After nearly a year of debate and intrigue, hockey fans finally got the answer that they were looking for on Friday as the Edmonton Oilers selected Taylor Hall first overall at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft from Los Angeles.
"I'm still shaking right now," Hall told TSN's James Duthie. "I'm just so honoured to be included in this draft class. To go number one is such a credit to everyone involved. I'm just so happy to be here."
The Windsor Spitfires' sniper was the top ranked prospect in TSN Hockey Insider Bob McKenzie's final draft rankings as well topping the International Scouting Services and the Hockey News' rankings.
The 18-year old enjoyed a spectacular year, scoring 40 goals and adding 66 assists in 57 regular season games with the Spitfires. He was also a key component of Windsor's back-to-back Memorial Cup titles as he was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player for the second consecutive year. He also found time in his busy schedule to help Canada capture the silver medal at the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship.
The drafting of Hall signifies that the rebuild is well underway in the ‘City of Champions' as the Oilers expect Hall to team with top ranked prospects Jordan Eberle, Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson and Linus Omark as the nucleus of a future contender.
To his credit, Hall believes that he can make an immediate impact with the Oilers.
"Hopefully I can make that team next year," said Hall. "That's my first step. We can really recreate some of the magic they had there. I think when you have a young team, that's something I'm really looking forward to joining."
Oilers' general manager Steve Tambellini discussed the reasons for choosing Taylor over Tyler with James Duthie.
"We felt like with Taylor, if you look at his resume of playing with the best team and being the best player," Tambellini told Duthie. "Back to back Memorial Cup MVP's, prominent in the World Junior tournament, prominent on his own team for his entire junior career. I haven't met a more competitive player than this young man."
The Boston Bruins received a pretty solid consolation prize as they were able to select Tyler Seguin second overall after receiving the pick as part of a package from the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for forward Phil Kessel.
"It's a dream come true to go in the first round," Seguin told Duthie. "To go to a team like Boston, it's just fantastic."
He too believes that he can immediately step into the Bruins lineup.
"I'm very confident in my skills, and after talking to the Bruins I think I can come in and hopefully earn a spot."
Seguin stated that there was no shame coming second to Hall.
"I wasn't surprised or disappointed," said Seguin. "I think I just came in here really with an open mind. I didn't have any expectations. I think everyone has their own opinion. We've seen it all year with whatever scouting service there may be. You know, Edmonton decided to select Hall first overall, and good for him. He deserves it. And I'm happy to be a Bruin."
The Plymouth Whalers' playmaker was selected as the CHL prospect of the year and finished atop the NHL's Central Scouting rankings. He has been compared favourably to a young Joe Sakic or Steve Yzerman.
"He's got a tremendous shot, vision and creativity. He's got a lot of things going for him," said Bruins' general manager Peter Chiarelli. "He's a good kid, he comes from a good family and we are happy to have him.”
Seguin finished his OHL campaign with 28 goals and 106 points in 63 games. There are plenty of scouts who believe he will be the better player in the long run.
After consumating a trade earlier in the night with the Vancouver Canucks that saw the Florida Panthers shift Keith Ballard to the West Coast, new Panthers' GM Dale Tallon remained busy as he announced the selection of Kingston Frontenacs defenceman Erik Gudbranson with the third overall pick.
A behemoth on the blueline, Gudbranson is a stay at home defenceman who should be able to inject some size and strength into the Cats' defence corps.
Many expected the fourth pick overall to be in play as there had been plenty of speculation that the Columbus Blue Jackets were shopping the pick. Instead, general manager Scott Howson announced the selection of Portland Winter Hawks forward Ryan Johansen.
No player helped their draft stock more this past year than Johansen who rocketed up the draft rankings from 150th prior to the season to a high lottery pick.
With the fifth pick in the draft, the New York Islanders selected Johansen's teammate in Portland, forward Nino Niederreiter.
Niederreiter is another player who has seen his draft status elevated in the past 12 months after starring for the Swiss at the World Junior Hockey championship. He becomes the highest player ever drafted from Switzerland.
In his first ever draft as a general manager, the newly anointed saviour of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Steve Yzerman announced that the Bolts selected Prince George's forward Brett Connolly sixth overall.
The pick is a bit of a risk as Connolly was limited to only 16 games this past season due to a hip injury.
With the seventh overall pick, the Carolina Hurricanes selected Kitchener Rangers' marksman Brian Skinner.
No prospect was able to find the back of the net more often than the former figure skater this past season and the ‘Canes undoubtedly have visions of he and Eric Staal combining to lead the team into the future.
The Atlanta Thrashers strayed from the formula a bit by selecting the first Russian born player in the draft in the Barrie Colt's Alex Burmistrov.
The speedster is a tad on the small side, listed at only 159 pounds, but what he lacks in size, he makes up for in skill and intensity.
The Minnesota Wild continued the European trend by picking Finnish forward Mikael Granlund with the ninth overall pick. Most scouts use Saku Koivu as a reference point when discussing the career potential of Granlund. He will remain in the Finnish league for at least one more season.
The New York Rangers took a big step towards toughening up their team as the picked rugged Moose Jaw Warrior's blueliner Dylan McIlraith. No other prospect had anywhere near the 19 fighting majors McIlraith accumulated last season.
