January 29, 2014

Boston Bruins Draft Flashback: 2006

By Kirk Luedeke

Fellow 2006 draftees Phil Kessel and Milan Lucic flanked center Marc Savard on Boston's top line throughout most of their time together as Bruins. (Getty Images)

The Boston Bruins franchise was in disarray at the conclusion of the 2005-06 hockey season and faced a crucial crossroads leading up to the entry draft in Vancouver that June.

 A year that began with promise with the return of NHL hockey after a lockout cancelled the 2004-05 big league campaign descended into chaos and despair when a series of big-money free agent signings went bust (Alexei Zhamnov, Brian Leetch, Dave Scatchard) and franchise face Joe Thornton was traded to San Jose before December for the kind of return that ultimately sealed Mike O’Connell’s (Cohasset, Mass.) fate as Bruins GM. O’Connell’s departure opened the door for one-time Harvard hockey captain Peter Chiarelli’s ascension as the B’s new chief of management and operations, but as the assistant GM of the Ottawa Senators, the job of riding herd over Boston’s 2006 draft and early phases of free agency fell to O’Connell’s interim replacement, Jeff Gorton.

Thanks to a win by the Columbus Blue Jackets on the final day of the 2005-06 regular season, the Bruins slid into the fifth overall draft position (not affected by the draft lottery, won by St. Louis).  Two points are what separated the B’s from Phil Kessel and someone else (Derick Brassard went one selection later at sixth overall). Kessel may no longer be with the Bruins, but his impact will likely be felt in the years to come, even if the jury is still out on the players received from Toronto and then Dallas last summer.

The B’s former chief amateur scout and current director of player personnel, Scott Bradley, called 2006 a “historic” draft year and critical moment for the rebuilding of the once proud franchise’s sagging fortunes. Little did Bradley know at the time that his words would prove to be prophetic, and that just five years later, the club would reverse direction from the road to ruin to Stanley Cup glory in the very city the draft occurred, defeating the Vancouver Canucks in an epic seven-game championship series.

Boston’s selections in the second and third rounds formed part of the team’s core during the 2011 Stanley Cup championship and run to the 2013 Stanley Cup final: Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand, while No. 1 goaltender Tuukka Rask’s history is inextricably linked to the 2006 draft as well.

Although this group was unable to secure hockey’s ultimate prize for Boston, the B’s Class of ’79 is rivaled only by the 1980 and 2006 team drafts as the most critical in franchise history.

The Players

Phil Kessel, F: 1st round, 5th selection, 5th overall (University of Minnesota - WCHA)

Phil Kessel’s electrifying performance at the 2005 World Jr. Championship tourney in Grand Forks, N.D. seemingly made his top selection in 2006 fait accompli, but a year-and-a-half after making a definitive statement for Team USA, the Wisconsin native entered draft weekend in Vancouver on a slide.

The B’s scooped him up at five, a major coup for the club (team sources claim they had Kessel ranked second on their list), at the time desperate to infuse pure speed and scoring to a moribund group of forwards of whom only Patrice Bergeron (coming off of his only 30-goal campaign to date) was notable. Kessel was a prized addition who would go on to make the team immediately and weather adversity in the form of testicular cancer at mid-season, earning him the 2007 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy.

By his third NHL season, Kessel emerged as a bona fide star, lighting the lamp 36 times in 2008-09 as the Bruins surged to the top of the Eastern Conference regular season standings. Unfortunately, after a playoff sweep of the Montreal Canadiens in the first round, they dropped a hard-fought, but ultimately crushing seven-game series to the underdog Carolina Hurricanes.

With Kessel up for a new contract and big pay raise, the rumor mill began to swirl in the late spring of 2009 that he was unhappy in Boston, and the team was more interested in negotiating a “bridge” contract and not willing to grant a substantial long-term deal at big money. Although a trade with Toronto was nearly consummated in late June at the NHL draft in Montreal (things allegedly fell apart when the Bruins thought they were getting Toronto’s seventh overall selection [the Leafs chose center Nazem Kadri] in addition to veteran defenseman Tomas Kaberle), Peter Chiarelli and Brian Burke continued to talk and in late September, Kessel became Toronto property (with a five-year contract worth $5.4 million per season, up from the $850,000 in each of his first three years) in exchange for a trio of high draft choices in 2010 and 2011.

