock.
8:31 -- Ottawa tales the stage and surpise nobody by selecting 6'6" Logan Brown, whose father is on the coaching staff for the Ottawa 67's. A true home town selection. New Jersey on the clock again.
8:39 -- The Devils take center Michael McLeod. Wore #9 because his mother's favorite player was Gordie Howe. Carolina next on the board.
8:46 -- Carolina takes the stage and selects defenseman Jake Bean, a young Canadian with quick feet, but the need to gain size. Boston on the clock.
8:54 -- Boston chooses defenseman Charlie McAvoy, a 17 year old also headed to Boston University. Minnesota up next
9:01 -- Minnesota takes Luke Kunin, a Wisconsin Badger most had going further down in the round. Another St. Louis minor hockey prospect -- the fourth in this round. Detroit on the clock.
9:15 -- Detroit trades the #16 pick, Pavel Datsyuk's contract to Arizona for the #20 pick, #53 pick and Joe Vitale. Arizona lets the Red Wings off the cap hook. Sad.
9:19 -- Jakob Chychrun is selected by Arizona, after a considerable fall. Nashville on the clock.
9:22 -- Dante Fabbro becomes a Predator, drafted by his favorite team, and with a chance to play with his favorite player, Shea Weber. Ryan Johansen on the stage t o help welcome Fabbro to the fold. Philadelphia on deck.
9:31 -- Philadelphia trades Picks 18 and 79 to Winnipeg for picks 22 and 36. Winnipeg then uses the pick to take 6'7" defenseman Logan Stanley. Islanders on the clock.
9:39 -- Kiefer Bellows becomes a New York Islander, a shifty winger, and the 8th U.S. player chosen in the 1st round. Also another Boston University guy. Detroit is up.
9:48 -- The Red Wings also goe with defense, selecting Dennis Cholowski, who has committed to St. Cloud State. A big offensive upside, but needs to develop physically. Carolina on the clock.
9:54 -- the Quebec City . .. I mean Carolina Hurricanes selected right winger Julien Gauthier , a 231 pound, 6'3" guy with good hands and a physically dominant style. The Flyers are on the clock.
9:57 -- The Flyers take a bit of a gamble with Russian center German Rubtsov, a talented but mercurial forward. Florida is on the clock.
10:04 -- Florida takes another Scandanavian -- Henrik Borgstom, -- a Finnish center. Anaheim up next.
10:11 -- The Ducks select Max Jones, a big power forward who can dish out punishment and register points. Very consistent with the current Anaheim style. A bit of a question mark in terms of edgy play. Dallas on the clock.
10:16 -- the Dallas Stars announce their pick through head coach Lindy Ruff, allowing a nod to his Buffalo connections and a nice ovation from the crowd. The pick was Riley Tufte, a left winger coming right out of high school.
10: 21 -- St. Louis acquires the 26 pick from Washington, swapping the 28 and 56 picks. The Blues pick Tage Thompsoon, another center. He becomes the 11th American taken in the 1st Round, tying the all-time record in that regard. Tampa Bay up next.
10:30 -- The Lightning take Brett Howden, a center with good size, good hands, and average skating. The ninth Canadian selected in the first round. Washington on the clock.
10:36 -- the Capitals use the pick to pick Lucas Johansen, Ryan's little brother, a defenseman with more than a little upside. Go figure. Big brother seemed proud. Boston up next.
10:42 -- with the penultimate pick in the first round, the Bruins select Trent Frederick, yet another St. Louis program product, who most had slated for the mid 2nd round. The 12th American chosen (a new record), he has developed a scoring touch of late. Headed to Wisconsin for college seasoning. Anaheim on the clock for their second pick of the round.
10:50 -- with the final pick of the first round, the Ducks choose Sam Steel, yet another center, who has a good two-way game, but needs size and seasoning.
So, that's it -- 3 hours 50 minutes, 12 Americans, 11 Canadians and 5 Finns selected. 30 young men who have fulfilled their dreams, and 30 general managers who hope that their fan's dreams have been met. Six more rounds of selections on Saturday, with likely more trades to come.
For the Blue Jackets, the selection was a surprise, to be sure. However, Jarmo has shown that he is not afraid to rely on his own research -- and that of his scouts, even when that view flies in the face of conventional wisdom. He also has an admirable record of drafting, across multiple organizations. Dubois would have fallen no lower than the #9 slot to Montreal, and most likely would have gone #5 to Vancouver. He has all of the skills and credentials to be a big factor in the NHL, and plays all three forward slots. Having that flexibility is an important consideration.
The silly season is just beginning. In just one hour, clubs can begin conversations with prospective free agents, and tomorrow some more youngsters will find their dreams realized. Look for the Blue Jackets to move a few pieces for some draft picks, and there could well be more. Stay tuned.