Kukla's Korner


From my Time at the Draft

It’s been a whirlwind few days here in Montreal for me, an incredible experience being around the teams we love, the media who keep us in the loop, and the players we’ll soon be cheering (or jeering) for years to come.

A few last thoughts for the day, for the Senators, for what faces the media, and just for the fun of it.

Everyone knows that you say the right things when you’re taken about the team that drafts you. Sometimes you find out later that the player has no interest in the team, the city, the goals of the organization, but it’s always all smiles. If you watch some of the Senators’ footage, they joke that they take every kid who lists the Senators as their favourite team (Silfverberg, Ottawa’s second pick, did such well before the draft). But you wonder about how things play out.

With Dany Heatley showing loud and clear that he does not want to be a Senator, and the questions his methods raised about his character that likely kept him in Ottawa’s stable through this weekend, start looking at Ottawa’s picks, beyond the numbers. Sure, you expect Cowen to be thrilled to go to a Canadian team, but he also elevated Ottawa above the other five in his comments to the media, saying that maybe it was a blessing in disguise that he got injured, getting to fall to 9th and Ottawa, knowing full well that Toronto could easily have taken him two picks earlier.

Then, yes, you get depth at forward with a skilled forward in Silfverberg, who listed Ottawa as his favourite team, and probably knows more than a little about Alfredsson. Lehner (compared to Lundqvist and chosen to build goaltending depth) is not only Swedish as well, but played for the Frolunda junior team (Alfie’s old team was the non-junior version) and was born in Gothenburg (Alfie’s hometown), have to wonder there as well.

Even in the later rounds, there’s little sparkles of it still. Mike Hoffman will turn 20 this year, an older kid in the draft, but stuck it out, worked hard, and flashed enough potential to make it this time around (from Kitchener, should have asked if I could bum a ride home to Waterloo). Jeff Costello is pilled as a power forward who has grit and doesn’t shy away from physical play, around the net or elsewhere (in 54 games in the USHL he had 24 goals and only 9 assists with 73 PIM). He’s not just a fighter in that sense though; he’s a type 1 diabetic, and from the Ottawa Senators’ website:

“I hope that kids see that ‘hey, it’s not a big deal if you get diabetes,’ ” said Costello, 18, of Milwaukee, who’s headed to Notre Dame in the fall. “You can definitely overcome it with hard work and dedication. I try to get that message out.”

So you know he’s not afraid of any challenge, looks to be a role model, a leader, and won’t be lacking in character. Some more Ottawa familiarity in taking Cowick, an Ottawa native himself who played for the Ottawa 67’s. Lastly, but not least, a small earnest forward in Brad Peltz, wisely committing to Yale for the full four years. Wonder why their 7th round pick was still able to get his name on the back of his jersey? The Senators say that they had their eye on him last year, and he’s friends with Ryan Shannon.

Of course, it’s got to be just a lot of coincidence in the end, I’m sure character and pride in the Senators’ jersey is the last thing on Murray’s mind when he’s going through his lists..

Some things I learned?

Schenn was worth keeping for Burke, rather than giving up with other pieces to land Tavares. Interestingly, when you look at the top five, Tavares still seems the quiet one in the bunch. Good kid, but Toronto needs some spark on the roster, and they take Kadri, who was there with dozens of family members, has a huge personality, and enjoys being the role model as a player with a different background than most, being Lebanese and Muslim. Compare that to Kane, who will be a great player, admits to pride in his heritage, but still not with the same electricity of Kadri (or diabetic Ottawa prospect Costello).

When you’re at the draft, everyone wants to know the future, that’s it. Opinions, strategy, mood, all not so much. Getting a read on your crystal ball takes far more than just the floorspace though. Those in the know don’t tell, don’t make themselves available, all for obvious reasons, and unless you’ve built the relationship that lets LeBrun call up Burke on the phone, even as Burke has been the most vocal man at the draft, you won’t get much. It’s a hard business to crack. Much harder still when you’re only half a decade older than most of the draftees, trying to find your space in a world that sometimes feels just like its own different version of the NHL’s old boys club (though you do get asked for autographs a bit more often, until they notice it says ‘press’ on the badge).

That right there is a nut that gets harder every day. I’ll admit that the PHWA meeting that formed spontaneously around me got me thinking about how the industry is getting harder every day, but I’ll leave their discussion in Montreal. What you saw the past few days was teams using their power more and more.

Picks were broadcast out on twitter before hitting the podium, making the media presence based on first-to-know take a chip. All the media questions going to the picks were either broadcast for all the fans, or recorded to be placed on team websites, giving any angle a reporter was trying to work a pre-leak, possibly destroying the interest in what might have been a good or even more insightful story otherwise (even in the seventh round, I’m recorded talking to Brad Peltz on the Senators’ website, not that I pitched him anything insightful, more curious to see the mood of a guy who went down to the wire).

Then the picks get spirited away for the private team options, and quickly the same stories you’d get elsewhere are being put out on team websites, sometimes with the extra bells and whistles that come with having full access to players, coaches, and staff. No, it doesn’t seem like much at first glance, but it builds. You hear that players are getting harder to track down, teams doing what they can to keep things that way, and it slowly inches towards a world of message control.

Lofty for the League? When there’s hundreds of millions of dollars at stake, let alone the hopes of and role models for millions of fans, it’s still not right when you have the left hand as the only critic for the right.

For all that, I still had a great time, enjoyed meeting fellow KK writers Erin Nicks and Patrick Williams, introducing myself to heavy hitters like Wyshynski and LeBrun, being in the presence of other legends, seeing Yzerman in a tiny bar getting the respect and space he deserves, witnessing the times when there is inexplicable excitement drowning out every thought in the head of a newly drafted prospect, and being reminded as I am every day how much I love this game.

...of course tweaking my knee at the draft won’t help me with enjoying my hockey game tomorrow back in Waterloo, but I’ll take my knocks when I have to, especially for a may just be once in a lifetime experience.

Filed in: NHL Media, NHL Teams, Ottawa Senators, | SENShobo | Permalink


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About SENShobo

Native of Northern California.  Hockey fan since 1998... sort of... there's a hiatus in there that I still can't explain.

I want to know about anything and everything related to the sport and the spectacle.  I watch, I react, I write it down.

My interest in the Sharks was initially a matter of geographic convenience and regional loyalty because that seemed to be how it worked.  I had no prior interest (at all-- AT ALL) in professional sports of any kind.  When I met hockey, it might have set off a chain reaction of general sports fandom.  It hasn't, I don't think it will.  At all.

Since then, that interest developed into full blown (mostly sort of usually almost completely) exclusive loyalty to the Sharks.

I started blogging a couple years ago on wordpress. I still occasionally put things there that I don't think fit here because they are not about the Sharks. Wherever my words wander, here on Kuklas Korner, they will (usually) hang on to a teal thread.

I can be found in cyberspace on Twitter @petshark47, or emailed at talkingstick@petshark.net