By: Margann Laurissa
The 2013 NHL Entry Draft was perhaps one of the best in the last decade, with this year's talent pool quite deep. This was thanks to not only a great group of 1995-born players who found themselves eligible for the first time, but also a considerable crop of late 1994-born prospects and several individuals who found themselves slipping through one or more previous drafts. The additional number of countries represented is also quite impressive, not just where these players actually hail from but where they were born, too. (First-round picks André Burakovsky and Marko Daňo, though from Sweden and Slovakia, respectively, were both born in Austria.) Quite a few players in this draft had family connections to the NHL, especially a father, but there were even considerable connections in other sports, too; sons and nephews of former basketball and football players found themselves chosen. There were some surprises, too, but that is the same with every draft. For example, who would have predicted 20-year-old Dinamo Riga goaltender Kristers Gudļevskis to be chosen 124th overall by the Tampa Bay Lightning, especially when he was not even ranked by NHL Central Scouting among the European goaltenders eligible? All in all, though, it was one of the best in recent memory.
Here is a list of the five best things about this year's NHL Entry Draft, in descending order (for me, anyway):
5. Brodzinski Brothers Get Drafted in the Same Round
It is not very often that a pair of brothers get chosen in the same draft. Usually, when they do, they are a set of twins. Everyone remembers when the Sedin twins went second and third overall at the 1999 NHL Entry Draft. The next year, the Dallas Stars took Joel Lundqvist with the 68th overall pick while the New York Rangers got a major steal by choosing his twin brother Henrik with the 207th overall selection. There are even sometimes where one twin gets drafted while the other does not. Think about the 2012 NHL Entry Draft when London Knights forward Ryan Rupert was chosen 157th overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs while his twin brother Matt was not chosen at all. What about brothers born in different years being chosen in the same draft? As far as I know, that has happened only once and that was at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. Additionally, this pair of brothers were chosen in the same round, seven picks apart. The sons of a former IHL player, Michael and Jonathan (Jonny) Brodzinski were chosen 141st and 148th overall, respectively, to state rivals: the San Jose Sharks and the Los Angeles Kings. Michael, a 1995-born defenceman, just finished a stellar season with the USHL's Muskegon Lumberjacks in which he finished third in team scoring with 33 points in 61 games; he will be attending the University of Minnesota in the fall. A former USHL player himself, Jonny, a 1993-born right winger, attends St. Cloud State University and he just finished a stellar freshman year in which he also had 33 points, but in 42 games.
4. Los Angeles Kings Continue to Crown CHL Imports
Over the last three years, from 2011 to 2013, the Los Angeles Kings have been bulking up their prospect directory with players from the Canadian Hockey League. More specifically, they are taking chances on CHL imports, the European-born players who come over to play major junior hockey. In 2011, they chose Christopher Gibson, a Finnish goaltender from the Chicoutimi Saguenéens. (They also picked Michael Schumacher, who eventually went to play for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, with the 200th overall selection.) In 2012, they chose Tomá Hyka of the Gatineau Olympiques, who slipped the year before. (Remarkably, Hyka was chosen with a pick acquired in a trade with Philadelphia, and it was the Flyers with whom Hyka first burst onto the scene with an impressive 2011 preseason.) This year, out of the seven picks the Kings had, they used three of them -- the 37th, 146th and 191st overall picks -- on current CHL imports: Valentin Zykov of the Baie-Comeau Drakkar, Patrik Bartoák of the Red Deer Rebels, and Dominik Kubalík of the Sudbury Wolves. Kubalík already has CHL and NHL experience in his family since his older brother Tomá spent one season in the QMJHL with the Victoriaville Tigres, as well as having stints in the organizations of the Columbus Blue Jackets and Winnipeg Jets. Zykov and Bartoák have also made their impacts upon the CHL; this past season, they were the league's rookie and goalie of the year, respectively, with Bartoák becoming the first import to ever be given such distinction.
