Greetings from the NHL Draft in Vancouver, where three Silvertips enter the weekend on the final rankings with NHL Central Scouting: Gianni Fairbrother (D), Dustin Wolf (G), and Bryce Kindopp (RW).
Though no Silvertips were selected in day one, the three hours of showtime displayed plenty of bump for the WHL and its crop of talent, and its new NHL neighbor on a day that Jack Hughes went first overall to the New Jersey Devils. A total of seven players from the WHL were off the board in the first round, with forward Kirby Dach (Saskatoon) the first to go off the board to the Chicago Blackhawks, 3rd overall.
Tod Leiweke, CEO of NHL Seattle, joined owner Jerry Bruckheimer and was asked about the NHL Draft, and its potential to come to Seattle Center. It’s been documented the new team will be in on both drafts in 2021: expansion, and NHL Entry.
“Perhaps in two years we’ll be hosting a very similar conference like this,” said Leiweke. “Instead of projecting we’ll have one of the most beautiful buildings, you’re going to be asking us questions like ‘wow, how did this happen’?”
9AM: Time to settle back in. Longtime friend Doug Plagens (my onetime ECHL broadcast-mate with the Idaho Steelheads, now radio voice of the Florida Panthers) is getting busy with nearly 10 picks to document. The Panthers are loaded with forwards and picked goaltender Spencer Knight at 13th overall, so they’re zeroing in on defense. We’ll see if Gianni Fairbrother is a fit.
10AM: After 15 minutes of a delay to open the ceremonies, were underway. Goaltender Mads Sogaard (37th overall to Ottawa) is the first WHL player off the board in day two.
11:35AM: Gianni Fairbrother’s name is called (3rd round by Montreal) and cheers erupt from the seats of Rogers Arena, much to do with the Tips contingent of fans and Fairbrother’s family. It’s the culmination of Fairbrother’s year of sweat equity into his game and physique. It paid off. The sturdy, two-way defenseman with a mean streak, who potted 10 goals this past season, makes his rounds through the Montreal media gauntlet before being swarmed by nearly 20 members of the media (including yours truly) at the draft podium. And he answered every question like it was the end of a quiet day after practice. He’s as cool as a cucumber.
Montreal entered the draft with a need to replenish their defensive depth, and Fairbrother’s left shot complexion, heavy blast from the point, and hard-edged two-way approach helps fill the need.
Fairbrother mentioned Montreal’s potential interest and a few off-hand conversations he’s had with Noah Juulsen, who only crossed paths with Fairbrother for a few games between 2015-17, but still maintains a unique connection as Silvertips drafted into the Montreal system.
2:00pm: We’re getting into the seventh round. Wolf is still on the board, and the plot is taking to Twitter.
2:30pm: An ENORMOUS scream is heard from the bowl of Rogers Arena (audible, all the way to the press workroom and interview podiums). It sounded like Tiger Woods won a golf tournament.
The Flames made their selection.
Thus began the Dustin Wolf power hour. After being shuttled from his seats were a hoard of Tips fans and Wolf’s family went into party mode, he made his way to the draft podium where he met Tips TV, Calgary media, John Barr of NHLtoSeattle, and more.
Time was running short so we had no availability to get a “one on one” with Dustin. At this point, I don’t think it would have told more of the story. His raw, unbridled, true emotion on the podium told the entire story. He battles like Carter Hart, and today he had to battle the unknown: when was his name going to be called?
I asked about what he learned under Carter Hart for a season, his first, before this one:
Wolf: “it ain’t over til it’s over.”
He’s a battler.
Afterwards, the final stop was to suite level where we were granted access to speak to Mike (father) and Michelle (mother), in a piece you’ll see tomorrow along with the Fairbrother family. I texted Michelle back and forth during the weekend, apparent that anxiety was a tough thing to shake off. Now that the Wolf family hit the finish line in the draft victorious, it was apparent a wave of emotion overcame the entire family, nearly shedding a tear:
Perseverance, resiliency, and accomplishment, all rolled into one day.
We had a blast in Vancouver.