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NHL Draft: Day 1 observations

June 28, 2014
2014 NHL Draft, Day 1, 1st Round
By Alex Kyrias, Director of Communications-NAHL/NAPHL/NA3HL
First and foremost, the NHL Draft is a major production. The normal 200 x 85 ice surface at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania has been transformed into a sea of 30 tables, rows of media desks, a grand stage and five separate television broadcast sets. This is all in addition to the 15,000 or so fans that will also be in the arena.  It makes for quite the atmosphere. 
Close to everyone is dressed in Flyers orange with exception to the players and their families, who are all nervously seated in the lower bowl.  The Flyers have an impressive NHL history and the banners at the top of the arena prove it.
The players all have dark colored suits on and are seated with easy access to the floor. You may be used to the ‘green rooms’ you see in the NFL or NBA Drafts, where players are behind a curtain, usually at a round table with their entourage including agent, family and others.  Not here. The would-be draftees are seated right in the crowd. It is very ‘hockey-esque.’ 
About 15 minutes prior to the start, the NHL goes through a public roll call. After each team is introduced, the Philly fans great them with a very audible ‘sucks!’ That is of course with the exception of the Flyers, who get a huge hometown ovation and the Pittsburgh Penguins, who get the loudest boo’s of the night. 
Interestingly enough, when I was in Pittsburgh two years ago for the draft, I couldn’t even hear the selection of then NAHL goalie Anthony Stolarz, who ironically was selected by the Flyers, because of the loud boo’s in Pittsburgh. The feeling for one another is obviously mutual between the two fan bases.
The only player with a tie to the family of the three leagues (NAHL, NAPHL, NA3HL) that had the possibility to be drafted in the 1st round on Friday was former California Titans and NAPHL goalie Thatcher Demko. He entered the draft as the #1 ranked North American goalie according to NHL Central Scouting. Most mock drafts had him going in the late stages of the 1st round.
In case your doing the math, it was just over three years ago that Demko was cutting his teeth in the NAPHL with the Titans 16U team. Since that point, Demko developed at a rapid pace, moving onto the US National 17 and 18 teams in consecutive years, and then this past season he played for the Boston College Eagles in the NCAA and was the youngest player in Division I hockey. He helped the Eagles win the Beanpot Tournament and reach the semifinals of the Frozen Four. He finished with the sixth-best winning percentage (.729) and 17th-best goals-against average (2.24) in NCAA Division I.
It’s a little strange how things work in hockey. I can remember all the NAPHL events that season culminating with the Championships, which were held in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The Titans finished with the top record in 2010-11 in the 16U Division and made it all the way to the Championship game. I remember some conversation about Demko, who actually split the goaltending duties that season. He had some solid numbers and finished towards the top of the goaltending statistics that season. But, going from splitting time in the NAPHL 16U Division to potentially being the #1 goaltender taken in the NHL Draft in a span of just three years shows you just how much Demko improved as a netminder in a very short period of time.
However, Demko did not get drafted in Round 1, which is all part of the roller coaster of emotions for a player at the draft. In talking with one NHL scout after the draft, goalies are the most unpredictable of the bunch, especially at the age of 17 or 18.  Just to put that in perspective… the three goalies who were up for the Vezina Trophy this year (Tuuka Rask, Semyon Varlomov and NAHL alum Ben Bishop) are 26-27 years old.  That means that it has been 8-9 years since they were drafted.  A lot can happen in 8-9 years. As the scout told me… “if you are going to draft a goalie in the 1st round, you had better be double sure.”
Day 2 on Saturday starts at 10am and Demko will likely be the first goalie taken. Others that also played in the NAHL, NAPHL and NA3HL will have their name called as well. Check out our Twitter handles for all the updates:
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