Saturday, June 26, 2010

The NHL Draft Hits Keep Coming...From Portland.

The big day, Rounds 2 - 7: The NHL 2010 Entry Draft.

Maybe I should think about that second career as a psychic: Even though it meant they wouldn't go to the actual team I wanted, I had pegged Ryan Johansen for 4 or 5, and Nino to follow, maybe 6 or 7. Am I good or what? Of course no one will believe me now that it's after the fact. But I promise, it's a true story.

And the hits keep coming: Portland Winterhawk penalty minute leader Brad Ross just got snagged at 43rd by the Toronto Maple Leafs. There is, at last, hope for the Leafs.

But I guess they're not hooked on phonics: Or interested in getting the news right. When KOIN mentioned Nino and Ryan last night, they pronounced Nino's name as NiederrITer. Dudes, Google. Wikipedia. The proper pronunciation is out there.

Trivial pursuit: Ryan and Nino going 4 and 5 is the first time in franchise history the Portland Winterhawks have two picks in the top 5 of the same draft. Oh, and don't forget Nino was the highest drafted Swiss player ever.

So I lost a bet: Taylor Aronson didn't get picked in the 35 to 50 range. But Brad did, so at least I had the team right. I still have hope...just wait...Taylor's moment is coming.

And indeed it just did: He went 78th to the Nashville Predators. Nicely done. Two down, two to go: Still pending are Troy Rutkowski and Mac Carruth.

And don't forget: Already drafted or signed are Spencer Bennett (Calgary), Brett Ponich (St. Louis), and Stefan Schneider (Vancouver). May I suggest you non-Portlanders schedule a trip out here while you can. Because come this season, it's off the NHL with most of our lineup.

Ok, so he didn't get drafted as high as predicted, but still: It's not where you're drafted, it's what you do afterwards that counts. And I have no doubt that defenseman Troy Rutkowski, who was taken 137th by Colorado, will make it count. Speaking of Colorado, my prediction for a sleeper hit is now a reality...

Proof that the path of most resistance is the best way to reach your desired destination: Two spots behind Troy, Portland Winterhawk Luke Walker was taken 139th by the same team. That's right, there are, as of today, two Winterhawks drafted by the same team. Plus, Luke's story is Cinderella with a capital C. He was never taken in the Bantam Draft, but found his way to the Winterhawks. He scrapped his way onto the US World Junior team in the wake of a devastating face injury and barely saw ice time but still won a gold medal with the team. He was never drafted by the NHL when he became eligible two years ago. But he re-entered the draft and here he is. It's like the NHL Stanley Cup ad campaign: there are no words. In this case, Luke's story tells itself.

Lucky number 7: Mac Carruth, whose star came out to shine during Portland's first playoff run in four years, just got picked 191st by Chicago. That's right, not only did we snag four and five in the first round, our goalie just got picked by the current Stanley Cup champions. So what's his middle name?: Mac's full given name is Macmillian. Love it. That wins hands down for best and most distinguished sounding name in the WHL.

Talk about 11th hour: Portland Winterhawk Riley Boychuk was just drafted 208th by Buffalo. There were 210 draft picks selected this year, in seven rounds. Riley had been eligible in 2009, but had not played much that season due to surgery and so had been overlooked. He rebounded and re-entered this year's draft. Good things come to those who wait.

I hope the Winterhawks chose well in this year's Bantam Draft: Because between this draft and the signing of Stefan, Brett and Spencer's drafting by Calgary, the NHL has officially eviscerated our lineup.

Moral of the story: At the beginning of the 2009 -2010 season, Portland had finished somewhere near dead last in the prior WHL season, had not seen the playoffs since the last ice age and were on the verge of being sold out of Portland. Enter new owner Bill Gallacher, coaches Mike Johnston and Travis Green, and a little thing called the Euro draft, with a not-so-little player named Nino. And so began the dawn of our own Cinderella season, which ended with the NHL drafting of eight Winterhawks over the course of two days.

There's no official word on this as yet, so don't quote me, but I'm guessing that the eight Portland Winterhawks drafted this weekend have set some new franchise record for most players taken in a single draft.

This draft puts the cherry and extra sprinkles on top of the sundae, and we couldn't be more excited or proud of our team and our town. But it also means that this team, the storybook team, will not be seen on our ice again. I was proud to say I was there, and that I met a few of them along the way. For those of you who weren't, you missed out. Two words: season tickets. If you buy them now, you get a Nino bobblehead. No, you can't have mine. I'm keeping it under lock and key.

Like I said, the path of most resistance is the best and most rewarding way to reach your destination. For this year's draft picks, that future started when they forsaked their homes, scholarships to big colleges, friends, family, and everything else to come to Portland and be spotted by NHL scouts. For those who chose to come here they took an even bigger risk than most. Imagine Ryan, who gave up a scholarship to Northeastern, and ditto for Mac who had a sweet deal with Minnesota. Or Nino, who crossed an ocean and two continents to come here. All to play for a team that until this season was pretty much a laughing stock. They gambled on us, and now the NHL has gambled on them. We already know what the NHL will soon learn. I believe the business world calls it return on investment. My prediction? The Winterhawks drafted today are what I call a blue-chip stock with a guaranteed return on investment. Trust me. I know what I'm talking about.

Next up: This blog will go on a short hiatus while I enjoy high tea, spa treatments and wine tasting in the very lovely city of Victoria, BC. In the meantime, may I suggest you Google the above players and get to know them. Because their frequency is about to get very loud.

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