With a shortened Fantasy Hockey week thanks to the NHL All-Star Weekend, what better topic to discuss on Fantasy Hockey Friday than the NHL All-Star Fantasy Draft that took place last night?
The second annual NHL All-Star Fantasy Draft had a little bit of everything, from surprise picks to cheers and jeers from the home crowd in Ottawa, to rivalries that can’t yet be put aside and a first-hand look at players sitting back, enjoying themselves and the game they love.
The night started off with a great show of sportmanship by Daniel Alfredsson, the homewtown captain of the Ottawa Senators and one of the All-Star Game captains, when he yielded to Zdeno Chara, captain for the “visiting” team, and allowed him to call the toss of the puck because he is the defending Stanley Cup Champion. As it turned out, Chara called correctly and received the first overall pick with co-captain Joffrey Lupul by his side.
Most fans figured Evgeni Malkin, who currently leads the league in points, or Claude Giroux, a close second behind Malkin, would be taken first overall. Instead, Chara decided to go a different route and picked Pavel Datsyuk, a highly skilled puck handler and someone Chara thinks “plays the game the right way.” Datsyuk should have no problem setting up some of the goal scorers that Chara later picked, including Malkin, Gaborik, Kane, Hossa, Perry and Iginla.
Team bonds and friendships won out afterward as Alfredsson and his co-captain Henrik Lundqvist picked young defenseman Erik Karlsson, a teammate of Alfredsson’s in Ottawa. In the second round, Chara followed suite and grabbed Tim Thomas, his teammate in Boston, while Alfredsson picked Jason Spezza, another Ottawa teammate. With that pick, Spezza became $20 poorer when it was later revealed that he had bet Malkin $20 that Malkin would be picked before him.
By the end of the night, Chara had all of the Boston players while Alfredsson had all of the Ottawa Senators.
This year’s Mr. Irrelevant, the last picked player in the draft, came down to two young players who didn’t share ties with either of the captains or co-captains. Jamie Benn of the Dallas Stars and Logan Couture of the San Jose Sharks were the last two remaining on the stage with Chara left to pick his last player and determine who would become the last pick of the draft and this year’s Mr. Irrelevant – a spot that Phil Kessel of the Toronto Maple Leafs found himself in last season.
Again, Chara showed class on stage and picked Benn over Couture because, as Chara prefaced before the pick, Benn deserved to not be last after having emergency appendectomy surgery recently and still showed up to play this weekend. The All-Star Game on Sunday will be Benn’s first game back after the surgery in any capacity.
Don’t feel too bad for Couture, though. Being last picked in the NHL All-Star Fantasy Draft has its merits as Couture walked away with a free car.
Here are a few more thoughts and notes about the draft last night:
- Turns out, some rivalries are a bit tougher to put aside than others. Daniel Sedin went to Team Alfredsson in the 9th round. Daniel’s brother Henrik sat on the board until Round 13, where he was also drafted by Team Alfredsson. Chara had several opportunities to split up the brothers but opted not to. Evidently Chara has a long memory and the Boston Bruins defenseman didn’t want anything to do with any of the Vancouver Cancucks players. The remaining Canuck, Alexander Edler, also went to Team Alfredsson.
- The Ottawa Senators fans in attendance made their disdain for the Toronto Maple Leafs well know. Any time Joffrey Lupul attempted to make a selection for Team Chara, he was met with a loud chorus of boos and jeers. In fact, it actually got quite annoying to watch as a spectator as the jeers continued even into the late rounds of the draft. Lupul shrugged it off and acted like he didn’t mind, but at times he seemed annoyed with the fans in the crowd as well.
- Another car for the last man picked? Come on NHL, these are guys that get stitched up in the locker room in between periods and then come back out on the ice to finish a game. I think they can handle being the last picked just fine without giving them a car to help soften the blow to their ego. I think a donation to the player’s favorite charity would be more than enough.
- Please stop interviewing Phil Kessel. Really, just skip over him and don’t let him near a mic. His responses were just a lot of, “Oh, I don’t know,” and, “It doesn’t matter.” Tyler Seguin is on thin ice for similar responses as well.
- Best zing of the night goes to Jeremy Roenick for his Marian Gaborik comment after the draft was over. After being selected by Team Chara, Gaborik walked halfway across the stage toward Team Alfredsson’s side. This brought a round of laughter from the crowd and the players in attendance. Roenick later commented that “it’s a good thing New York signed Brad Richards so he can at least point Gaborik toward the right net.”
- The NHL’s promotion of social media was very apparant last night – and it made for interesting commentary. Having the players live Tweet the event and then reading them on air was a really cool social media maneuver that offered inside access for fans. But the NHL needs to do one thing from here on out – get Alyonka Larionov in front of the camera whenever, wherever and as often as possible. Enough said.
- Looking over each roster, I’ve gotta give the advantage to Team Chara. I think they assembled a team more geared toward offensive production and, let’s face it, the All-Star Game is all about offense. But Team Alfredsson edges out Team Chara in goaltending, so it will be interesting to see how it plays out on Sunday.