Second day of NHL Draft flies by
Anthony Stolarz tried to drink in the biggest moment of his life.
The crowd inside Consol Energy Center never gave him a chance, booing the lanky 6-foot-5 goaltender the moment he stepped onto the stage after being selected by the Philadelphia Flyers in the second round of the NHL Draft.
Hey, it’s what happens when you wear orange and black at the home of the Pittsburgh Penguins, even if it’s over a suit. And Stolarz knows it’s only going to get worse if he ever makes it to the big club.
”It’s good to know there’s such a passionate rivalry there,” he said.
The not-so-friendly welcome to the NHL for Stolarz was about as eventful as it got during a quiet final day of the draft. Six drama-free rounds whizzed by Saturday without the fireworks produced Friday night, when the Pittsburgh Penguins shook up the league by sending center Jordan Staal to Carolina and defenseman Zbynek Michalek to Phoenix.
”Starting in the last week, some of the things going on behind the scenes felt more like free agency or a trade deadline than a draft,” Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma said.
Maybe for the Penguins. Not so much for the rest of the league. The only trades Saturday consisted mostly of an exchange of draft picks as some of the biggest names out there – namely Columbus Blue Jackets forward Rick Nash and Vancouver goaltender Roberto Luongo – stayed put.
”I’m not surprised,” said Canucks general manager Mike Gillis. ”You need a lot of synergy to get trades done. You need compelling reasons to do them. If we’re considering trading a very high end player, you need compelling reasons to do it. We’re going to go through and we exhaust every one of those reasons.”
Besides, it likely won’t remain quiet for long. There could be more movement over the next week before the free agency period begins July 1.
”There was certainly plenty of offers that were made, at least that came my way,” Penguins general manager Ray Shero said. ”I think you’ll see these things start to pick up once we get to July 1. There might be a domino.”
No wonder teams seemed to be in a hurry to get out the door and on to bigger things. After they needed four hours to get through the first round Friday, the final six rounds were completed in under three hours.
The Blue Jackets opened the second round by taking Swedish goaltender Oscar Dansk with the 31st overall pick, though he was quickly followed by a number of Americans.
There were 56 Americans selected in the draft, including nine in the second round, led by winger Nicolas Kerdiles. The 18-year-old from California was taken with the 36th overall pick by the Anaheim Ducks.
The Winnipeg Jets grabbed center Lukas Sutter with the 39th pick. Sutter is the son of former NHL player Rich Sutter and the cousin of new Pittsburgh center Brandon Sutter, who was traded to the Penguins on Friday in exchange for Staal. Uncle Darryl coached the LA Kings to their first Stanley Cup earlier this month.
Lukas Sutter sounded an awful lot like the rest of the members of hockey’s most prodigious family when talking about his future.
”I’m the kind of gritty two-way player teams need,” Sutter said.
There were plenty of players from that vein chosen Saturday in a draft that lacked the kind of offensive firepower of recent years.
The Edmonton Oilers drafted dynamic Nail Yakupov with the No. 1 pick Friday, hoping the speedy Russian can provide the once-proud franchise a much-needed boost. But the first round was dominated by defense.
While the first-round picks are considered near locks to one day get a shot in the NHL, the road to the league is longer for those chosen on the second day. That’s not a big deal for players like Stolarz, who never imagined he’d be in position to get drafted a year ago.
The New Jersey native grew up rooting for the Devils and idolizing Martin Brodeur. He was cut by a pair of Eastern Junior Hockey League teams last summer before catching on with the Corpus Christi IceRays following an open tryout.
Yes, they play hockey a couple hours north of the Mexico border. It was news to Stolarz too.
”I heard it was right on the beach,” he said with a laugh. ”That was good enough for me.”
Stolarz, who is 6-foot-5 and has a wingspan of nearly 7 feet, will play at the University of Nebraska-Omaha next year, and it will likely be several years before he’s NHL-ready. The same can be said for most of the 181 players selected Saturday, if they make it to the league at all.