LOS ANGELES - Cam Fowler had trouble believing it.
Projected to go perhaps as high as third overall in the NHL draft Friday night, the Windsor Spitfires defenceman was left to fidget as name after name was called, some of players projected to go late in the first round.
“It’s tough. The wait, no matter what you do, it’s always hard. When you have have high expectations and people say certain things and it doesn’t work out,” said Fowler. “It’s definitely hard when everyone projects you to be a top pick and you slide.”
Fowler, who was ranked fifth among North American skaters by the NHL’s central scouting bureau, was finally taken 12th overall by the Anaheim Ducks.
At that point, he was so relieved, he probably didn’t mind the hail of the boos that rained down from the fans in the packed Staples Center, most of which were fans of the hometown Kings, the Ducks’ big rival.
“I’m a firm believer everything happens for a reason,” said Fowler.
Fowler’s slip was indicative of the unpredictability of this year’s draft, where it was clear who would be at the top, but a fool’s game after that.
Feel free to mock the mock drafts.
Taylor or Tyler was the first big question of the night and the only real certainty was it would be either Taylor Hall of the Windsor Spitfires or Tyler Seguin of the Plymouth Whalers to go first overall.
As most expected, Hall went first to the Edmonton Oilers, despite being ranked second to Seguin by the NHL’s Central Scouting Bureau.
Seguin fell to the Boston Bruins with the pick they got from the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Phil Kessel deal.
After that, big Erik Gudbranson, an Ottawa native who plays with Kingston of the OHL, went third to the Florida Panthers. Not a stretch.
But that’s when it started getting interesting.
The Columbus Blue Jackets made the first surprise pick, taking centre Ryan Johansen from Portland of the WHL, projected to be outside the top 10.
The New York Rangers went a little off the chart opting for Winnipeg native Dylan McIlrath, the nasty defenceman from the Moose Jaw Warriors with the 10th pick. McIlrath was projected to a late first-rounder and was ranked as the 17th North American skater by the CSB, but he said he had an inkling he would be picked after intense interest from the Blueshirts.
The Atlanta Thrashers were the first team to gamble on a Russian player (the lure of the KHL as an option makes them risky business) taking Alex Burmistrov of the Barrie Colts of the OHL.
The Montreal Canadiens saw something they liked and traded the 27th and 57th picks to the Phoenix Coyotes for the 22nd and 113th picks and used the 22nd pick to take Jarred Tinordi, the son of former NHLer Mark Tinordi.
The Ottawa Senators had the 16th pick and saw absolutely nothing they liked, simply deciding there was no player to be selected who would be better than St. Louis Blues prospect David Runblad, the 17th overall pick in last year’s draft.
There were winners: 11 Americans were taken in the first round, a record take, beating out by one the 10 Americans taken in both 2006 and 2007.
One of the biggest cheers of the night came when the conflicted Kings fans saw the Ducks take Long Beach native Emerson Etem with the 29th pick.
Another surprise on a night with a few of them?
“This might sound embarrassing,” said Etem. “I’ve never been to a Ducks game...and I lived 20 minutes from the Honda Center.”
He might go to a few now.