Well, the NHL's 2010 Entry Draft in Los Angeles, Calif., has come and gone, and, in between, 210 players were selected. For the entire draft list, visit the NHL's site here or, for just a plain text version listing 1 through 210, go here.
From a WHL perspective, 43 players were selected, including four in the top-10: Ryan Johansen of the Portland Winterhawks to the Columbus Blue Jackets at fourth overall; Nino Niederreiter, also of the Portland Winterhawks, to the New York Islanders at fifth overall; Brett Connolly of the Prince George Cougars to the Tampa Bay Lightning at sixth overall; and Dylan McIlrath of the Moose Jaw Warriors to the New York Rangers at 10th overall.
Our man Patrick King was in sunny L.A. for the draft, and he managed to send three interviews north of the border. King also sent Dubnation an earlier interview with Kelowna Rockets import prospect Teemu Pulkkinen at the NHL scouting combine.
More on Pulkkinen here. Interestingly enough, Pulkkinen was selected in the fourth round on Saturday, 111th overall by the Detroit Red Wings. Further, the Wings spent a few days in the Okanagan in March, practicing at Prospera Place, home of the Rockets, and Vernon GM Ken Holland has a home in the North Okanagan, in nearby Vernon.
Now, for those who don't know how a media or press scrum works, it's pretty simple: Crowd around a player and start peppering him with questions. Some questions are good, others dumb — hey, members of the media are no smarter or dumber than the general public — but they are most always answered. Also, in major sporting events like this, which generally attracts scores of media members, a reporter usually gets to ask just one or two questions before someone else pipes up and throws out his or her question.
For us, Mr. King turned on his recorder for the press scrums with Johansen, Niederreiter and Connolly and managed to ask questions in each Q & A session. Below are the transcribed interviews:
“Going into Portland, I knew we were going to have an exceptional team,” said Johansen. “There was an exciting feeling going around our dressing room early in the year. And . . . you know, I couldn’t be happier right now.
“Our team just had a lot of success this year, and you can’t give enough credit to the coaches, the organization, the fans. It’s just an unbelievable feeling right now.”
Johansen was asked if being selected fourth overall was surprising, and he said yes.
“I did a fly-down there, so I had a good feel of how much they liked me, where they had me rated on their charts,” Johansen said of the Blue Jackets. “I’m stil a little surprised at fourth overall, but I think I put in the work to be where I am today.”
Pressed further, Johansen said “I just knew that we were rated so high by (NHL) Central Scouting staff, so it was kind of in the back of my head that it was a maybe. But I knew (Columbus) had me high on their charts, like I said. I worked my hardest throughout the year, did what I could and thankfully they noticed and now I’m here.”
King then asked a snappy question: How does it feel to go ahead of Nino?
Johansen laughed, then said: “It’s a little bit of bragging rights, but me and Nino are really close friends, so I’m just as happy for him as I am for myself.”
Johansen’s media session took place right after he was selected and before Nino was picked. Part way through the press scrum, Johansen was informed the New York Islanders took Nino fifth overall.
“That’s unbelievable,” said Johansen. “I’m gonna jump up and give him a big hug when I see him.”
Asked to talk about his minor-hockey days, Johansen said going into the WHL’s bantam draft, he was “150 pounds and 5-foot-9, so my skating stride was a little out of whack for a couple of years there and I had the baby moose legs going on. So once I got to my regular height and started putting on some muscle, I gathered my stride a bit and now my skating is at a pretty high level.”
Johansen was then asked what he brings to Columbus.
“For me, I’m a play-maker with good vision, good hockey sense and good puck protection,” he said. “I’m the type of player that likes to play with a goal-scorer, someone who can put the puck into the back of the net, like Nino Niederreiter, my linemate this (past season) who put up 44 goals, if you include the world juniors.
“So I think those are my best assets and I think I can contribute to the team.”
Media: Like maybe setting up Rick Nash?
“Well, for sure, that’d be a tremendous honour,” he said. “But, you know, that’ll take a lot of hard work. But I’m willing to do it, so we’ll see.”
Johansen was then asked what he recalled when his name was called out by the Blue Jackets.
“There was a lot going through my head, so I’ll have to sit down and think about it,” he said. “But I couldn’t be happier. Me and my parents were just looking at each other on the flight here, and we’re like ‘We’re going to the NHL draft.’ Like, who would have imagined this two years ago? Or even last year?
“It’s just an unbelievable feeling. I couldn’t be happier; it’s the greatest day of my life.”
King then asked if he looked at any mock drafts before the draft?
“I don’t look at them too seriously, but I’ll glance at them to see where I’m rated,” he said. “I’ll send out a text to Nino if I’m ahead of him and he’ll send me one if he’s ahead. But not really, I don’t take it too seriously.”
Media: Talk about playing in the WHL and what it did for your development.