Kessel is a proven NHL goal scorer and All-Star with the Leafs, recently signing another long-term (8-years, $64 million) extension to remain in Toronto through 2022. The Bruins traded their first Kessel draft choice in Tyler Seguin, and still have Jared Knight (2nd round- 2010) and Dougie Hamilton (1st round, 2011) in the fold. The jury is still out on Boston’s return, but for the time being, dealing Kessel has worked out for both teams, as the Bruins have made two trips to the Stanley Cup final (winning one) in the last three years, and have young assets in place to stay in contention in the foreseeable future.

The Leafs received the best player in the trade, but after nearly leading Toronto to a first-round upset over the B’s last spring, Kessel and Co. were unable to prevent a historic four-goal comeback and OT win by Boston in the decisive game’s final 10 minutes.

To date, Kessel’s NHL career has been somewhat of a paradox: the better he plays individually, the less collective success his team has. He deserves more respect league-wide than he receives for his skill and talent, but until he can be a part of a winning club formula, this will continue to dog him.

What did the scouts say:

“As pure a natural sniper as you’ll find anywhere who can score in such a variety of ways…Blazing speed, quickness, lateral agility and hands are all magical…Circles like a shark ready to explode into its prey…devastating shot with a blurry fast release and uncanny accuracy…just average size, but plays well in traffic and is feisty.”- Red Line Report, 2006 NHL Draft Guide; 2nd overall out of 291 players ranked.

"People are suggesting that Kessel didn't have a good year. I don't look at it this way. He stepped on the ice with 21 and 22 year-olds. Phil is not a big guy, and when you step on the ice with guys who are four and five years older than you in some cases, there's an adjustment period to the physical part of the game. He wasn't able to freewheel and do some of the things that he's done in the past. I certainly believe he'll be able to do that in the future as he catches up age-wise. As he gets into the flow of things physically and gets stronger, he's going to go right back to being the explosive, dynamic player he's always been."- Ron Anderson, Chicago Blackhawks amateur scout, as told to ChicagoBlackhawks.com, June 16, 2006

“(Kessel) plays at such top speed, that he sees the ice really well. To play with him, you have to be a pretty good player, and you’d better be able to skate. In some instances, he didn’t have people who could keep up with him.”- Jeff Gorton, assistant GM, Boston Bruins to New England Hockey Journal, July 2006

Who the Bruins targeted ahead of Kessel:

Nicklas Backstrom, C Brynas (Sweden) - Taken 4th overall by Washington

In a now-famous YouTube video, assistant GM Jeff Gorton approached Capitals GM George McPhee on the draft floor when Washington was about to go on the clock with an offer of Boston’s 1st(5th overall) and 2nd (37th overall) selections to move up one spot from five to four. When McPhee asked Gorton who the B’s were targeting, Gorton responded with a quiet but audible: “We want the Swede.”

The resulting exchange McPhee had at the Caps draft table made it clear how much Washington valued Backstrom. As a result, the Capitals passed on another early second-rounder (they would take Michal Neuvirth and forward Francois Bouchard back-to-back at 34 and 35) while passing on the chance to own the 37th choice and six total picks (4, 23, 34, 35, 37 and 52)  in rounds 1-2. From Washington’s perspective, sometimes the best trades are the ones you don’t make.

 Yury Alexandrov, D: 2nd round, 7th selection, 37th overall. (Severstal Cherepovets - Russia)

The Bruins were hoping for a re-do on the disastrous selection of Swedish defenseman Lars Jonsson in 2000 when they passed on signing the seventh overall selection and as compensation, received the seventh pick of the 2006 draft’s second round.

In taking the slick puck-moving Russian d-man in Alexandrov (who turned 18 on draft day in Vancouver), Boston was getting a highly-touted player who ended up being a lot of sizzle, but not much steak. In perhaps what served as the tipping point for the club’s aversion to taking Russian players early in drafts from 2007 until they picked Alexander Khokhlachev 40th overall in 2011, Alexandrov’s lack of success in Boston cannot be ascribed to any one factor, but could have been a far costlier draft mistake than it was.

From 2006-09, the B’s struggled to keep the lines of communication open with their first of two second-round picks in the draft, and given that Chiarelli was not yet on board in Boston when the choice was made, Alexandrov was essentially left to his own devices in the Russian elite pro league (which became the Kontinental Hockey League or KHL in 2008) with Cherepovets. However, a chance exchange with a Russian contact connected to Alexandrov’s agent resulted in him coming over to Boston for the 2009 prospects development camp, and we was signed by the B’s a year later.

