Raleigh, N.C. -- The NHL held it’s first All-Star fantasy draft on Friday, and according to the three Boston Bruins players present -- captain Zdeno Chara, goalie Tim Thomas and rookie forward Tyler Seguin -- the event was a rousing success.
Based on the crowd that packed the Raleigh Convention Center for the draft -- which determined the teams for Sunday's All-Star Game and rookie Skills competition -- and the buzz around the media, this event could become a tradition at All-Star weekend.
“I liked it; it’s something different and we’ll see if they stick with it, but I think it was nice,” said Chara who was selected in the fourth round by Team Staal. “It’s just something that -- especially with the miked up players -- it’s always good to see what’s going on behind the scenes. I think that everyone had fun and it was nice to see the players so relaxed and a little bit different from what we know of them on the ice. Also, you could see that they were really meaning business, trying to obviously pick the right mix of players for that team.”
Chara admitted to being a bit nervous when he was waiting to be selected.
“It felt good but I was a little nervous,” Chara said with a smile. “Obviously, it’s an honor to be picked, and I went pretty early, so I was pretty happy about that.”
All-Star games are usually high-scoring affairs of shinny, but there were two goalies picked in the first five rounds Friday: Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward was the first player chosen overall by Team Staal, and Thomas was chosen in the fifth round by Team Lidstrom. Thomas was introduced by longtime friend and former teammate from the University of Vermont, Marty St. Louis of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
“Team Lidstrom picks from the Vermont Catamounts, my boy Timmy Thomas!” St. Louis exclaimed when announcing the pick.
Thomas was excited to be S. Louis' teammate once again.
“I was very happy to end up on Marty St. Louis’ team -- an old teammate -- to play with him,” said Thomas who was also thrilled with the introduction.
Thomas was happy with his selection, except for the fact that he would have to use the tight confines of the visitors’ dressing room at the RBC Center.
“I had a feeling for some reason I was going to go Blue team [Team Lidstrom],” Thomas said. “The major benefit of going on the white team is they get the home locker room. It’s OK though, I’m used to the away locker room here."
The goalies had to be picked by the tenth round, so Thomas knew he would be drafted before the 11th round, which was where he got picked in the 1994 NHL entry draft by the Quebec Nordiques. Prior to the draft Friday night, Thomas was excited he wouldn’t have to wait that long again.
“Obviously, I knew I had to be picked by Round 10, as far as the rounds go, so I wasn’t surprised that I was one of the top 10 picks,” Thomas said. “But yeah, I was a little surprised. I saw a mock draft that I was going in Round 6 and I didn’t think about all that much, and then when Cam Ward got picked first, I thought maybe that would even drop me down a round. I didn’t know how they were going to play it, if they were going to get the picks to the offensive guys early and then wait until [Rounds] 8, 9 and 10 to go to the goalies. I didn’t know how they were going to do it."
Overall, Thomas seemed to like the idea of the fantasy draft.
“I think it played out well,” Thomas said. “I heard that they were kind of selling this as a way for fans to see the guys' personalities, so hopefully that showed up.”
But it was probably the googly-eyed Bruins rookie who summed up the night best.
“It was surreal,” said Seguin. “Really exciting. I had a great time and I think the guys and fans did, too.”