(AP) – Phil Kessel was once again dealt for Tyler Seguin, Columbus Blue Jackets center Ryan Johansen was the No. 1 overall pick and superstar Alexander Ovechkin did not get his new car.
In a wild and comic NHL All-Star draft to set the lineups for Sunday’s game, almost nothing went the way anyone might have guessed.
The highlight of the evening was Ovechkin, the Washington Capitals’ $10-million-a-year goal-scoring superstar, pleading to be taken last in the 17-round draft. Why? To compensate for the embarrassment of being the player no one wanted, the NHL gives the last player standing a new car.
At one point during the evening, a TV interviewer approached Ovechkin backstage and he hid behind a white piece of paper on which he had printed: ”I want to be last. Need a car.”
Ovechkin, the league’s leading goal-scorer last year, came close to getting his wish. He lasted until there were just three players remaining, but then captain Nick Foligno selected him.
Ovechkin slumped in mock dejection in his chair, looked at the ceiling and sighed loudly. Then he looked into the camera and mouthed one word: ”WHY?”
Foligno watched Ovechkin slowly walk onto the stage before despondently putting on a black Team Foligno jersey.
”Hey, Ovie, buy a car!” Foligno called out.
As it turned out, Ovechkin barely missed out on a new set of wheels. The two players who went last – Edmonton’s Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nashville rookie Filip Forsberg – each got the keys to a new car in a break from tradition.
”He wanted the car but it seems like he always gets everything he wants,” said Rick Nash, one of the assistants to captain Jonathan Toews. ”I think the captains had other plans.”
Foligno and Toews, chosen last week as team captains for the All-Star teams, revisited history by recreating the 2009 deal. In that trade, which greatly affected two Original Six franchises, the Boston Bruins sent Kessel to the Toronto Maple Leafs for a first-round draft pick that would become Seguin.
Midway through the draft, Foligno and Toews huddled at the back of the stage before Foligno leaned into the microphone and said, ”I’ve always wanted to say this: ‘I have a trade to announce!”’
Both Kessel, who has flourished through some up and down years in Toronto, and Seguin, now a Dallas Stars scorer who shares the league lead with Nash with 28 goals, laughed at the irony.
”Well, fellas, I’ve been there before,” Kessel said with a grin. ”I got traded for the same person and I think it worked out OK for everyone.”
Kessel had been grabbed by Team Toews with the second pick – a dramatic difference from the 2011 All-Star draft when he was the last player taken.
The whole evening began with a surprise pick. Foligno, having a career year for the Blue Jackets, won the ”puck flip” to make the first selection. He quickly took his teammate, Johansen, the only player in the league with two points streaks of at least 10 games this season.
Toews, the Chicago Blackhawks captain, was helped by assistants Nash and Anaheim Ducks forward Ryan Getzlaf. Foligno was aided by Patrick Kane of the Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty.
After the top two picks, Foligno took Chicago’s Duncan Keith and Los Angeles’ Anze Kopitar, while Toews picked Nashville’s Shea Weber and Philadelphia’s Jake Voracek.
The captains were required to take three goalies within the first 10 rounds and six defensemen by the end of the 15th round.
There were surprises long before the draft. Thanks to an overwhelming bit of ballot-box stuffing by voters in his homeland, Latvia native Zemgus Girgensons of the Buffalo Sabres was the leading vote-getter with almost 1.6 million votes.
Both Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, both of the Pittsburgh Penguins, are out due to injuries. The Red Wings and Avalanche do not have a representative for the same reason.
Marc-Andre Fleury, the Penguins goaltender, will be the lone representative from one of the league’s highest-profile teams.
There will also be a distinctly American flavor with nine U.S. born and bred players. It’s the largest red, white and blue contingent since the NHL went to this format in 2003.
”That upsurge has been there,” said Nashville Predators coach Peter Laviolette, born in Norwood, Massachusetts, who will serve as a head coach in the annual goal-fest held for the first time this year in Ohio’s capital city.
”There’s good players all over the world, there really is. But the U.S. has definitely made strides and continues to make strides.”
The native sons include some of the biggest names in the sport: Kane and Foligno (both from Buffalo, New York), Kessel and Minnesota defenseman Ryan Suter (both from Madison, Wisconsin), and Winnipeg defenseman Dustin Byfuglien, St. Louis blue liner Kevin Shattenkirk, Ottawa left wing Bobby Ryan, Tampa Bay center Tyler Johnson and Carolina defenseman Justin Faulk.
”You’re seeing a lot of great players start to come up now,” said Shattenkirk, one of the game’s best young defensemen. ”It’s been a great few years for U.S. hockey. It’s exciting to see that many guys here. We do take a lot of pride in, I don’t want to say proving ourselves, but just making sure that American hockey is respected.”
Johnson missed Saturday’s skills competition due to a lower-body injury and is questionable for Sunday.