Unfortunately for Alexandrov, he struggled to adapt and adjust to the North American game and changes to the style of defense he was used to. Although he demonstrated good vision and excellent passing ability in flashes, his average skating and lack of a physical game doomed him to mediocrity at the AHL level. He returned to the KHL after just one year with Providence and no NHL time with the big club.

The B’s dealt Alexandrov’s rights to the New York Islanders (along with prospect Marc Cantin) at the 2012 trade deadline.  The move served to shed contracts, allowing Boston to bring veteran Brian Rolston on board, where he finished out his NHL career.

Alexandrov closes out a sad chapter in Bruins draft history…the team missed on seventh and 37th picks, getting a grand total of zero games between the two players they picked. If there is a silver lining, the team did get a short-term return with Rolston, and the decision to take Alexandrov over Lucic did not come back to bite the B’s.

What did the scouts say:

“Ultra smooth and calm with the puck with fabulous vision and passing skills…Crisp and decisive- moves the puck quickly…Plays a very fluid, intelligent, mistake-free game at both ends.” - Red Line Report, 2006 NHL Draft Guide; 21st overall out of 291 players ranked. 

Did you know?

Bruins amateur scouting director Scott Bradley pushed for Milan Lucic at the 37th position, but with input from other members of the staff, acting GM Jeff Gorton opted for Alexandrov, gambling that the B’s could get both players in the second round by taking the more highly-regarded Russian earlier. The gamble paid off, but how different would things be in Boston if the Los Angeles Kings had grabbed Lucic before the 50th pick as they were prepared to do (they reportedly opted for defenseman Joey Ryan 48th overall at the direction of GM Dean Lombardi)?

Milan Lucic, LW: 2nd round, 20th selection 50th overall. (Vancouver Giants - WHL)

When you talk about franchise-altering draft picks, Hall of Fame Raymond Bourque is Boston’s most successful example. However, though the production and overall body of work is nowhere near as accomplished as Bourque, Milan Lucic’s impact on the Bruins’ fortunes is not that far off as he continues to evolve as the NHL’s premier power forward.

The Vancouver native was greeted like a conquering hero at the then General Motors Place when the Bruins called his name in the second round, but few had an inclination that he would become the kind of impact player he has developed into while wearing the spoked-B. Few, that is, save for the man who is most responsible for Boston’s decision to draft Lucic: Scott Bradley.

 That Lucic is a Bruin today speaks to the personal misfortune of Bradley, who was diagnosed with cancer in his knee before the 2005-06 season and had surgery, which kept him home in Vancouver instead of the normal global travel that top amateur scouts for NHL clubs engage in so they can see as many prospects as possible. Bradley instead saw far more games of the hometown Vancouver Giants of the WHL, where he came to notice a raw, rough-around-the-edges forward who was far more brawn than skill at the time, but only appeared to be scratching the surface of what would prove to be immense power forward potential.

Acquired with a draft choice Boston received from the Edmonton Oilers as part of the 2006 trade deadline deal that sent fan favorite Sergei Samsonov out west, Lucic was not even invited to the B’s veteran/main training camp that fall, as he returned to the Giants after participating in several days of rookie camp practices and scrimmages in Wilmington, Mass. A motivated Lucic posted a 30-goal season under then-coach Don Hay, then followed it up with a Memorial Cup championship (as host city club after losing the WHL championship to Medicine Hat) and tournament MVP honors.

The New England Hockey Journal was among the first to get on board with Lucic’s potential, publishing this write up just days after the 2006 draft:

“Scouts are almost unanimous in their praise of Lucic, who plays a high-energy, yet disciplined game on the ice. He loves to hit opponents hard and often, and relishes any challenge to drop the gloves and fight for his teammates. Unlike some one-dimensional enforcer types who lose sight of what is most important in hockey, Lucic is a prized commodity for any era: he plays a powerful, physical game with a mean streak, but also has the skill and intelligence to skate a regular shift. He can beat opponents with his fists one minute, but is involved in his club’s offense the next.”

If there was any hedge on projecting the rising star’s impact it was with how quickly he established himself in the NHL. At age 19, Lucic attended his first Boston main training camp and never played another amateur or minor league game afterwards, establishing himself as a rookie in 2007-08 and going on to earn instant cult status for his rugged playing style and willingness to take on any comers with his fists.

