The NHL Entry draft goes tonight and it will start off with an announcement that the billboards around Tampa aren't just for show. Steve Stamkos is on his way to the Florida city to play second fiddle to Vinny Lecavalier.
Next year, the top pick's only surprise will be which of the losers in the upcoming season will get the chance to erect billboards to John Tavares, who has roots just down the way in Mississauga. But, I'm telling you now, the winner of next year's draft might be the team that drafts second. Victor Hedman of Sweden will be the kind of consolation prize they write about in movies. Honestly, as good as Tavares is, if I had something other than the Anaheim defence, I might just think about drafting Hedman first.
Big defenceman sometimes take awhile. I mean Jay Bouwmeester has taken a bit to get the engine going. Now, there might not be six players in the league Florida would trade him for heads up. One of them would be Calgary hard rock Dion Phaneuf. That's because Phaneuf is as good and is younger. But, THOSE are the kind of names Hedman will be in conversations with, five years from now.
The consolation prizes Los Angeles is looking over this year include a half-ton of defensive potential. Guys like Drew Doughty, Zach Bogosian, Alex Pietrangelo and (my pick) Luke Schenn will each have good NHL careers. But I'd trade any of them in a heartbeat for Hedman's pick next year, where ever it falls.