It was just a small gathering at the rink. J-J Peterka’s family, agent and some personnel from EC Red Bull Salzburg gathered in the early-morning hours to watch the first round of the NHL Draft.
In NHL history, only five Germans had been first-round picks. But Germany has started producing elite talent, and this year, three forward prospects – Peterka, Tim Stutzle and Lukas Reichel – possessed the potential to be taken among the first 31 picks.
Stutzle was a lock to be drafted early on Oct. 6. Peterka and Reichel could go later.
To prepare Peterka for any potential disappointment, Red Bull coach Matt McIlvane started sharing Tampa Bay Lightning superstar Nikita Kucherov’s draft story. In 2011, the future Hart Trophy winner and scoring champion lasted until the 58th pick.
“We didn’t want to put something out there where it’s like, ‘Hey, you’re not going to make it to the first round,’” McIlvane told the Times Herald by phone Monday. “All I wanted him to know is that it doesn’t mean that he can’t be the best player in the NHL.”
By the end of the first round, McIlvane found himself circling back to Kucherov’s story.
The Ottawa Senators grabbed Stutzle third overall. Then the Chicago Blackhawks snatched Reichel 17th.
When the opening round ended a little before 5 a.m. in Austria, McIlvane said “the air in the room was gone.” Every team had passed on Peterka.