Although Lucic has battled consistency challenges over the course of his NHL career, he is still arguably the best for what he brings in terms of his scoring and ability to dictate the tempo of a game with his snarl and sheer physicality. Unfortunately, Lucic's streaky play tends to make him a lightning rod for criticism by fans when his production tails off.

What did the scouts say:

“Broad-shouldered and ultra-tough winger who plays with a nasty edge…aggressive, angry style and is always looking for the big open-ice hit…very tough fighter- when he gets hit, he gets mad and just punches harder…a lumbering skater but has decent straight-line speed…slow acceleration and no lateral agility…surprisingly good hands and can finish in close.” - Red Line Report, 2006 NHL Draft Guide; 87th overall out of 291 players ranked.

“He’s a unique player that I think does a lot of the little things right. His hockey sense is a lot better than a lot of people think and he’s the type of player that’s going to go through the wall for you.Milan’s going to be a player. He knows what he needs to work on, but he’s got such good hockey sense and the work ethic to go with it.”- Bruins amateur scouting director Scott Bradley to the New England Hockey Journal, 2006


Did you know:

Lucic was ranked as the 13th player in the “mid-round sleepers worth a look” category in Red Line Report’s 2006 NHL draft guide. The player listed just two spots later at 15 was current Bruins farmhand Carter Camper, who scored his 1st NHL goal against the Ottawa Senators late in the 2011-12 season, but hasn’t been able to crack the Boston roster since.

Brad Marchand, LW: 3rd round, 8th selection, 71st overall (Moncton Wildcats - QMJHL)

Brad Marchand’s early season struggles aside, the small, skilled and abrasive winger has been a significant contributor to the B’s winning ways since the dawn of the 2010-11 regular season.

The Nova Scotian and speedy sparkplug rose to prominence during the 2006 postseason, when he helped lead the Moncton Wildcats to the QMJHL championship. Although the club came up short to the host Quebec Remparts at the Memorial Cup, the B’s liked Marchand’s upside enough to move up in the third round (they traded their fourth-round selection) to grab him.

Although Marchand (Mar-SHAND) would be a polarizing figure in junior, traded first from Moncton to Val-d’Or and then to his hometown Halifax Mooseheads where ended up disappointing in an underachieving playoff run, the abrasive winger also shined in helping Team Canada to a pair of World Jr. Championship gold medals in 2007 and 2008.

After turning pro and joining the Providence Bruins for the 2008-09 campaign, Marchand made a seamless transition. As had been the case throughout his junior career, elevated his play in the 2009 postseason, leading the team in scoring en route to a conference championship series appearance. His Boston career started slowly, as he notched just one assist (in his first NHL game) in 20 appearances while seeing spot duty on the fourth line and not even getting a shot on the depleted 2010 B’s playoff roster.

That set the stage for a spectacular resurgence during Boston’s 2010-11 Stanley Cup season, as Marchand worked his way onto the second line from the bottom unit, scoring 21 goals and adding 11 more in the playoffs. Marchand saved his best for last, as he was Boston’s most visible and productive player in the Stanley Cup final against Vancouver.

Since then, Marchand has continued to be a team leader in goals and among the league’s best at infuriating opponents. Marchand’s biggest challenge lies in controlling his emotions and not putting his team at a disadvantage by crossing the line and taking selfish penalties. After a brutal start to the 2013-14 campaign, Marchand has been on a tear since January, re-establishing himself as Boston’s top goal-getter with 16. If the B’s have any hope of returning to the Stanley Cup Final in June, Marchand will need to continue his high level of play, which has seen him score 62 goals over the past two-and-a-half seasons.

What did the scouts say:

“We saw (Marchand) at the Memorial Cup and he was real successful. He tries so hard all the time. He’s got some skill and can really shoot the puck. He’s the kind of guy we think can work out with us.”- Gorton to New England Hockey Journal, July 2006

"I don't know that Boston really wants him to be a Steve Ott or a Sean Avery-type guy. I think it's part of his game. It's an intangible in his game. He [ticks] guys off so much. He doesn't pull any punches with the stuff he says. In saying that, with guys like Ott and Avery, you're going to have to back it up. He's had two fights this season. He's a tough kid. It's not like he's going to shy away from it."- Rob Murray, former Providence Bruins head coach, to Boston Globe, March 2009

2006 draft factoid:

Marchand and Lucic share the distinction of being the most productive players selected in their respective rounds of the ’06 draft, and it isn’t close.  Lucic’s 272 points are some 80 more than the next highest scorer, Nikolai Kulemin, who was drafted six spots higher by Toronto at 44th overall.  Marchand’s 161 points outpace Cal Clutterbuck’s 119, and Marchand has done it in 125 fewer NHL games than the current Islanders checking forward.