“It was huge for my development,” he said. “The teams in our league had a lot of depth throughout their lineups and it was a very skilled league, even throughout our team and practices. I gained a lot of experience and took my game to another level with the teammates I had, pushing each other throughout practice, and the coaches we had, teaching us everything they knew. I learned a lot this year.”
Media: You said you were 5-foot-9 in bantam; are you done growing yet, or is there more to come?
“I think I’m done growing. My dad is only 5-11, so I got my size from my mom’s side. I should be done.”
Media: Did you have any inkling that Columbus was interested in you?
“I knew they had me pretty high on their charts. I did a fly-down there right after the combine and I felt like my interviews went well with them. So, yeah, I had a pretty good feeling that they had me high up on their charts. But it’s still an unbelieveable feeling for them to choose me at fourth overall.”
King: This is a pretty proud day for the Winterhawks franchise.
“Yeah, for sure,” said Johansen. “It’ll be an exciting vibe going around Portland right now, with everybody at (restaurant/pub) Buffalo Wild Wings. We have all our fans our there cheering us on, so it’s an exciting moment.”
King: With two top-five NHL draft picks, what does this do for Portland next season? Maybe the Memorial Cup?
“I hope so,” said Johansen. We’re going to have great forwards, so I think we’ll be contenders.”
Media: Will you be in Portland next season?
“I don’t know,” said Johansen. “My goal is to make it a tough decision for the Columbus Blue Jackets on sending me home, so we’ll see.”
Media: Did you and Nino put any bets down who would go higher? Any side wagers?
“No bets, just a couple of chirps here and there,” said Johansen. “We had no bets; we’re happy for each other, no matter what.”
“It’s an unbelievable feeling, and even now I still can’t believe what happened. I’m the highest (drafted) Swiss player ever — or, so far — and it’s a great feeling,” said Niederreiter in the press scrum after getting drafted.
Media: Did you get any text or e-mails from people back in Switzerland, guys like Mark Streit or Martin Gerber, guys from your homeland or the president of your country congratulating you?
Niederreiter: “I don’t know. I didn’t look at it; I hope some guys text me.”
Media: Nino, how do you feel about becoming an Islander?
Niederreiter: “It’s just a great feeling; I couldn’t be happier than to be a part of the Islanders. With a Swiss guy there, Mark Streit, it’s going to be great.”
Media: And how was your visit to Long Island?
Niederreiter: “It was fantastic; I got a chance to look at the beach and it’s just great.”
Media: I understand you and (Portland Winterhawks teammate) Ryan Johansen are friends on and off the ice. Did you have any type of bets as to who was going to get picked first?
Niederreiter: “Not really. He pushed me and I pushed him at the end, so it was great.”
Media: Did you guys help each other out?
Niederreiter: “I think so. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t get a chance to play with good players like Ryan Johansen or Brad Ross.
Media: Were you surprised when your name got called fifth?
Niederreiter: “Actually, I was thinking about Cam Fowler, how he was going to go to the Islanders. Now I’m an Islander and I’m just so happy about that.”
Media: Were you surprised that Ryan Johansen went as high as he did, because he was ranked quite a bit farther down?
Niederreiter: “No, no, no. He’s a fantastic centre. He has great ability and he’s a playmaker.”
Media: Can you describe your friendship with Ryan? Like how it started?
Niederreiter: “It’s kind of funny. The first time I saw him, I asked about his sister or something like that. Now we’re best of friends and he helped me a lot. We’re linemates and really good friends off the ice.”
Media: Did he teach you any bad English words?
Niederreiter: “Maybe a little bit, but more good words.”
Media: Was your coming out party the world junior hockey championship? Is that where your draft stock rose?
Niederreiter: “The world juniors helped me a lot, even that game against Russia. It was just an outstanding game and it helped a lot for Switzerland, for the country to make a statement. Yeah, it was just great.”
Media: Talk about your choice to play in the CHL and moving over to Canada from Switzerland and what that did for your development.
Niederreiter: “I think it helped me a lot. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t get over. I got a chance to play in Portland with a great coach in Mike Johnston. It was just great to be there and it helped me a lot.”
Media: Was that the best decision you’ve ever made?
Niederreiter: “I think so, yeah.”
Media: What will you bring to the Islanders?
Niederreiter: “I’m trying to be a scorer one day. At the moment, I think I’m a two-way player with some skills and also good defensively. At the end, I just want to be a goal scorer.”
Media: Is getting drafted a sense of relief?
Connolly:: “Yeah, huge. I was kinda (trying to figure out) where I was going to go and to be picked by Tampa Bay and Steve Yzerman, it’s a great honour. I can’t wait to get going.”
Media: How did your interview with Tampa Bay go?
Connolly: “Good. I got good vibes from them and I thought I talked well in the interviews. I’m just happy that they believed in me and picked me.”
Media: Is there anything specific what your injuries were? It seemed like different things in different places. What exactly were they?