With the 11th pick, the Dallas Stars selected the first American born player and the first goaltender chosen in the form of Jack Campbell.
Campbell broke plenty of Canadian hearts by backstopping the United States to the gold medal at the IIHF World Junior Hockey championship.
After a lengthy wait, defenceman Cam Fowler had to be relieved when his name was finally called by the Anaheim Ducks with the 12th pick.
Ranked third overall for the majority of the year, Fowler is a top notch puck moving defenceman who should slide into a spot vacated on the Ducks blueline thanks to the retirement of Scott Niedermayer. He looked ecstatic to be joining the Ducks despite the boos from the pro-Kings crowd at the Staples Center.
Fowler admitted that it was nerve wracking waiting for his name to be called.
"When you have high expectations for yourself and people are saying certain things and it doesn't end up working out, it's tough," said Fowler. "But I'm a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. I think I came to a great organization who was excited to have me. At the end of the day, that's all that really matters. You want somebody that's confident in you and somebody that's happy to have you aboard."
With Fowler out of the way, Moncton's Brandon Gormley became the man on the hot seat as he was projected to be drafted inside the top five but forced to wait. Fortunately for Gormley he did not have to squirm uncomfortably very long as the Phoenix Coyotes called his name with the 13th overall pick.
The St. Louis Blues would select the Tri-City Storm's Jaden Schwartz with the 14th pick overall giving him a very special birthday present.
With a lack of action on the trade front, the Staples Center suddenly got excited as the Los Angeles Kings acquired the 15th pick from the Florida Panthers for the 19th and 59th pick of the draft. The Kings used their newly acquired pick to select defenceman Derek Forbort from the US National development team.
The dealing of picks continued as the Ottawa Senators sent the 16th overall pick to the St. Louis Blues in exchange for defenceman David Runblad who went 17th overall in last year's NHL Entry Draft.
The Blues used the pick to choose Russian prospect Vladimir Tarasenko, who is described as having Top 10 skills, however the possibility exists that he could remain in the KHL for at least a season.
The Colorado Avalanche made perhaps the biggest stretch of the first round, picking Owen Sound Attack centre Joey Hishon with the 17th pick. Hishon was not expected to be selected until half-way through the second round.
The Nashville Predators would follow at 18 with Peterborough Petes' forward Austin Watson, the highest rated prospect remaining. Watson increased his draft stock after being traded to the Petes late in the season from the Windsor Spitfires.
With their second choice in the first round, the Panthers' picked Nick Bjugstad from Blaine High School in Minnesota where he was named 'Mr. Hockey.' A 17-year old who graduated a year early, he will join the Minnesota Golden Gophers of the NCAA next season.
The Pittsburgh Penguins gave the California fans a reason to cheer as they selected Gardena native Beau Bennett with the 19th overall pick. He tore up the BCJHL offensively last season and becomes the highest ever player drafted who was born and trained in California.
With only their second top-25 pick in the past 11 years, the Detroit Red Wings chose Notre Dame's Riley Sheahan 21st overall.
Instead of making their second selection of the first round, the Phoenix Coyotes traded the 22nd pick and the 113th pick to the Montreal Canadiens for 27th and 57th picks. The Habs used their newly acquired selection to pick another American prospect, Jarred Tinordi, the son of former Minnesota North Stars stalwart Mark. A hulking defensive prospect, he should eventually fill the role vacated by the departure of Mike Komisarek last season.
The Buffalo Sabres added to their defence corps with the 23rd pick by choosing the Edmonton Oil Kings Mark Pysyk who is a safe, steady, stay-at-home defenceman. That was followed by the Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks choosing Kevin Hayes in a draft pick acquired in the deal that sent Dustin Byfuglien to the Atlanta Thrashers. Hayes will be heading to Boston College next season to play college hockey.
After acquiring their third pick of the first round from the Vancouver Canucks as part of the Ballard deal, the Panthers selected Moose Jaw Warriors' winger Quinton Howard.
Already with a stable full of Russian thoroughbreds, the Washington Capitals added yet another by choosing Evgeny Kuznetsov with the 26th overall pick. Although he has two years remaining on his KHL contract, he plans on playing in the NHL once that deal expires.
In a pick acquired from the Montreal Canadiens, the Phoenix Coyotes went off the board a bit, selecting goaltender Mark Visentin of the Niagara Ice Dogs. Most mock drafts had Visentin going sometime in the late second round, behind goalie Calvin Pickard of the Seattle Thunderbirds.
Etem, who was the 17th rated prospect according to most mock drafts, is considered one of the fastest skaters available in the draft.
The Chicago Blackhawks rounded out the proceedings by trading the final pick of the first round to the New York Islanders for picks 35 and 58 in the draft. With the pick the Islanders chose Minnesota high school prospect Brock Nelson. He was the 10th American-born player selected in the first round, tying a NHL record.
Several players who expected to hear their names called in the first round will be forced to comeback on Saturday to realize the beginning of their NHL dreams. Those passed over include Sudbury's John McFarland, Red Deer defenceman Alex Petrovic and Seattle Thunderbirds' netminder Calvin Pickard.