In a season filled with bad news, the New York Islanders finally received some positive information Tuesday night when they won the NHL Draft Lottery, meaning they will have the first shot at London Knights phenom John Tavares or Swedish defenceman Victor Hedman.
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly unveiled the top five live on TSN. Much to the delight of Islanders fans, no team beat the odds to displace New York atop the lottery standings. The Islanders finished last in the NHL this season and had a 48% chance of landing the first overall pick.
"I'm thrilled for our fans. Thrilled for our organization, (owner) Charles Wang and (GM) Garth Snow. This is a great moment." Islanders director of pro scouting Ken Morrow told NHL on TSN's James Duthie after the Isles won the lottery. "No offence to you guys, but I don't want to be back here next year."
The remainder of the lottery remained true to the odds with the Tampa Bay Lightning getting the second overall pick, followed by the Colorado Avalanche, Atlanta Thrashers and Los Angeles Kings.
The Islanders, who also won the NHL Draft Drawing in 2000, have selected first overall three times in franchise history. With those picks, the team selected Bill Harris (1972), Denis Potvin (1973) and Rick DiPietro (2000).
The top two prospects according to both TSN and Central Scouting, John Tavares and Sweden's Victor Hedman were both on hand, via satellite, for the unveiling. Both expressed how much of an honour it would be to go first overall.
"Only a select few get to be in that class," Tavares told the NHL on TSN's James Duthie. "I'm not looking to be the number one overall pick, but it is a great achievement. I just want to play in the NHL."
Hedman could be the first Swedish born player to be selected first overall since the Quebec Nordiques picked Mats Sundin at number one in the 1989 NHL Entry draft. A fact that was not lost on the towering blue liner.
"It would mean a lot to me to go first," Hedman told Duthie live from Ornskoldsvik, Sweden. "Mats was the last one, and it would be a great honour to me to follow him"
As for which way the Isles will go with their pick, Morrow wasn't saying.
"No announcement from me tonight," Morrow stated. "Whoever we end up with we know we're getting a very good player who can hopefully be a cornerstone for us to go along with our other young players."
Islanders general manager Garth Snow reiterated that fact later on a conference call.
"We're going to get a great player for this team," said Snow. "With Hedman, you have a 6-6 defenceman who skates like the wind. With John Tavares, you have a forward who can obviously put up huge numbers offensively.
"It's two players who are exceptional talents, and that's the one great aspect of being in the position we are right now. We know we're going to get a fantastic player."
TSN's top-five rated prospects are Tavares, Hedman, forward Matt Duchene of the OHL's Brampton Battalion, forward Evander Kane of the WHL's Vancouver Giants, and forward Brayden Schenn of the WHL's Brandon Wheat Kings.
The 2009 NHL Entry Draft will take place June 26 and 27 at Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec with the first round broadcast live on TSN.
The order of selection for the first 14 drafting positions in the first round, only, of the 2009 Entry Draft is as follows:
1. New York Islanders
2. Tampa Bay Lightning
3. Colorado Avalanche
4. Atlanta Thrashers
5. Los Angeles Kings
6. Phoenix Coyotes
7. Toronto Maple Leafs
8. Dallas Stars
9. Ottawa Senators
10. Edmonton Oilers
11. Nashville Predators
12. Minnesota Wild
13. Buffalo Sabres
14. Florida Panthers
The remaining drafting positions will be determined at the conclusion of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.