The Atlanta Thrashers begin stockpiling players for their inaugural season, raiding 26 existing NHL teams today at the expansion draft at Boston. If history is any guide, the Thrasher roster will be filled with castoffs, has-beens and never-weres.
The Thrashers will take one player from each team's unprotected lists (the year-old Nashville Predators are off limits). But the pickings appear to be pretty slim for the league's 28th team.
Don Waddell, Atlanta general manager, says he's looking for speed and skill today. In that case, he might have an interest in the Kings' Ray Ferraro and the Mighty Ducks' Pascal Trepanier.
Saturday, Waddell and the rest of the league's general managers then select from the world's best 18-year-olds in the entry draft, also held at Boston's FleetCenter.
The Thrashers have the second pick behind the sadsack Tampa Bay Lightning, which seems to be making a tradition of selecting first overall. Last year, the Lightning made center Vincent Lecavalier the top pick.
The rebuilding Kings don't have a first-round pick, having sent the eighth overall selection to the New York Islanders as part of the deal that brought high-scoring winger Ziggy Palffy to Los Angeles.
The Ducks, coming off their second winning season and playoff appearance in their six seasons, pick 15th overall.
Unlike recent entry drafts, there is some uncertainty as to the No. 1 pick.
It could be Czech center Patrik Stefan, who played last season for the Long Beach Ice Dogs and is the top-rated player in the entry draft by the NHL's central scouting service.
But questions about Stefan's health after he suffered a season-ending concussion have opened the door to other possibilities. The Hockey News ranks Czech right wing Pavel Brendl and Swedish left wing Daniel Sedin ahead of Stefan.
Pierre Gauthier, Duck president and general manager, remains committed to building his team through the draft.
"We won't tell anyone who we're going to pick because we don't know," Gauthier said.
Neither Gauthier nor King General Manager Dave Taylor seemed overly concerned about losing a player in today's expansion draft. There weren't many surprises on their unprotected lists, although the Ducks left enforcer and fan favorite Stu Grimson exposed.