As all the world knows, Alexander Ovechkin was selected first overall in the NHL draft in 2004 by the Washington Capitals. However, if the Russian was born two days before his date of birth September 17, 1985, it would have been part of the very strong cohort of 2003.
Indeed, the regulation of the circuit Bettman states that a player is eligible at auction amateur any given year if it has at least 18 years old on the 15 of September of the same year.
The last chance of 2003 began on June 21. Thus, to this date, Ovechkin was not eligible, who would have been 18 years after the deadline. As well, so he had to wait at the meeting of 2004 to be selected.
These are two days that have completely changed the face of the NHL.
Let’s go back 17 years back.
The Florida Panthers had the first choice of the draft at the dawn of the 21 June 2003. But things picked up after that, the director-general of the team, Rick Dudley, has sent the very first selection and a choice of the third round (73rd overall) to the Pittsburgh Penguins in return for the third selection in total, a selection of the second round (55th overall) and striker Mikael Samuelsson.
“We had Roberto Luongo, so we were not going to pick a goalkeeper,” admitted Dudley, who is now vice-president, operations hockey Hurricanes of the Caroline, in an interview with the TVASports.ca, on Friday. I had an agreement with the Penguins and Craig Patrick had told me that he wanted to draft a guard. I had a lot of faith in him.
“At this point, there was Eric Staal and Nathan Horton. I had a preference for Eric Staal, but two of my recruiters, Scott Luce, and Darwin Bennett, the wanted Nathan Horton. There was not a big difference.
In the end, the Penguins selected Marc-Andre Fleury (1st) and Daniel Carcillo (73rd), while the Panthers have put the hand on Horton (3rd), since the Hurricanes had taken Staal just before, and Stefan Meyer (55th). Then, while the world has made its merry way.
“The exchange made sense, continued Dudley. We had a player that we liked a lot. Horton has been very good to us right from the beginning.”
What would have happened if, however, “Ovi” was available?
“I would have absolutely taken Ovechkin said without any hesitation the man is 71 years old. It was at another level completely.”
2003 : a last chance sensational
The draft of 2003 is considered one of the best vintages in history. In total, 14 players from this auction amateur who have reached the plateau of 1000 games in the NHL, including 12 who have been picked in the first round; Patrice Bergeron (2nd round) and Joe Pavelski (7th round) are the two that have managed this feat of arms was recovered later than the first tour.
Players like Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Zach Parise, Brent Burns and Staal, in particular, have all heard their name in the first round.
Put Ovechkin in there, and everything explodes. First, for the player. Indeed, he would have been able to obtain a season more to try to get close to the record for the number of goals Wayne Gretzky, and, even if Nicklas Backstrom had not been at his side during the entirety of her career. The Russian probably would have joined the Panthers, who have not made a transaction, and would have been with a certain Finn by the name of Olli Jokinen.
“Because of his passion, he makes everyone around him better, explained Dudley, about Ovechkin. We had good players in time. Luongo was a great goalie. Jay Bouwmeester was a good young defender who was often used. The team was going in the right direction. All transactions that we made were in the hopes of becoming a team aspiring to great honours.”
Alexander Ovechkin and Marc-Andre Fleury in 2003, during a game between Canada to Russia
That is what could have happened?
Now, the implications for the teams.
The case of the Panthers has been touched. With “Ovi”, the formation of the Florida would have had in its possession the basics of a champion team and most likely would not have finished the season as the fourth worst formation of the Association in 2004. They would also probably not inherited from the seventh choice in total during the draft next (Rostislav Olesz).
For the Capitals, the situation would have changed, but the impact would have been less, since they would have certainly taken the compatriot Ovechkin first overall in 2004, Evgeni Malkin.
These are the Penguins that are interesting, because they probably would have still selected Marc-Andre Fleury.
“The Hurricanes probably wouldn’t have taken a goalie since they already had Cam Ward, recalled Dudley. They probably would have selected Eric Staal. Then, Pittsburgh would have been Fleury. We had done the year.”
But in 2004, the Penguins would not have been able to get Malkin and would have had to fall back, if we keep the same order as at the time, on the defender Cam Barker. Is the conquest of the Stanley cup in 2009 would have been in danger without Malkin?
The attempt of Dudley
Dudley, who has also worked for several years as an assistant to Marc Bergevin with the Montreal canadiens, was well aware of the whole situation surrounding Ovechkin. But he has still attempted the coup of the circuit.
“Our owner (Alan Cohen) was very good with the numbers, said Dudley. He had read a lot about the draft and had thought that if you took away the extra days of leap years (editor’s NOTE : four between the birth of Ovechkin and 2003), it could be eligible. He had asked me to talk about it to the NHL.
“I talked about it, but I knew that it wouldn’t work. I knew how it would end.”
But, at the request of the owner, Dudley was selected Ovechkin in the ninth round, which was immediately refused.
In the end, he will have drafted two players with the third and fourth selections, held at the ninth lap, a certain John Hecimovic and Tanner Glass.
“It was a good choice,” said Dudley, about Glass.
Matthews in the same situation
The attacker of the Toronto Maple Leafs Auston Matthews is also born on a September 17, (1997). With the same assumption in mind, imagine what would have been the last chance of 2015 with Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel, but especially with the Coyotes of Arizona, where is from Matthews, who will save the third level.
Dudley is packed in there reflective. However, it quickly returned to earth.
“In other sports, probably that would have happened differently, pointed to the former director-general. But the game of hockey, it is very conservative.”