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Thoughts From The 2023 NHL Draft

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The 2023 NHL Draft | Hockey players wearing suits, walking down a hallway - SkateGuard

Part 1: The Experience

I have been around hockey my whole life. The game has taken me all over the world. It’s been the vehicle through which I have met most of my closest friends and mentors. And it has provided me with a set of experiences that I wouldn’t trade for the world. But until this summer, I had never been to an NHL Draft – something that had been on my hockey bucket list for a very long time.

Below are a few thoughts and observations from a busy couple of days in Nashville with my KJH colleague Mike Jaczko:

  • Nashville was a superb choice as host city for the NHL Draft this year. It’s great to see a “non-traditional” hockey market become so energized and involved in the sport. I enjoyed hearing the Predators fans get excited for their team’s selections, and I was equally amused at the disdain they harboured for some of the Preds’ long-time division rivals, namely the Blues and the Blackhawks. Nashville has developed a reputation as a blossoming hockey market, and everything I witnessed validated that.
  • Speaking of the Blackhawks, there were a lot of Hawks fans in Nashville! The fanbase is clearly fired up (rightfully so!) for the Connor Bedard era. A lot of Bedard 98 jerseys walking around already …
  • Overall, the way the young players handled themselves throughout the week was impressive. There were a number of players staying at the same hotel as Mike and I, and they presented themselves well all week. One player I was very impressed with was Adam Fantilli. As someone who was slated to be the 2nd overall pick through much of the lead-up to the draft, it wouldn’t have been surprising to see him be less than pleased to see Anaheim pass him over in favour of Leo Carlsson. Between congratulating Carlsson in the stands after being selected, to his level of enthusiasm when Columbus chose him with the next pick, to his attitude and body language during his interview, Fantilli displayed character and poise. It was noteworthy that he signed his contract right away on July 1, as well.
  • There were a few instances where players slipped further in the draft than some projections thought they might. As the camera in the rink panned to some of these players, there was a demonstrable level of dejection in their body language. Perspective is always difficult to appreciate at 17 or 18 years old, but I would encourage those players to keep in mind that once you’re out of the first round, where and when you are selected makes, at best, a minimal difference. The incremental implications when it comes to signing a contract are negligible, and a former NHL general manager once told me that the rule of thumb for a GM is usually “you need to hit on your first rounder, and then you need to find one other player over the last six rounds. Whether you are a team’s third rounder or sixth rounder, the advocacy for you as a player within that organization remains about the same. It becomes all about performance, so don’t worry if you went 88th or 138th. Go crush it!

Finally, I would highly recommend the NHL Draft experience for any hockey fan. If you want to catch a glimpse of some of the heaviest hitters in the hockey world, spend some time walking around the city during draft week. Everyone is there, and typically in a good mood. I thought the league did a great job with the event, and any true hockey fan should take in one draft in their life. So put it on your hockey bucket list!

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