Back To Work … Finally

By Darren Lowry

An end to the madness.

On July 22, 2005, the NHL’s Board of Governors put an end to 310 days of agonizing insanity that was the lockout, and ratified the new collective bargaining agreement, ensuring that all 30 teams would resume play in the fall of 2005.

That came just a few days after roughly 87% of the approximately 550 players union voted in favor of the agreement, ending the fears that a contingent of anti-deal players would destroy all the hard work and possibly kill the NHL.

(Which means that stunningly 66 to 71 players apparently voted to stay unemployed rather than play again)

Feelings ranging from relief to excitement to exasperation were felt across the country by hockey fans, as they found out that the league would finally begin play once again.

The real excitement for hockey fans occurred the same day as the ratification, as following the press conference, a draft lottery was held to determine who would get the chance at drafting Sidney Crosby.

Of course, it’s been weeks since this happened.

So what does it all of it mean for fans in Southern cities?

Center Ice Magazine presents an in-depth look at the impact that the new CBA has had on all six Southern franchises, from the effort to bring fans back and what the new economic climate and rule changes mean for the NHL to the 2005 NHL draft, and the subsequent trades and free agent signings that have taken place since then.

Southern Teams Make Splash On Draft Day

Although none of the six Southern teams ended up with the No. 1 overall pick (and Sidney Crosby), there was still plenty of excitement for the franchises, as teams in all six cities held draft parties and all six teams made trades. At the end of the day, all six came away with good prospects.

Center Ice recaps each team’s draft day, complete with grades:

GM Don Waddell was very busy on draft day, trading down twice in the first round, picking up two extra second round picks along with a seventh-rounder, and still managing to get the player he (supposedly) wanted with the No. 8 pick, despite ultimately picking No. 16 overall.
Waddell also swung a personnel deal with Nashville, acquiring defenseman Shane Hnidy for a fourth-round selection in the 2006 Draft. Hnidy, a physical player who is solid but not spectacular, is expected to assume duties as the sixth defenseman for the Thrashers.

The Thrashers 2005 Draft Picks:
1/16 Alex Bourret C Waddell: "He's a feisty competitor with real good skill. We would have taken him at number eight, and feel real fortunate to get him at 16 and add picks."
2/41 Ondrej Pavelec G Projected by some to go in the first round, Atlanta could not pass up a player compared by some to Dominik Hasek.
2/49 Chad Denny D An aggressive defensemen described as "safe"
2/53 Andrew Kozek W Picked as the number 1 sleeper by, the winger broke out in a big way last year, scoring 48 goals and racking up 49 assists.
4/116 Jordan LaVallee LW Is already 19, has good size at 6-3, 205, and scored a career-high 40 goals last season.
5/135 Tomas Pospisil RW Scored 37 points in 38 games on Czech junior team before playing with the big club for 14 games at 17.
6/187 Andrei Zubarev D Rated as Europe’s 10th best skater by NHL’s Central Scouting Service.
7/207 Myles Stoesz W/D A pure enforcer with 371 PIMs in two seasons.

Grade: A

Waddell picked up three extra draft picks, and still managed to get the player they wanted at No. 16. Excellent work. When undervalued players Pavelec, Kozek, and Zubarev all slipped below their projected spots, the Thrashers took advantage by snapping them up. However, with the team somewhat weak at center, the team could have used at least one other draft pick on one.

Carolina came the closest of all the Southern teams at getting Sidney Crosby, falling just short with the No. 3 pick. Still, the team was assured of a strong blue-chip prospect, and wasn’t disappointed, as they got consensus best defenseman in the draft, Jack Johnson.
The Hurricanes also made a trade on draft day, sending forward Jeff O’Neill to the Maple Leafs for a conditional draft pick. Although O’Neill’s 2003-04 season was a bit of a disappointment, the move was made more to get the Toronto native closer to home following a recent car crash that took his brother’s life. In the end, it was a classy move by GM Jim Rutherford to let him go, even though O’Neill had spent over 10 years with the team.

