COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) Phil Kessel was once again dealt for Tyler Seguin, Columbus Blue Jackets center Ryan Johansen was the No. 1 overall pick and superstar Alexander Ovechkin did not get his new car.
In a wild and comic NHL All-Star draft to set the lineups for Sunday’s game, almost nothing went the way anyone might have guessed.
The highlight of the evening was Ovechkin, the Washington Capitals’ $10-million-a-year goal-scoring superstar, pleading to be taken last in the 17-round draft. Why? To compensate for the embarrassment of being the player no one wanted, the NHL gives the last player standing a new car.
At one point during the evening, a TV interviewer approached Ovechkin backstage and he hid behind a white piece of paper on which he had printed: “I want to be last. Need a car.”
Ovechkin, the league’s leading goal-scorer last year, came close to getting his wish. He lasted until there were just three players remaining, but then captain Nick Foligno selected him.
Ovechkin slumped in mock dejection in his chair, looked at the ceiling and sighed loudly. Then he looked into the camera and mouthed one word: “WHY?”
Foligno watched Ovechkin slowly walk onto the stage before despondently putting on a black Team Foligno jersey.
“Hey, Ovie, buy a car!” Foligno called out.
As it turned out, Ovechkin barely missed out on a new set of wheels. The two players who went last Edmonton’s Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nashville rookie Filip Forsberg each got the keys to a new car in a break from tradition.
“He wanted the car but it seems like he always gets everything he wants,” said Rick Nash, one of the assistants to captain Jonathan Toews. “I think the captains had other plans.”
Foligno and Toews, chosen last week as team captains for the All-Star teams, revisited history by recreating the 2009 deal. In that trade, which greatly affected two Original Six franchises, the Boston Bruins sent Kessel to the Toronto Maple Leafs for a first-round draft pick that would become Seguin.
Midway through the draft, Foligno and Toews huddled at the back of the stage before Foligno leaned into the microphone and said, “I’ve always wanted to say this: ‘I have a trade to announce!’”
Both Kessel, who has flourished through some up and down years in Toronto, and Seguin, now a Dallas Stars scorer who shares the league lead with Nash with 28 goals, laughed at the irony.
“Well, fellas, I’ve been there before,” Kessel said with a grin. “I got traded for the same person and I think it worked out OK for everyone.”
Kessel had been grabbed by Team Toews with the second pick â a dramatic difference from the 2011 All-Star draft when he was the last player taken.
The whole evening began with a surprise pick. Foligno, having a career year for the Blue Jackets, won the “puck flip” to make the first selection. He quickly took his teammate, Johansen, the only player in the league with two points streaks of at least 10 games this season.
Toews, the Chicago Blackhawks captain, was helped by assistants Nash and Anaheim Ducks forward Ryan Getzlaf. Foligno was aided by Patrick Kane of the Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty.
After the top two picks, Foligno took Chicago’s Duncan Keith and Los Angeles’ Anze Kopitar, while Toews picked Nashville’s Shea Weber and Philadelphia’s Jake Voracek.
The captains were required to take three goalies within the first 10 rounds and six defensemen by the end of the 15th round.
There were surprises long before the draft. Thanks to an overwhelming bit of ballot-box stuffing by voters in his homeland, Latvia native Zemgus Girgensons of the Buffalo Sabres was the leading vote-getter with almost 1.6 million votes.
Some of the league’s top players â Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, along with Columbus goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky â will miss the game while mending injuries.
The players will square off for their teams in the skills competition on Saturday night before meeting at Nationwide Arena in the first All-Star game played in Ohio’s capital city.
Ovechkin wasn’t talking after the draft, but Foligno said he clearly would have to lift the spirits of the Russian star.
“It must be something back home in Russia that Honda Accords are hot right now,” Foligno laughed. “Who knows what the deal was. But I feel bad. I’m going to have to talk to him. He seems really disappointed he didn’t get it.”