COLUMBUS — Mark Giordano can’t wait for tonight’s NHL All-Star Fantasy Draft.
“To be drafted is going to feel great,” he said. “I’ve never been drafted before.”
Giordano, of course, went undrafted out of junior. At 31, he’s now a Norris Trophy candidate with the Calgary Flames. And you never know, if his team makes the playoffs, he could be right there in the Hart Trophy discussion.
“I think I’ve become a better player, obviously, over the years,” he said. “There’s a lot of great players in the NHL, and not in the NHL. A lot of it has to do with opportunity and being in the right place at the right time.”
Giordano, whose career path included a season in Russia with Moscow Dynamo, also believes defensemen are more likely to become late-bloomers.
“You’ve got to play a bunch of seasons before you really understand that it’s all about position and not running around and making bad reads,” he said. “For young guys to come in and be really effective defensemen, like [Drew Doughty and Aaron Ekblad], they’re pretty special players to be able to read the game the way they do at such a young age.”
Giordano was asked, if he were an NHL general manager with a late-round draft pick to use on a defenseman, what would he look for?
“The number one thing is hockey IQ,” he said. “Just look for a guy who reads the game well and sees the ice. At the end of the day, playing in your own zone is going to take a while. I think if you can look for guys who can move the puck and make plays, those are guys you can build around.”
Finally, he was asked if, in hindsight, he did deserve to be drafted.
“No, not at the time,” he said. “I was playing my second year of junior. I wasn’t really a star. I think I got a lot better as I got older.”
NHL on NBCSN: Sharks face Kings in California clash
NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2014-15 campaign with Wednesday’s second game as the San Jose Sharks host the Los Angeles Kings at the SAP Center at 10:30 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game and pre-show online.
Beating the Los Angeles Kings handily to open the 2014-15 season obviously didn’t erase all the pain from that infamous “reverse sweep” in the 2014 playoffs, but the San Jose Sharks still got a measure of revenge with that 4-0 win.
The Sharks will get another chance to spite the Kings tonight, as things haven’t been going smoothly for the defending champions lately. The aim is obvious enough for a Kings team that is currently on the outside of the playoff picture, as NHL.com notes.
“We need to be in that playoff spot before the break. No doubt about it,” Drew Doughty said . “We need to win this game. It’s a division game and it’s a big rivalry. We need to win it, and we need to go into the break feeling good about ourselves.”
Really, you can trace the bad times back to a 2-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Dec. 6. Including that defeat, the Kings have gone 6-7-7 in their past 20 games. More recently, Los Angeles has dropped three straight games and six of seven, squandering precious points from an expired seven-game homestand.
(While four of those defeats netted standings points, there was also the frustration of leaving points on the table.)
Much of those struggles stem from Jonathan Quick’s prolonged slump.
After starting brilliantly (.942 save percentage in October), Quick’s individual stats have dropped significantly each month; his January save percentage has been a putrid .861.
That’s not to say that the Kings are the only team that sees room for improvement, of course.
After beating Toronto to begin this seven-game homestand, the Sharks have dropped two straight games. They would greatly benefit from exploiting this opportunity to load up on standings points.
As much as these two perennial contending California teams have been struggling lately, there’s still plenty of talent on hand. From Joe Thornton to Patrick Marleau and Logan Couture, the Sharks remain loaded with scoring skill. Los Angeles can go toe-to-toe in that area with Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter as well while also boasting elite defenseman Drew Doughty.
Sharks – Kings games are always an entertaining watch, but things get that much more interesting when there’s something on the line. That’s the case tonight, January game or not.
Foligno, who’s enjoying a career-year for the Blue Jackets this season (with a team-leading 18 goals and 40 points), recently re-upped with Columbus on a six-year deal worth $33 million. He promises to be a popular figure during the league’s annual All-Star gala, and will spearhead a leadership group that includes assistants Patrick Kane and Drew Doughty.
Toews, meanwhile, earned his “C” after finishing third in All-Star fan balloting with 1,217,210 votes.
The more intriguing storyline, though, will be who serves as Toews’ assistant — Rick Nash, the former Blue Jacket captain who was traded to the Rangers after spending the first nine seasons of his career in Columbus. With 41 points, Nash is the Rangers’ leading scorer this season and is tied for the League lead in goals, with 26.
Also serving as an assistant for Team Toews will be Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf, who’s making his third All-Star Game appearance.
While some “snubs” are probably quite happy about getting a break (especially Joe Thornton, who’s taking a nice trip to Cabo), you can bet plenty of fan bases will gripe about players who didn’t make it, even if they might not realize that all 30 NHL teams must be represented in some form.
Well, if you’re going to gripe about it, why not do it in the comfy confines of PHT? Before you vote for the biggest snub of them all, however, let’s take a look at who’s on the roster:
Fan voted: Zemgus Girgensons, Buffalo Sabres
Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Brent Seabrook, Duncan Keith, Corey Crawford, Chicago Blackhawks
Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Ducks
Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins
Nick Foligno, Columbus Blue Jackets
Ryan Johansen, Columbus Blue Jackets
Tyler Seguin, Dallas Stars
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Edmonton Oilers
Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings
Patrik Elias, New Jersey Devils
John Tavares, New York Islanders
Rick Nash, New York Rangers
Bobby Ryan, Ottawa Senators
Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers
Jakub Voracek, Philadelphia Flyers
Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins
Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis Blues
Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning
Tyler Johnson, Tampa Bay Lightning
Phil Kessel, Toronto Maple Leafs
Radim Vrbata, Vancouver Canucks
Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Arizona Coyotes
Mark Giordano, Calgary Flames
Justin Faulk, Carolina Hurricanes
Erik Johnson, Colorado Avalanche
Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings
Ryan Suter, Minnesota Wild
Shea Weber, Nashville Predators
Brent Burns, San Jose Sharks
Kevin Shattenkirk, St. Louis Blues
Dustin Byfuglien, Winnipeg Jets
Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets
Jimmy Howard, Detroit Red Wings
Roberto Luongo, Florida Panthers
Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens
Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators
Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames
Aaron Ekblad, Florida Panthers
Tanner Pearson, Los Angeles Kings
Filip Forsberg, Nashville Predators
Mike Hoffman, Ottawa Senators
Jonathan Drouin, Tampa Bay Lightning
OK, did you get a chance to scan the list? Good. Pick the biggest nub in the poll below. If your guy was double-snubbed (gasp), then write him in.