The first player selected at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft in Los Angeles last night was right wing Taylor Hall, the newest player to receive their Edmonton Oilers jersey.
That pick, at least, was expected.
The second player selected at the draft, this time by the Boston Bruins, was center Tyler Seguin.
That choice was also relatively easy to predict.
The third player chosen was Erik Gudbranson, who's now a member of the rebuilding Florida Panthers.
Gudbranson's selection, while not as much of a certainty as the first two, was also a fairly assured choice.
...and then the mock drafts began to be not only proven wrong, but completely jumbled, pick after pick after pick.
Following those three, the draft entered a stretch where six consecutive forwards were chosen, despite having the options of fourth- and fifth-ranked players Cam Fowler and Brandon Gormley still on the board at the defense position.
Quickly-rising center Ryan Johansen was picked up at fourth by the Columbus Blue Jackets, despite his original 16th rank. Following him was Portland teammate Nino Neiderreiter, who went to the Islanders.
Steve Yzerman's first pick with the Tampa Bay Lightning came next, and stirred up quite a bit of controversy. The Bolts' choice of Canadian right winger Brett Connolly certainly has quite a bit of upside, but his severely-shortened past season makes Connolly quite a reach at sixth, as well.
Shocked by the fact that Fowler and Gormley were still on the board, everyone expected the defensively-needy Hurricanes, picking seventh, to jump on one of the two. Instead, Carolina surprised the crowd by choosing center Jeff Skinner, sticking with GM Jim Rutherford's usual strategy of picking forwards in the first round.
Skinner's selection is not nearly all bad, however.
The Canadian scored a whopping 50 goals in 64 games with the Kitchener Rangers of the OHL, a total not even Tyler Seguin could match. In the playoffs, Skinner also tied for the league lead with 20 more goals. In fact, Rutherford even noted that Skinner was the top player out of anyone on their draft board, although they did attempt several deals to move up to chose Fowler or Gormley several picks later.
After Atlanta picked up Russian center Alexander Burmistrov and Minnesota chose Finnish winger Mikael Granlund, the New York Rangers continued Fowler and Gormley's unexpected plunge through the spots. Stunningly, rough-and-tumble defenseman Dylan McIlrath was chosen as the Blueshirts' first and only first round selection.
McIlrath's size (6'4", 212 lbs.) and willingness to fight may bulk up the Rangers' defensemen, but with Fowler and Gormley still around with so much more possible upside, McIlrath's selection may be a "tough" choice to swallow.
Up next at 11th, Dallas began a record-tying night for American-born hockey players, choosing the first of 10 Americans with goaltender Jack Campbell. Despite a lot of chatter about how he would fit in with Kari Lehtonen, the Stars should be proud to begin such a patriotic 2010 NHL Draft.
Fowler and Gormley's waits finally ended with the next two slots, as Fowler went 12th to the Anaheim Ducks and Gormley went 13th to the Phoenix Coyotes. Both teams said they hadn't even interviewed them at the combine, and were absolutely shocked they had fallen right into their laps this far down the draft board...yeah, we all were, guys.
Three picks later, sandwiching Jaden Schwartz (St. Louis), Derek Forbort (Los Angeles) and Vladimir Tarasenko (St. Louis, again) between them, the Avalanche made another reach to take Joey Hishon, ranked 55th.
The third defenseman to fall quite a distance from his original rank, Mike Pysyk, also dropped into the lap of Buffalo at 23rd. Pysyk has some big shoes to fill if he wants to live up to their first round choice last year, Tyler Myers, but the all-around balanced defenseman might just have the talent to do it.
Closing out the night, three of the last four picks ended up being taken by a team who didn't originally hold that pick. Phoenix used Montreal's 27th-overall selection to take the second goalie of the draft, Mark Visentin from Canada, and then Anaheim used Philadelphia's 29th choice to end local Long Beach, California, native Everson Etem's moderate fall down the board.
The Stanley Cup Champion Blackhawks then concluded the long and surprising evening by trading their 30th pick to the Islanders, who took center Nelson Brock and made several hundred other prospects have to wait yet another day before they receive their NHL jersey.
Looking back, despite several astonishing choices, the first round of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft was themed towards North American forwards with a big build. 22 of the 30 players chosen were forwards (half of whom were centers), compared to just six defensemen and two goaltenders, and all but five of the 30 were from either Canada or the United States.
All but just six players taken were at least six feet tall, giving the players, in most cases, quite a height advantage over their new coaches and managers. Nine different selectees were all opponents in the OHL (Ontario Hockey League), including five of the top eight picks, and seven more played each other in the WHL this past season.
From my point of view, there were naturally several big steals, in addition to Anaheim's, Phoenix's, and Buffalo's with the plunges of Fowler, Gormley, and Pysyk.
Alexander Burmistrov at eighth was a brilliant choice, as Burmistrov, as long as the Thrashers can steal him away from Russia, has a style that just reminds me of so many modern Russian greats like Ovechkin and Malkin.
Everson Etem was also a gift at 29th, from my point of view, along with (another Russian) Tarasenko at 16th and perhaps even Jeff Skinner at seventh, who's goal-scoring talent may even override the 'Canes still-desperate need for defensive prospects.
There were also several questionable picks from my point of view, too. Dylan McIlrath (picked 10th) just seems destined to be easily overshadowed by plenty of players chosen after him, as does Chicago's Kevin Hayes (24th). Austin Watson (taken with the 18th pick) Brett Connolly (taken sixth) also may struggle far more than expected due to recent severe injuries.
Moving on, the draft continues with the second through seventh rounds at 1 P.M. (Eastern Time) on Saturday. Carolina, Chicago, and Florida will get back down to business quickly, as all three teams have three choices in just the second round alone.
The first few teams up to pick will have several expected first round players still left to chose from, such as defenseman Jonathan Merrill (projected 22nd) and centers Tyler Pitlick (25th), Tyler Toffoli (27th), and John McFarland (28th).
The first round of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft may be finished, but we're long from knowing the full story the draft has yet to tell.
All rankings courtesy of NHL.com or TSN.com. For a full list of the first round selections, as well as basic information about each player chosen, visit this link: http://www.nhl.com/ice/draftsearch.htm?year=2010&round=1
Mark Jones is currently Bleacher Report's featured columnist and community leader for the NHL's Carolina Hurricanes . In his 21 months so far with the site, he has written over 205 articles and received over 150,000 total reads.
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