Connolly: “It was in my hip area. I don’t know the specific injury, but it’s all behind me and I can’t wait to get going to training camp.”
Media: How much concern was there for you, that people might look at it and think it’s too much of a risk and what not, that maybe you could drop and you might not be in the top five or top 10?
Connolly: “It’s definitely a risk and you always have it in the back of your mind. But, like I said, Tampa Bay obviously didn’t think it was going to be an issue, so I’m happy that they picked me and I can’t wait to get going with them.”
Media: Describe your game. If I was to characterize your game, what do you bring to this franchise?
Connolly: “Well, a big skilled forward who plays hard and competes and will do anything to get the team to win. I think my offensive game is my upside, so I’m definitely an offensive player.”
Media: Tampa Bay is a very talented squad. Do you think you can step right up?
Connolly: “Well, that’s my goal. I want to go to camp and impress and hope to stick there. I’m going to work hard in the summer and get better at a lot of things and hopefully go into camp and really impress.”
Media: It’s been a long road, a long process that you had to go through. As thrilled as you are, are you happy that the draft is over?
Connolly: “Oh yeah. It was a pretty hectic month, but it’s all worth it now. and I’m really happy that Tampa Bay selected me.”
Media: How do you avoid frustration in people asking the same questions about the injuries, probably every day for the last month or so?
Connolly: “You gotta know it’s coming. With how much of the season I missed, there’s going to be questions and teams are going to ask. There were some questions there, but, like I said, it’s over and it’s behind me.”
Media: Were you worried you would slip because of that? The impressions?
Connolly: “Well, I knew I was going to slip, but I’m a team’s first-round draft pick and I’m happy to be selected by Tampa Bay.”
Media: You said you never got any questions outside. How about questions about yourself? Do you have any questions still about the hips?
Connolly: “No. I’m looking after myself better and my routine is better than it’ll ever be. So I’m really going to look after myself and make sure that this doesn’t happen again. There’s definitely no doubt for me that they’ll never get injured again. The hips . . . we’ll see (knocks on wood).”
Media: Looking back on it, you talk about you’re not going to let it happen again, are there things maybe that you were or weren’t doing that might have contributed to that situation?
Connolly: “I think I could have stretched a lot more. This year, I’m going to really look after myself and make sure that I’m stretching a lot and doing some other things to make sure that I’m flexible and in good shape.”
Media: What does this mean for Prince George, having a player selected so high?
Connolly: “It’s big for the organization. We’ve got a lot of young kids coming up in that organization wanting to get here. It’s hard work, but it’s definitely a goal that can be accomplished. We got a lot of good, young players that can be here one day and I hope they really work hard and try to get into my shoes one day.”
Media: What about the city?
Connolly:: “Again, me playing in Prince George, in my hometown, this is huge. I owe it to a lot of people; there are a lot of people that helped me out down the road. I’m excited for Prince George and I’m excited for me, too.”
Media: You’re going to be connected now to Steve Yzerman forever as his first pick as Tampa Bay’s new general manager.
Connolly: “That’s huge. To have a guy like that select you and really think you can be a part of their program . . . I don’t know what to stay. It’s a big part of my life and he’s a guy that I can always talk to and he’s a guy who can get me to that next step. His goal is to win a Stanley Cup and I hope I can do that with him.”
Media: How long did it take for you to think of the possibility of being a linemate with Steven Stamkos?
Connolly: “He’s a great player and had a great year and that’s a goal. I hope I can get there and I’m going to work my hardest. Hopefully one day I can be with him and be a part of something special.”
Media: Do you know Ryan Johansen at all?
Connolly:: “Pretty well. We both played spring hockey together, or against each other, and came up through the under-16 and under-17 program in B.C. He deserves everything he’s getting too. I’m happy for him and he definitely deserves it.”
Media: This is pretty good for B.C. Hockey isn’t it, to have two kids in the top six? (Ryan Johansen is from Port Moody).
Connolly:: “Absolutely. I think that there’s a lot of kids in B.C. who play hockey that can definitely achieve the goal that we did. It’s definitely do-able.”
Media: Is there any part of you that’s disappointed not to be the first B.C. kid in the draft?
Connolly: “No, not at all. Like I said, I’m a team’s first-round pick and I’m just looking forward going to Tampa and getting started there and hopefully I can make the team.”
Media Do you like the weather here in Los Angeles? It’s comparable to Tampa Bay.
Connolly: “It’s definitely something I can get used to, for sure. From what I’ve been hearing, it’s a great place to live and things are definitely on the uprise. I can’t wait to get over there and showcase.”
Media Brett, talk about playing in the WHL, and specifically Prince George, and what that meant for your development.
Connolly: “Well, it was huge. I was fortunate enough to get picked by my hometown team and play in my hometown and my own backyard. It’s definitely good and it’s definitely something that I owe to them. They gave me every opportunity to play and they deserve a lot of credit.”