3. Connor Crisp Finally Gets His Chance
There were quite a few players chosen at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft who had to wait an extra year or so to hear their names called. Players such as Kurtis Gabriel, Félix Girard, Brenden Kichton, JC Lipon and Myles Bell jump out immediately. For me, though, I feel that no one truly deserved to hear his name called after slipping more than Connor Crisp. A forward for the Erie Otters, Crisp scored only five goals in his OHL rookie season in 2010-11. Unfortunately, just as he was getting ready for his draft year and a breakout season, he suffered a horrible shoulder injury that kept him out of action for nearly the entire 2011-12. Crisp was devastated. He knew that this would derail his chances of getting picked at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. Toward the end of the season, however, he was ready to come back to the lineup. How he managed to do so was not how he envisioned. During a game against the Niagara IceDogs in St. Catharines, Otters starting goalie Ramis Sadikov was injured early; with backup Devin Williams unable to play due to an injury of his own, the Otters wondered how they would be able to finish the game. After a delay, Crisp came out onto the ice, wearing Sadikov's mask, pads and skates. The IceDogs took it to the Otters, winning 13-4, but Crisp did not play terribly. He faced nearly 40 shots and he even stopped Niagara captain Andrew Agozzino on a breakaway. He was given congratulations from players on both sides, a standing ovation from the crowd at the Jack Gatecliff Arena, and he became an instant celebrity. Crisp played the rest of the season in his rightful position as forward, recording an assist. This past season, Crisp had a great season with 36 points -- and 139 penalty minutes -- in 63 games. Remarkably, in the first game of the season, which was against the IceDogs in Niagara, Crisp scored the first goal of the 2013-14 OHL campaign. For his efforts, Crisp was chosen 71st overall at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft by the Montréal Canadiens.
2. Black Players Get Well Recognized
Unfortunately, even now in 2013, it seems as though hockey is still predominantly composed of white players. There are, however, some great black players currently in the NHL, including Jarome Iginla, Joel Ward and Dustin Byfuglien. The Chicago Blackhawks' Stanley Cup roster from this year had three black players: Johnny Oduya, Ray Emery and Jamal Mayers. At the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, black players truly had their best draft ever. There were a total of eight black players chosen, all of them going in the first four rounds. The first chosen was Portland Winterhawks defenceman Seth Jones, who went fourth overall to the Nashville Predators. He became the highest-drafted African-American player in NHL history in doing so. Three picks later, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds blueliner Darnell Nurse was chosen seventh overall by the Edmonton Oilers. In the second round, two black players were chosen one after the other; Kitchener Rangers forward Justin Bailey was chosen 52nd overall by his hometown Buffalo Sabres and Kelowna Rockets defenceman Madison Bowey was chosen 53rd overall by the Washington Capitals. Black players were very well recognized in the third round, one in which four were chosen. Victoriaville Tigres defenceman Jonathan-Ismaël Diaby was chosen 64th overall, joining Jones as a draft pick of the Predators. The Sabres took another black player, too, selecting Sudbury Wolves forward Nicholas Baptiste with the 69th overall pick. Bowey's Kelowna Rockets teammate Tyrell Goulbourne, a truculent forward, found himself chosen 72nd overall to the Philadelphia Flyers. Quebec Remparts forward Anthony Duclair was selected 80th overall by the New York Rangers. The last black player chosen on the day was Belleville Bulls defenceman Jordan Subban, going 115th overall to the Vancouver Canucks. While this was indeed quite impressive, a notable exclusion was Erie Otters forward Stephen Harper who, despite playing at the CHL Top Prospects Game and having solid seasons his last two years in the OHL, was not chosen; that being said, he could take a lesson from Goulbourne, who was not drafted in his first year of eligibility but heard his name the next year.
1. Martin Brodeur Drafts His Son
The 2013 NHL Entry Draft was quite an interesting day for Martin Brodeur. During the first round, he learned that he was going to have a new backup for the 2013-14 season in Cory Schneider; the Devils traded their ninth overall pick to land the former Vancouver Canucks goalie. With the draft being held in New Jersey, it made it all the more of a surprise. Brodeur, however, seemed unfazed. With one year remaining on his contract, it was a good opportunity to finally have a goaltender with whom he could share the games and, unless he comes back for a 22nd season in 2014-15, could take the reins as the #1 netminder. (Considering that the 41-year-old Brodeur still plays like he is in his 20s, that does not seem farfetched.) Brodeur watched as countless young men had their dreams come true to get drafted to the NHL, including some goalies who have grown up idolizing him. By the time the seventh and final round was nearing its conclusion, Brodeur came down to sit at the Devils draft table for the 208th overall pick, which the Devils had. He had a surprise up his sleeve. Jim Gregory, the NHL's senior vice-president of hockey operations, announced to the crowd at Prudential Center that there was going to be a "special presentation" and then David Conte, a chief scout with the Devils, passed the microphone over to Brodeur. The perennial all-star announced to uproarious applause that the Devils selected his son Anthony, himself also a goaltender who plays at Shattuck-St. Mary's and will be in the QMJHL with the Gatineau Olympiques starting in 2013-14. After Anthony finished hugging his brothers, his mother, his stepmother and his girlfriend, as well as giving handshakes and high-fives to a lot of other people, he made his way to his waiting father and gave him a great big hug before putting on his jersey and cap.