Come Friday night, a trio of Manitobans figure to have a new favourite NHL team.
With the 2010 NHL Entry Draft beginning on Friday in Los Angeles, there’s a good chance Dylan McIlrath, Calvin Pickard and Quinton Howden could all hear their names called in the first round.
“We’re all really good friends and it would be pretty special for the province of Manitoba to have three guys go in the first round of the NHL draft,” said Pickard, who is the top ranked North American goalie by Central Scouting. “It would be pretty cool.”
Regardless of how it turns out, all three plan on soaking in the entire experience of waiting for the moment to arrive.
“Yeah, I’ve had a few dreams about it,” said McIlrath, a bruising defenceman with the Moose Jaw Warriors of the Western Hockey League. “It’s going to be a neat experience. We’re going to enjoy it. I’m not too worried about where I’m slotted. I just hope I’m fortunate enough to get drafted.”
There’s little doubt of that happening. It’s merely a matter of where and when at this point of the procedings.
McIlrath is known as one of — if not the most — feared fighter in the draft, but he’s honed his skills and his stock is clearly on the rise.
“It’s nice that I got noticed during the year with what I did,” said McIlrath. “I’ve worked hard at developing my game.”
McIlrath’s ice time increased in the new year and he took full advantage of his enhanced role, piling up five of his seven goals and 16 of his 24 points.
“Gradually I made it to the top D-pairing and I was able to contribute offensively too,” said McIlrath.
Howden, who also plays for the Warriors, is a goal scorer who should blossom into a dominant power forward.
“Nothing is in my control anymore, I did all I could up to this point,” said Howden, who led the Warriors in scoring but missed the playoffs with a separated shoulder that is fully healed. “It’s up to them now. I’m just going to go there and hope for the best. I’m looking forward to seeing where everything ends up.”
There seems to be a growing segment of people who believe American Jack Campbell might be the first goalie selected, but Pickard, who plays for the Seattle Thunderbirds of the WHL, is undeterred.
“I just want to go to the team that wants me the most — it’s just a starting point and it’s what you do after the draft that counts,” said Pickard, whose brother Chet was a first-round pick of the Nashville Predators in 2008. “It would be nice to go in the first round, but you really can’t track where goalies are going to go. It’s whatever an organization needs at a certain time. I think there’s a few teams that need goalies.
“If I go in the second round, that’s fine too.”
The Brandon Wheat Kings could have as many as three forwards selected on Day 2 of the draft.
Mark Stone (119th) of Winnipeg, Michael Ferland (146th among North American skaters) of Brandon and Brenden Walker (not ranked) of Ste. Anne project to be mid-to-late round selections.
Winnipeggers Brooks Macek of the Tri-City Americans (86th) Charles Inglis of the Saskatoon Blades (121st) and Jordan DePape (207th) of the Kamloops Blazers should also factor in the equation.
There’s a good chance a pair of Manitoba Junior Hockey League players could have their names called on Saturday as well.
Centre Brendan O’Donnell and defenceman Peter Stoykewych of the Winnipeg South Blues are both on the radar.
Stoykewych is ranked 88th among North American skaters, while O’Donnell slipped out of the final rankings but has been attracting plenty of interest from scouts.