By HOWARD BERGER
ST. PAUL, Minn. (June 25) – The opening round of the 2011 National Hockey League draft was a bit less eventful than observers predicted. “I thought there would be more trades,” admitted Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke, who pulled off a couple of deals. “There was a heck of a lot of chatter leading up to tonight, but not much happened.”
Indeed, there were only four moves involving established players. Burke kicked things off by acquiring defenseman John-Michael Liles from Colorado for a second-round pick in next year’s NHL draft. The biggest trade of the night involved the host Minnesota Wild and the San Jose Sharks: Minnesota sending all-star defenseman Brent Burns to northern California for winger Devin Setoguchi, who scored 31 goals for the Sharks in 2008-09. Word came shortly after the proceedings that defenseman Robyn Regehr had agreed to waive his no-movement clause in Calgary for a trade to Buffalo that will send he and Ales Kotalik to the Sabres for defenseman Chris Butler. Another veteran rearguard – Brian Campbell – will help Florida reach the salary cap minimum with his gargantuan contract… he goes from Chicago to the Panthers for fellow blue-liner Rostislav Olesz.
The Leafs pulled off one other deal – trading the 30th and 39th picks in the draft to Anaheim to move up three spots and select (at No. 22) U.S. under-18 forward Tyler Biggs, a rugged sort that Burke prefers. Leafs then drafted St. Mike’s defenseman Stuart Percy 25th overall.
TYLER BIGGS PULLS ON MAPLE LEAFS JERSEY NEXT TO GM BRIAN BURKE AFTER BEING CHOSEN 22nd OVERALL IN 2011 NHL ENTRY DRAFT; BIGGS IS TYPE OF RUGGED FORWARD BURKE FAVORS.
TYLER BIGGS POSES WITH LEAFS’ GM BRIAN BURKE (LEFT) AND SCOUTING DIRECTOR DAVE MORRISON ON DRAFT PODIUM AT XCEL ENERGY CENTER HERE IN ST. PAUL MN.
Attending the NHL draft is always enjoyable; it’s the only event that gathers every prominent face and name in the hockey world in the same arena. The photos below were taken by yours truly on Friday night. I hope you enjoy this visual review:
THE SCENE TWO HOURS BEFORE THE DRAFT OUTSIDE THE XCEL ENERGY CENTER, HOME OF THE MINNESOTA WILD. I’VE COVERED TWO LEAFS-WILD GAMES AND THE 2004 NHL ALL-STAR GAME HERE; TO ME, IT’S THE BEST ARENA IN THE LEAGUE.
WELCOMING SIGNS ARE POSTED ALL THROUGH DOWNTOWN ST. PAUL FOR THE NHL DRAFT, INCLUDING ABOVE THE ARENA SIDEWALK; XCEL ENERGY CENTER IS BUILT ON SAME SITE AS THE OLD ST. PAUL CIVIC CENTER, HOME OF THE WHA’S MINNESOTA FIGHTING SAINTS IN THE 1970s.
THE ARENA WASN’T FILLED TO CAPACITY FOR OPENING ROUND OF THE DRAFT, AS MANY GOOD SEATS WERE UNOCCUPIED; BUT, THOSE WHO SHOWED UP SEEMED TO HAVE A GOOD TIME, PARTICULARLY A ROWDY GROUP FROM WINNIPEG THAT FILLED AN ENTIRE SECTION OF THE UPPER DECK, TO THE LEFT OF THE DRAFT PODIUM… THE ‘PEGGERS MADE NOISE ALL NIGHT LONG.
THE DRAFT FLOOR FEATURES 30 TEAM TABLES, AND A PODIUM ON WHICH FIRST-ROUND SELECTIONS POSE WITH CLUB OFFICIALS. THE OPENING ROUND TAKES MORE THAN THREE HOURS TO COMPLETE. ROUNDS 2 THROUGH 10 ON SATURDAY WILL BE DONE IN LESS TIME.