The ‘Canes 2005 Draft Picks:
1/3 Jack Johnson D Rutherford: "We really like Jack and the aggressive, hard-nosed style that he plays. He will help build our organization’s defense to complement the young forwards and good young goaltender we have.
2/58 Nathan Hagemo D Steady, reliable, stay-at-home defenseman, will likely return to U. of Minnesota next season.
3/64 Joe Barnes C Notched 30 goals and 32 assists last season while with Saskatoon.
4/94 Jakub Vojta D Could be quite a steal, as he was ranked as 3rd best European skater.
4/123 Ondrej Otcenas C/W Led the Slovakian team in scoring at last season’s IIHF Under-18 World Championships.
5/145 Timothy Kunes D An offensive defensemen who netted 40 points in 50 games last season.
5/159 Risto Korhonen D Also mentioned by as a sleeper pick, he is a solid physical, stay-at-home defenseman.
6/192 Nicolas Blanchard C A rough player with good offensive skills, he has good size at 6-3, but weighs just 176.
6/198 Kyle Lawson D Solid defender who played with Johnson on US Under 18 Team in 2004.
Grade: B+

A very solid draft by the Hurricanes. Johnson should be a very good defensemen for the team in the future, and may even decide to turn pro this year, meaning he could see NHL action as early as this year. The team had a few sleeper picks as well, but may have been a little too defense-heavy, as the team did not select a goalie, and no natural wingers.

Florida traded up in the first round of the draft, securing the No. 20 pick from Philadelphia for the No. 26 pick and a second-round selection in 2006. The move proved to be only the first of many transactions over the next few days, as the Panthers went on to sign a number of free agents as well.

The Panthers 2005 Draft Picks:
1/20 Kenndal McArdle LW Ranked as the No. 7 skater in
the draft by the CSS, GM Mike Keenan did not
hesitate to trade up to get him. He’s a tough, quick skater who had 37 goals and 37 assists last season in the WHL.
2/32 Tyler Plante G Solid goaltender who had 34 wins and 6 shutouts last season along with a 2.58 GAA in the WHL.
3/90 Dan Collins RW An undervalued player, he had 25 goals and 46 points in 68 games last season.
4/93 Olivier Legault LW A bit of an unusual pick. He has good size at 6-4, 240, but seems to lack the offensive skill to be much more than an enforcer.
4/104 Matt Duffy D The EJHL’s reigning defensive player of the year, Duffy showed good all-around skill, earning 45 points and 147 PIMs in 54 games.
5/161 Brian Foster G A teammate of fourth round pick Matt Duffy, Foster had 30 wins and three shutouts in just 41 games last season.
6/164 Roman Derlyuk D Played in 51 games for Sparta St. Petersburg last season, earning 74 PIMs.
7/224 Zach Bearson RW Possesses good size at 6-2, and netted 36 points and 56 PIMs in 51 games last season.

Grade: C+

McArdle sounds like a very good prospect, and slipped down far enough that No. 20 sounds like a steal. However, almost every other pick was off the beaten path. From the fourth round on, not one of the team’s selections made the draft’s "top prospects" list. Drafting an enforcer in the fourth round seems a bit high. Also, does a team with Roberto Luongo need two goaltending picks?

Nashville GM David Poile loves to pile up draft picks, having hoarded 15 choices in 1999, 13 in 2003, and 12 in 2000. While not having quite as many selections this year, Poile still grabbed an extra third round pick for defenseman Andrew Hutchinson before the draft began, and also sent defenseman Shane Hnidy to the Thrashers for a fourth round pick in 2006. When the dust cleared, Nashville finished with seven selections in the draft.

The Predators 2005 Draft Picks:
1/18 Ryan Parent D Poile: "Another really good young defenseman – big, strong, great individual. Great character, a leader. He’s going to be a real fine player for us… we’re real pleased with our pick."
3/78 Teemu Laakso D Fell from fourth-ranked European skater at the mid- point of the season to the 20th, but still a solid, smart defender.
3/79 Cody Franson D Good size at 6-4, 205, but isn’t an overly physical player, and could stand to work on his skating.
5/150 Cal O’Reilly C Potential sleeper, as he netted 24 goals and 50 assists in 68 games in the OHL last season. Not too physical, but also doesn’t take bad penalties.
6/176 Ryan Maki RW Netted 19 points in 30 games for Harvard last season. Good size at 6-2, 195. Team hopes he’ll become strong power forward.
7/213 Scott Todd D An enforcer, he had 155 PIMs in 54 games last season.
7/230 Patric Hornqvist W Had 24 points in 28 games for Vasby of the Swedish junior league.
Grade: B

Decent overall. Parent is another strong defensive prospect, but the franchise could use more scorers like Radulov of last year. The team also did not take a goaltender. Like the Thrashers, the Preds could have benefited from selecting at least one more center.

