KENNEWICK — The Tri-City Americans haven't gotten much interest from the National Hockey League lately, but with their deep run in the playoffs and the emergence of several of their younger players, there should be a few phones ringing this weekend during the NHL Entry Draft.
"Based on the way our team played and how they played as individuals, I'd be surprised if we didn't have players taken," said Tri-City general manager Bob Tory, who has had only two players drafted since 2005.
The draft is today and Saturday at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
The Edmonton Oilers have the top pick -- barring a trade -- and are expected to take Taylor Hall (Windsor) or Tyler Seguin (Plymouth), who are the top two players in the Ontario Hockey League.
The Boston Bruins have the No. 2 pick, followed by the Florida Panthers, Columbus Blue Jackets and New York Islanders.
The Americans have not had a player drafted since 2008 when goalie Chet Pickard was selected 18th overall by the Nashville Predators and defenseman Eric Mestery was taken in the second round by the Washington Capitals. Tri-City also was shut out of the draft in 2006 and 2007.
Calvin Pickard, the younger brother of Chet Pickard, is the top-ranked North American goalie in the draft. He is projected to go late in the first round.
Among those eligible for the draft, Tory sees Justin Feser, Brooks Macek, Jordan Messier and Patrick Holland as the players most likely to be selected.
Feser, who had a super sophomore season for the Americans, saw his stock drop from 154th at midseason to 177th in the Central Scouting rankings -- despite scoring 36 goals with 37 assists making him a possible sixth round pick.
"Justin isn't quite 5-9 and some teams are leery of taking a player that size," Tory said. "His numbers are phenomenal, he plays both ends of the ice, blocks shots and plays fearless. I'm hoping he gets drafted. I think he can surprise some people, like he did in the league."
Macek, who was listed 86th in the final rankings, is a projected third-round pick, while right wing Messier (ranked 115th) is slated to go in the fourth round.
"Brooks is a good playmaker and Jordan the classic power forward," Tory said. "Patrick had a good second half of the season and caught the eye of several teams. We had four 17-year-olds playing in the WHL finals, that's rare. Even if they don't get drafted, they should be invited to camps."
Tory would also like teams to give a look to forwards Brendan Shinnimin, who led the Americans in scoring with 82 points and Sergei Drozd, defenseman Tyler Schmidt and goalie Drew Owsley, MVP of the Western Conference finals.
"Our team is not designed to please the NHL draft, but to build an elite team in the league and be competitive," Tory said. "We have smaller players who don't tend to get drafted. Every team is different. Many players are drafted who don't get signed and there are many great players who were never drafted."
Americans list player Jaden Schwartz, who is playing in the USHL, is projected to go late in the first round. Schwartz played at Notre Dame with Macek and Messier, but has yet to play for Tri-City.
"We have had some good conversations with Jaden and his family throughout the year," said Tory, who will be in Los Angeles for the draft. "Hopefully, with the quality of our program and who drafts him, that will help him make the decision to join us."