LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 25: Eric Gudbranson, drafted third overall by the Florida Panthers, poses for a portrait during the 2010 NHL Entry Draft at Staples Center on June 25, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
As promised by our intrepid new general manager, changes they were a comin'. Talk about sheer unabashed craziness, especially in the eyes of fans not remotely familiar with anything like the behavior exhibited by the Panthers at the Staples Center on Friday evening.
Along with everyone else in hockeydom, the early portion of Friday was spent awaiting something, from anywhere; the smallest rumor would have sufficed, but clubs from top to bottom were as tight-lipped as an Aldebaran Shellmouth (that's for you, Chen), making all of us wait. And wait. And wait some more. Pure desolation.
Mere minutes before showtime in Hollywood, word began Twittering out that a deal had been reached between Vancouver and Florida: the Canucks would send Steve Bernier and the 25th overall selection to the Cats for Keith Ballard. This morphed into Bernier, Michael Grabner, and the 25th pick for Ballard. Enter the powerful name recognition of Victor Oreskovich; his inclusion would seal the transaction, right? On this night, not a chance: following a gaggle of (reasonable) "done deal" proclamations, the move hinged upon Vancouver's ability to select a certain player at the aforementioned 25th spot. So it became "conditional" for the better part of several hours, awaiting the 'Nucks decision as to whether that first-round asset would be in this draft or a year from now. Whatever; draft drama is good drama. And yes, Tallon got his pick Friday.
We'll go over the details a bit more through the weekend, but in the end Florida (and a bundle of organizations) made not only me but a large contingent of media outlets look awfully bad by taking Kingston D Erik Gudbranson third overall, behind Edmonton's Taylor Hall and Boston's Tyler Seguin. As you'll recall, I selected Windsor's Cam Fowler in our SBN Mock Draft last week, as did many outlets around the web. He ultimately went at the charitable 12th spot to rebuilding Anaheim. Egg meet face. What a fall.
One and two went as planned with none of the threatened "Oilers looking to acquire the second pick in addition to their first" lunacy, paving the way for Tallon to grab Gudbranson at three. I'll be honest: my opinion was that the Cats needed offense from the blue line (Fowler), but the kid from Orleans, Ontario wowed the crowd with his size, character, and humble-yet-aggressive personality. I've learned a lot about him over the past few days, and I'm liking everything. He exhibits a Kulikovish ahead-of-his-years mentality which speaks volumes.
The Panthers' 15th overall pick was soon after dealt to the hometown Kings for the 19th and 59th picks. Tallon obviously felt the level of talent at the mid-round position was relatively equal, and stole another second-rounder from a starstruck team in love, bringing the club's total to four.
At 19, the Cats claimed center Nick Bjugstad, a talented high schooler set to begin his freshman year at the University of Minnesota in the fall. Florida capped the evening with the selection of Moose Jaw center Quinton Howden, but until the final pick was chosen, one never had the sense that the Panthers were done.
But done they were, for the moment. A grand entrance by Tallon - and it was just fine spying former GM Randy Sexton at the draft table. He helped to get us here, and deserves to bask in the spotlight, if only for a short period. It's getting awfully tough to not believe in what's taking place among the ranks in Sunrise. Awesome.
Coming Saturday: coverage of rounds 2 through 7.