IN THE MEDIA INTERVIEW AREA, FIRST OVERALL PICK RYAN NUGENT-HOPKINS OF THE EDMONTON OILERS PREPARES TO SPEAK WITH ROGERS SPORTSNET REPORTER TONY AMBROGGIO.
SECOND PICK IN THE DRAFT, SWEDISH FORWARD GABRIEL LANDESKOG OF THE COLORADO AVALANCHE, TAKES PART IN AN INTERVIEW WITH NHL RADIO.
THIS MAN OBVIOUSLY HAS REASON TO SMILE: CLAUDE JULIEN, COACH OF THE STANLEY CUP CHAMPION BOSTON BRUINS, CHATS WITH REPORTER AT XCEL ENERGY CENTER.
A COUPLE OF OLD NHL PLAYING RIVALS FROM THE 1970s CATCH UP: EX-MINNESOTA NORTH STARS FORWARD LOU NANNE (LEFT) INTERVIEWS FLORIDA PANTHERS GM DALE TALLON, WHO PLAYED FOR THE VANCOUVER CANUCKS AND CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS.
THE NHL’S NEWEST OWNER – MARK CHIPMAN OF THE WINNIPEG JETS – IS INTERVIEWED AFTER CONFIRMING THAT THE FORMER ATLANTA THRASHERS WILL MAINTAIN THE LONG-TIME HOCKEY MONIKER IN WINNIPEG, WHICH DATES TO 1972 AND THE WHA.
THIS IS THE WELL-WORN PATH BETWEEN THE MEDIA RISER ON THE DRAFT FLOOR AND THE INTERVIEW AREA AT XCEL ENERGY CENTER. THE HOST WILD DID A TERRIFIC JOB, AS PER USUAL.
BIG FORWARD SEAN COUTURIER WAS PROJECTED AT ONE TIME AS THE BEST PLAYER AVAILABLE IN THE DRAFT, BUT HE DROPPED TO NO. 8 OVERALL AND WAS SELECTED BY PHILADELPHIA; HERE, COUTURIER IS INTERVIEWED BY FRENCH RADIO IN MONTREAL.
SAN JOSE GM DOUG WILSON TALKS WITH REPORTERS AFTER ACQUIRING ALL-STAR DEFENSEMAN BRENT BURNS FROM THE MINNESOTA WILD FOR WINGER DEVIN SETOGUCHI; IT WAS THE BIGGEST TRADE ON AN OTHERWISE QUIET NIGHT OF ACTIVITY.
MAPLE LEAFS FIRST DRAFT CHOICE TYLER BIGGS IS ALL SMILES AS HE MEETS WITH REPORTERS IN INTERVIEW AREA; GM BRIAN BURKE TRADED WITH ANAHEIM TO MOVE UP THREE SPOTS AND TAKE THE RUGGED AMERICAN FORWARD 22nd OVERALL.
TORONTO’S SECOND DRAFT PICK – DEFENSEMAN STUART PERCY OF THE MISSISSAUGA ST. MICHAEL’S MAJORS – IS INTERVIEWED BY PAUL HENDRICK OF LEAFS TV AFTER BEING CHOSEN 25th OVERALL.
LOCAL MEDIA MADE A BIG FUSS OVER THE MINNESOTA WILD DRAFT PICKS; HERE, ZACK PHILLIPS OF THE ST. JOHN SEA DOGS IS FOLLOWED BY CAMERAS AND MICROPHONES WHILE DOING AN INTERVIEW WITH NHL RADIO.
LEAFS GM BRIAN BURKE HAD A COMPARATIVELY BUSY DAY, ACQUIRING JOHN-MICHAEL LILES FROM COLORADO AND TRADING WITH HIS FORMER TEAM IN ANAHEIM SO HE COULD MOVE UP THREE SPOTS AND DRAFT TYLER BIGGS 22nd OVERALL; HERE, BURKE CHATS AFTER THE OPENING ROUND WITH ROB LONGLEY OF THE TORONTO SUN.
THE FIRST ROUND COMPLETED AFTER MORE THAN THREE HOURS OF ACTIVITY, TEAM TABLES ARE VACATED ON DRAFT FLOOR.