By STEPHEN WHYNO, AP Hockey Author
DENVER (AP) — The Tampa Bay Lightning’s lean years helped them land Steven Stamkos with the primary decide within the 2008 NHL draft and Victor Hedman second in 2009. Identical for the Colorado Avalanche with Gabriel Landeskog going second in 2011, Nathan MacKinnon first in 2013 and Cale Makar fourth in 2017.
The Lightning and Avalanche began from the underside, and now they’re right here within the Stanley Cup Last, largely to nailing these excessive picks.
“It’s a must to undergo robust instances to get these gamers,” Colorado basic supervisor Joe Sakic mentioned. “You’re not getting these gamers within the center rounds.”
Effectively, generally. Brayden Level, Tampa Bay’s main goal-scorer in its previous two Cup runs, was a third-round decide. However this ultimate is an instance for the league’s different 30 groups simply how necessary it’s to not swing and miss within the high 5 of the draft.
“There’s no query that expertise is a commodity that’s laborious to come back by,” mentioned six-time Stanley Cup champion Mark Messier, who’s working the ultimate as an analyst for ESPN. “Then you definitely add commodity with coronary heart and grit and dedication and ability and laborious work and all the opposite issues, then you definitely acquired one thing. Expertise alone won’t ever get you to the championship. However you want expertise.”
A handful of 2022 high prospects noticed that expertise up shut Saturday at Colorado’s morning skate and have been slated to observe Recreation 2 towards Tampa Bay. Shane Wright, the front-runner to be Montreal’s alternative with the No. 1 decide, mentioned a fast hey to MacKinnon.
However in the long term, Wright needs to be in his skates on this stage with the Canadiens or whoever winds up taking him.
“That’s what you’re employed on your whole life,” Wright mentioned. “It was undoubtedly inspiring to see these guys right here, see how laborious they labored and see what it takes to make it at this stage right here.”
It took loads of issues going proper alongside the way in which, however drafting properly is the important thing for nearly all successful franchises. Stamkos was the plain alternative for the Lightning, who acquired Hedman after John Tavares went first in ’09 to the New York Islanders, and the Avalanche have been lucky Makar fell to them eight years later.
Sakic and his employees confronted a significant query 5 years in the past when MacKinnon, American defenseman Seth Jones and Finnish heart Aleksander Barkov have been the choices for the highest decide. Many thought-about Jones the most suitable choice for the rebuilding Avalanche, however they determined properly earlier than draft day that MacKinnon was their man.
“These high three participant have all had nice careers, however he was the one game-changer that might actually entertain followers, as properly,” Sakic mentioned. “We’re extraordinarily lucky we’ve Nathan on our staff.”
Wright understands it’s a course of. The Canadiens, New Jersey Devils or wherever he lands most likely received’t be within the Stanley Cup Last straight away, however he is able to take that journey.
’The draft actually impacts the construction of a staff and the trajectory of a staff and the place they wish to go,” he mentioned. “Tampa and Colorado each had first general picks a lot of years again and now they’re lastly contenders. Effectively, Tampa the final couple years, however Colorado extra so this 12 months is now a contender — probably the greatest groups within the league.
“Positively it takes a pair years to construct these draft picks up and draft the fitting items and get the fitting items in place, nevertheless it’s undoubtedly cool to see, for certain.”
AP Sports activities Author Pat Graham contributed.
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