That kind of production in the second and third rounds has been instrumental in Boston being able to rise near the top of the NHL’s pecking order in recent seasons.

Andrew Bodnarchuk, D: 5th round, 5th selection, 128th overall (Halifax Mooseheads - QMJHL)

This childhood friend of Marchand’s left the Maritimes for the New England prep hockey scene. A standout at St. Paul’s (of which longtime defenseman and current Bruins assistant GM Don Sweeney is also an alumnus) in Concord, N.H., before deciding to pursue the major junior route over the NCAA, Bodnarchuk instead skated for his hometown Halifax team for three seasons.

Although undersized, Bodnarchuk forged a solid reputation as a gritty presence in junior with a penchant for moving the puck effectively and being a fine leader and team guy.  He posted an impressive 16 goals and 57 points in Halifax the year after being drafted, and turned pro along with Marchand for the 2008-09 AHL season.

Bodnarchuk’s mobility, smarts and edgy play earned him a brief, five-game callup to Boston late in the 2009-10 season, where he and Marchand were able to enjoy their first taste of the NHL together.

A ‘tweener who appears to be a rock solid player at the AHL level, but does not have the skill set to thrive as an NHL regular, Bodnarchuk was not tendered by Boston following the 2011-12 season and signed with Los Angeles, where he has played two seasons with the Kings’ Manchester Monarchs AHL affiliate.

What did the scouts say:

“Bodnarchuk’s an excellent skater and an aggressive player for his size or lack thereof. He gives an honest effort at all times, but lacks the physical strength to play the kind of style he wants.”- Kyle Woodlief, chief scout and publisher, Red Line Report to New England Hockey Journal, July 2006.

Levi Nelson, C: 6th round, 5th selection, 158th overall (Swift Current Broncos - WHL)

After Alexandrov, Nelson was the only other true draft miss from Boston’s Class of 2006.

A rugged forward coached by former Bruins defenseman (and current AHL head coach) Dean Chynoweth, Nelson brought an energetic, physical style despite lacking top-level hockey skills and sense. Described by one scout as a player you could wind up and send into the corners to obliterate opponents,  Nelson did not have an abundance of size (6-0, 195) or upside when the B’s drafted him as a project with their final selection.

Nelson spent two largely unremarkable seasons in Providence as a checking forward before being dealt to Tampa Bay for the rights to Juraj Simek. Since 2011, Nelson has bounced between the ECHL and Germany, currently starring in Italy for HC Ritten Renon.

What did the scouts say:

“Nelson will give you everything he has and then some. His offense isn’t what will get him to the NHL, but if he makes it, it will be because of his tenacity and versatility. He’s like a missile on the ice, going after any opponent within striking distance, and I don’t think I’ve seen many kids get blown up like he does, but bounce back up and keep working all over the ice.”- Tim MacLean, New York Islanders amateur scout, to New England Hockey Journal, July 2006

One for the road: 

In one of Boston’s most critical trades of the last 25 years, assistant GM Jeff Gorton, acting as the team’s top decision maker with Peter Chiarelli still technically employed by the Ottawa Senators, pulled the trigger on getting Tuukka Rask from the Toronto Maple Leafs on draft day.

Gorton sent 2004 Calder Trophy winner Andrew Raycroft, who had underachieved since his rookie year and grown disgruntled after Joe Thornton was traded to San Jose, to Toronto for Rask, the 21st overall selection in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. As a Leaf, Raycroft posted one 37-win (non-playoff) season before losing his starting job to Vesa Toskala in 2007-08. He last played in the NHL for the Dallas Stars in 2011-12 and is currently in Sweden with Bjorkloven IF of the Allsvenskan/second division.

According to Bradley, the B’s had targeted Rask (right) the year before with their top pick, only to see Toronto snag him just one spot before Boston. They subsequently took defenseman Matt Lashoff (who along with Martins Karsums brought Mark Recchi, Dennis Seidenberg and Matt Bartkowski back to Boston in two separate deals) but never lost sight of Rask.