Tampa Bay:
Even though the draft lottery was determined by ping-pong drawing, it seemed only fitting when the defending Stanley Cup champion Lightning got the No. 30 overall pick in the draft.
GM Jay Feaster also made three trades on draft day, trading away their fifth-round pick in 2005 and a fourth-round pick in 2006 for San Jose’s third-round pick in 2005, then picking up a third-round and a fourth-round pick in 2005 to Philadelphia for a second-round pick in 2006, and finally traded their fifth round choice in 2006 to Dallas for a sixth round pick in 2005.

The Lightning 2005 Draft Picks:
1/30 Vladimir Mihalik D Feaster: "Mihalik truly has Zdeno Chara upside to him. What’s really exciting is he’s coming over to play in Red Deer with Brent Sutter. I can’t think of a better place for him to get the training in the way the pros play."
3/73 Radek Smolenak LW As a rookie in the OHL, he scored 32 goals and tallied 28 assists in 67 games. Is aggressive, but smart, as he doesn’t take stupid penalties.
3/89 Chris Lawrence C Good size at 6-4, but is just 200 pounds. Recorded 11 goals and 40 assists in 68 games. Has good, long stride, but could improve his agility.
4/92 Marek Bartanus RW Another strong power forward prospect at 6-3, 194, he had 28 points and 99 PIMs in 34 games in the Slovak league.
4/102 Blair Jones C Racked up 14 points and 36 assists in 68 games for Moose Jaw of the WHL.
5/133 Stanislav Lacek RW Had 18 goals and 72 assists in just 53 games in the QMJHL to rank sixth in scoring in the league.
6/163 Marek Kvapil RW Led the OHL in scoring with 25 goals and 62 points in 53 games.
6/165 Kevin Beech G Had nine wins and a .912 save percentage in 21 games with Sudbury of the OHL.
7/225 John Wessbecker D Netted 22 points in 26 games last year, but is only in high school. Will need plenty of time to develop.
Grade: A-

Overall, it was a very, very strong draft for the Lightning. Almost every player they took was 6-1 or taller, led by Mihalik at 6-7, and most of their players were proven goal scorers. However, this might be at the expense of next year’s draft, which is expected to be deep, as the team traded away its second, fourth, and fifth round picks next year.

There’s a bit of controversy surrounding Washington’s draft, as the team’s seventh round pick, Viktor Dovgan, has a birthday listed that makes him ineligible under the current CBA agreement. As a result, the team could lose the rights to Dovgan (and its pick) altogether. However, Washington insists that they have proof he was actually eligible in the draft.
After selecting Tim Kennedy with their sixth round pick in 2005, the team traded him to Buffalo for a sixth-round pick in 2006.

The Capitals 2005 Draft Picks:
1/14 Sasha Pokulok D At 6-5, 220, he’s a big player that has deceptively good offensive skill. However, he was not ranked as a top 30 player in most drafts, making him a tad over-valued.
1/27 Joe Finley D Another massive player, Finley towers over the competition at 6-7, 229. As you might expect, he is a physical presence, racking up 181 PIMs in 55 games.
4/109 Andrew Thomas D A solid, physical, stay-at-home defenseman, he had 68 PIMs in 34 games for Frozen Four champion U. of Denver.
4/118 Patrick McNeill D A good offensive defenseman, he scored 33 points in 66 games for Saginaw of the OHL.
5/143 Daren Machesney G A solid goaltender, he had 19 wins and a .917 save percentage in 38 games with Brampton.
6/181 Tim Kennedy LW A 5-11 player with lots of heart, he had 30 goals and 31 assists with Sioux City last season. Was traded to Buffalo after his selection.
7/209 Viktor Dovgan D The league is expected to rule in a few weeks whether or not Dovgan was eligible or not.

Grade: B-

A decent draft, but it seems like the Caps got a little greedy for tall defensemen, and may have overvalued their first few selections. Still, it doesn’t hurt to have size on the blueline. The Caps may also completely lose their seventh round pick if the NHL upholds their draft-day ruling. P

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