COLUMBUS - Phil Kessel was in a good mood. Sure, he was part of the first-ever All-Star Game fantasy draft trade, but it was all in the right spirit. Because of course Kessel was traded for Tyler Seguin, the same player he was swapped for in the NHL back in 2009.
“I've been there before," Kessel said. "Got traded for the same person and I think it worked out OK for everyone. I had a fun time tonight.”
It was clear from the outset that the NHL wanted a trade made during the draft, as it was brought up time and again by host Kathryn Tappen and sure enough, the captains of Team Toews and Team Foligno came together with a corker.
"Once we were told to make a trade we figured it out pretty quickly what we wanted to do," said Chicago's Patrick Kane, an alternate captain on Team Foligno. "We were thinking of something with a back story and we thought it would be funny."
L.A.'s Drew Doughty, the other alternate captain for Team Foligno, confirmed this. Doughty, who stole the show with his stage presence, joked afterwards that he may not be done having fun with the weekend's festivities.
"I'm thinking of putting myself in the hardest shot contest," he said. "Just because my shot will be so much softer than everyone else."
What all the players agreed upon was that the draft was fun. The chirps and inside jokes were flying across the stage, from Jonathan Toews teasing Hawks teammate Kane that he knew his picks and was going to take those players one pick prior, to Doughty playfully boasting that he shut down Team Toews alternate captain Ryan Getzlaf in the playoffs last year. The closeness of the hockey community was clear.
"I've known Johnny (Toews) a long time, I've known Getzlaf and (Rick) Nash from a few of these things and we had fun with it," Kane said. "If you look at the hockey world, there's always some sort of connection."
And of course, there was a very comedic Alex Ovechkin lobbying for the car that comes with the last pick (and what ended up being two cars for Filip Forsberg and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins). Kane revealed that they wanted to wait just long enough that 'Ovie' wouldn't get the car and that's exactly what happened.
The bonus of this was Ovechkin hamming it up backstage for most of the night, crashing a Mark Giordano interview and holding up Vladimir Tarasenko's walk to the stage so that he could take a selfie with the young Blues sniper. There was rampant speculation about what the players were drinking backstage and while Kessel claimed he was personally drinking Coke, he did recognize Ovechkin's ebullience.
"He was pretty special tonight, wasn't he?" Kessel chuckled.
It was that kind of night.