With Eddie Belfour on the outs, then Leafs GM John Ferguson Jr. was looking for a more established veteran goaltender and moved on Raycroft, reportedly offering Boston the choice between Rask and Justin Pogge, another Leafs prospect who was named the 2006 WJC MVP after a dazzling performance for Team Canada. Pogge, for the record, appeared in just seven career NHL games with the Leafs, setting the team back several years in their quest for stable, capable goaltending. 

Boston chose wisely and got their man a year after initially targeting him.  The rest, as they say, is history.

The Scouts

Although Sean Coady was Boston’s Director of Pro Scouting and Player Development at the time, the focus of  the 2006 NHL Entry Draft was firmly in the realm of the team’s amateur scouting staff.

Director of Amateur Scouting: Scott Bradley

The son of longtime Bruins scout Bart Bradley, Scott grew up around the team and earned his place in the organization by working his way up the ladder as a regional scout in Western Canada during the early 90’s. By 1997, Bradley was Boston’s chief amateur scout, a position he held through 2007, when he was promoted to the director of player personnel position, allowing the team to leverage his skills to bridge and coordinate the efforts between Boston’s amateur and pro scouting staffs.

Bradley (right), who has overcome significant personal physical hardships, has been steadfast in his loyalty to the Bruins organization and his profession. He remains to this day one of the most known and respected members of the NHL scouting fraternity.

Amateur scouting staff:

Nikolai Bobrov, Director of European Scouting

Adam Creighton

Otto Hascak

Mike McGraw

Tom Songin

Svenake ‘Sven’ Svensson

The Grade: A

Aside from 1979 and 1980, no other Bruins draft has provided the kind of impact players to the team’s core along with the long-term potential to continue paying off as the 2006 class.

In Kessel, Lucic and Marchand, the B’s hit on three out of four picks in the top-75 and then parlayed Kessel into picks that could continue to see significant dividends for the next decade or so.

When you throw in Rask, who wasn’t a pick in 2006, but was a part of that draft’s overall success, one could make the argument that over a two-week period in late June/early July the Bruins did their most important work in terms of drafting, while signing Zdeno Chara and Marc Savard as unrestricted free agents. Although Savard’s career ended much too soon, the team put nearly every key core piece of a championship roster and perennial contender over a 14-day window.

 B’s Impacts

1. Phil Kessel, RW (2006-09): 222 GP, 66 G, 60 A, 126 PTS, 56 PIM

Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy- 2007 

Trade: To Toronto for 1st round picks in 2010 (Tyler Seguin), 2011 (Dougie Hamilton), 2nd round pick in 2010 (Jared Knight); September, 2009

Tyler Seguin, RW 2010-13; 203 GP, 56 G, 65 A, 121 PTS, 64 PIM

Trade: To Dallas (with Rich Peverley and Ryan Button) for F Loui Eriksson, F Reilly Smith, F Matt Fraser, and D Joe Morrow

2. Yury Alexandrov, D (No NHL experience)

Trade: To NY Islanders with D Marc Cantin for Brian Rolston, April 2012

3. Milan Lucic, LW (2008-present): 453 GP, 110 G, 162 A, 272 PTS, 660 PIM

4. Brad Marchand, LW (2010-present): 267 GP, 83 G, 78 A, 161 PTS, 231 PIM

5. Andrew Bodnarchuk, D (2009-10): 5 GP, 0 G, 0 A, 0 PTS, 0 PIM

6. Levi Nelson, C (No NHL experience)

Remember when: 2006

U.S. President: George W. Bush (43rd, right)

Prime Minister of Canada: Paul Martin (21st), Stephen Harper (22nd)

Average cost of gallon of gas: $2.99

 Stanley Cup Champions: Carolina Hurricanes

Super Bowl Champions: Pittsburgh Steelers

World Series Champions: St. Louis Cardinals

NBA Champions: Miami Heat

Wimbledon Champions: Roger Federer/Amelie Mauresmo

NCAA Hockey Champions: Wisconsin Badgers

NCAA Football Champions: Florida Gators

NCAA Basketball Champions: Florida Gators

Kentucky Derby Winner: Barbaro

World Cup (soccer): Italy

No. 1 (highest gross) film of 2006: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (right)

No. 1 Pop Single during 2006 NHL Draft: "Hips Don’t Lie" - Shakira feat. Wyclef Jean

No. 1 TV Show: American Idol (Fox)

Cost of a 30-second Superbowl ad: $2.5M

NHL photos: Getty Images

Twitter: @kluedeke29
Email: feedback@hockeyjournal.com