Well, well, well...The 2009 NHL Entry Draft took place last weekend, and Big Tex feels like doing a little victory dance. Some of you may remember a blog post from early May, in which I stated that non-traditional market teams were helping to grow the NHL's talent pool. Others may remember me making the same argument in comments on one of my favorite sites, Illegal Curve. Naturally, as I watched the draft, I was particularly cognizant of draftees from "Non-Traditional" markets. Here's the breakdown, by state of birth:
Utah: 1 (Dylan Olsen - 28th - CHI)
Texas: 1 (Chris Brown - 36th - PHX)
Colorado: 2 (Matt Clark - 37th - ANA & Drew Shore - 44th - FLA)
California: 3 (Kyle Bigos - 99th - EDM, Brandon Kozun - 179th - LAK & Mitchell Callahan - 180th - DET)
Florida: 1 (Brandon Maxwell - 154th - COL)
Arizona: 1 (Anthony Hamburg - 193rd - MIN)(NOTE: Hamburg gets DOUBLE non-traditional points because he was drafted out of the Dallas Stars' AAA Midget team)
Alabama: 1 (Nic Dowd - 198th - LAK)
That's a total of TEN draftees from non-traditional markets. According to nhl.com, that makes the 2009 Non-Traditional Market Draft Class roughly 43% larger than the 2009 Russian Draft Class. Yes, I'm well aware of the reasons (KHL) behind the NHL's reluctance (no transfer agreement) to draft Russians these days (KHL, cough, cough), but it is heartening to see the development of a new talent pool to help offset the rapidly dwindling Russian pipeline. The question all you makeitseven folks should ask yourselves is this: Without the Stars, Avalanche, Coyotes, Panthers and KingsDucksSharks (among others), would these kids have been drafted into the NHL, NFL or MLB?
I'll say it again, both because I believe it and because I like to repeat myself: Non-traditional market franchises, while an affront to Canadian and East Coast hockey purists, are helping grow the NHL talent pool. In the long-term, the growth of the talent pool will allow for expansion without a significant drop-off in quality of the on-ice product, and will gradually raise the level of play throughout the league. So, in regards to the so-called "Southern Strategy", I'm going to say something I've never directly stated before now, and may never say again: Gary Bettman was right.
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