The 2009 NHL Entry Draft had a little bit of everything - mystery, a big trade, excitement for the hometown crowd at Montreal's Bell Centre and a spirited round of boos when the rival Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins made their picks.
The New York Islanders ended weeks of speculation about who would go first overall when they selected forward John Tavares of the London Knights.
Tavares and the Islanders had to share the spotlight on Friday, as the Anaheim Ducks and Philadelphia Flyers swung a major trade involving Chris Pronger. The deal saw the 1999-2000 Hart and Norris Trophy winner and forward Ryan Dingle head to the Flyers for defenceman Luca Sbisa, forward Joffrey Lupul, the Flyers' first Round pick (21st overall) in 2009, first Round pick in 2010 and a conditional third round pick in 2010 or 2011.
In Tavares, the Islanders get a skilled offensive player who should thrill fans with his highlight reel goals. He has the ability to elevate his game when need be and the few times in his career where his skills have been questioned, he has responded quickly to prove his abilities.
"Obviously it has been a long time coming for me," Tavares explained to TSN. "[I've] been through a great process in junior and now I have a great opportunity to go to a rebuilding franchise in New York. Hopefully we'll bring the tradition back."
Tavares also joins a young core up front that includes first-rounders Kyle Okposo and Josh Bailey.
"Now you can have the offence to match up with teams like Washington and Pittsburgh," said TSN's Pierre McGuire following the pick. "[Tavares] is the right guy at the right time for a team that needs an identity."
The Islanders were also busy well after taking Tavares. They swung a deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets, exchanging several draft picks. The Isles swapped first round picks with Columbus and then made another deal with the Minnesota Wild to turn it into the 12th overall pick (D Calvin De Haan - Oshawa Generals).
The Tampa Bay Lightning was up next and took big, 6'6” defenceman Victor Hedman from Modo of the Swedish Elite League.
"[Hedman] is a very mature guy on and off the ice," said TSN's Bob McKenzie. "This is a guy who played 21 minutes a game on average against men in the Swedish Elite League."
The Colorado Avalanche selected Matt Duchene with the third overall pick. The Brampton Battalion playmaker possesses a great combination of speed and on-ice vision. "This kid's got character, heart and soul. He can score and check, but the biggest thing is that he's a Bryan Trottier type player - he plays all ends of the ice and uses all 200 feet," said McGuire of Duchene.
The Maple Leafs were the first of the Canadian teams to step to the podium. They had expressed interest in moving up, but were unable to work out a deal. General manager Brian Burke paused for a quick chuckle as he was loudly booed by the Bell Centre crowd before he selected London Knights forward Nazem Kadri with the seventh pick.
"He's got a chance to be a very good offensive player," said McKenzie about Kadri. "This is a terrific kid who has tremendous offensive ability. He just needs a little consistency."
The Ottawa Senators were the next Canadian team up and took Jared Cowen of the Spokane Chiefs with the ninth pick.
"He's a Memorial cup winner, has overcome his knee injury, but most importantly he has big body presence," McGuire said of the defenceman. "Ottawa won't be easy to forecheck against Cowen and Erik Karlsson."
The Edmonton Oilers were up after the Senators in the 10th spot and made Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson from Timra of the Swedish Elite league. The winger brings big offensive upside to the Oilers. "The Edmonton Oilers love speed and Svensson is the fastest skater in this draft," said McKenzie. "This was the youngest Swede to ever play in the World Juniors. He drives to the net very well and has speed to burn."
The Canadiens gave their fans a treat by using the 18th pick to take forward Louis LeBlanc of the USHL. The selection of the Montreal native was greeted by a large ovation from the Bell Centre crowd.
The crowd cheered again when the Vancouver Canucks sent Roberto Luongo to the podium to make the selection at 22. The Canucks captain announced the team had taken forward Jordan Schroeder from the University of Minnesota.
"With the Sedins in flux and Pavol Demtira not getting younger, the Canucks needed this pick - along with last year's pick Cody Hodgson - to inject some youth," said McGuire.
While none of the six Canadian teams were able to move up in the draft, the Calgary Flames cut a deal with the New Jersey Devils to take a lower pick. The Flames were scheduled to selected 20th, but traded the pick to the New Jersey Devils in a deal for the 23rd selection. When the Flames finally got to the podium, they took defenceman Tim Erixon from Skelleftea in the Swedish Elite League. Tim is the son of former Ranger winger Jan Erixon.
"He's not fancy or slick - he's just good. He moves the puck unbelievably well and will grow into that 6-2 frame," said McGuire following the selection. "When the games got big for Sweden at the World Juniors, he elevated his game."
With the big three of Tavares, Hedman and Duchene off the board, the number four and five picks went very much as expected. Vancouver Giants forward Evander Kane went to the Atlanta Thrashers with the fourth pick, followed by Brayden Schenn going to the Los Angeles Kings.
Schenn, the younger brother of Maple Leafs defenceman Luke Schenn, had 32 goals and 56 assists over his 70 games for the Brandon Wheat Kings during the 2008-09 season.
"This guy is heart and soul and winning character," said McGuire of the new King. "He'll be a perfect addition up front alongside Dustin Brown."
The Phoenix Coyotes took defenceman Oliver Ekman-Larsson from Leksand in Sweden with the sixth pick. Ekman-Larsson is skilled with the puck and possesses a good shot, he also has the ability to deliver big hits. The Dallas Stars selected forward Scott Glennie of the Brandon Wheat Kings eighth overall.
Following the Senators' and Oilers' picks, the Nashville Predators took Ryan Ellis from the Memorial Cup champion Windsor Spitfires, the Buffalo Sabres took Peterborough Petes tough guy Zack Kassian (13th), the Florida Panthers took defenceman Dmitry Kulikov (14th), the Ducks took forward Peter Holland (15th), the Wild picked Nick Leddy of Eden Prairie High School (16th) and the St. Louis Blues picked defenceman David Rundblad.
The New York Rangers selected forward Chris Kreider from Andover Academy (USHL) at 19th and the Devils used the pick they acquired from Calgary to take forward Jacob Josefson of Djurgarden.
The Ducks then dealt the 21st pick acquired in the Pronger trade to the Blue Jackets. Columbus used the pick on defenceman John Moore of the USHL.
The final selections of the first round went down as follows - Washington Capitals - F Marcus Johansson of Farjestad in Sweden (24th); Boston Bruins - F Jordan Caron from the Rimouski Oceanic (25th); Ducks F Kyle Palmieri from the US National Development program (26th); Carolina Hurricanes - F Philippe Paradis of the Shawinigan Cataractes (27th).
The Bell Centre erupted in applause again when legendary former Canadiens coach Scotty Bowman stepped up to make the Chicago Blackhawks' pick at 28 - defenceman Dylan Olsen of the AJHL.
Another one of Bowman's former clubs was involved in a trade with the next pick as the Red Wings sent the 29th selection to the Lightning for the 32nd and 75th overall picks. Tampa used the pick on forward Carter Ashton of the Lethbridge Hurricanes.
The Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins had the final selection of the first round and used it on defenceman Simon Despres from Saint John of the QMJHL.
Notes: For the first time since 1993, there were no American born players taken in the top-10 (seven Canadians, three Swedes)... It was also the first time three Swedish players went in the top-10... There were a record seven players from Sweden taken in the first round.