Steve Mason ... drafted 69th ... say what?

February, 16, 2009
02/16/09
11:06
PM ET
Once again, we are presented with yet another example of how inexact the science of drafting is when you consider the case of Steve Mason, especially when it comes to goaltending.

The man who has a shot at being nominated for the Hart, Vezina and Calder trophies this season was superseded in the 2006 NHL draft by 68 other players, including six other goalies.

Say what?

"It was a pretty interesting story, actually," Doug MacLean told ESPN.com on Monday.

It turned out to be MacLean's last draft as general manager of the Columbus Blue Jackets, but he certainly made it count. He took impressive center Derick Brassard sixth overall and then snagged Mason 69th. Highway robbery.

MacLean gives all the credit to Jackets director of player personnel Don Boyd, who back then also doubled as director of amateur scouting, as well as former Jackets goalie coach Rick Wamsley.

"Don Boyd is from London [Ontario]," MacLean said. "So he started talking to me about this kid named Steve Mason. He only played 12 games in London [OHL] that year. He played some junior B, as well. So, we sent Rick Wamsley in there to watch him practice, and Boyd caught him as much as he could. So we went to the draft that year; it wasn't a great draft, and we had the draft coming to Columbus the next year, and I wanted to add an extra pick for that.

"Boyd, Paul Castron [on the scouting staff at the time, director of amateur scouting for the Jackets today] and Wamsley guaranteed me we'd get Mason with the third pick because not a lot of people knew him at the time. So I traded my second pick and got that extra pick for the draft in Columbus, just to make it a little more exciting for the home fans in 2007, although it didn't matter since I got fired anyway [laughs]. "Anyway, we moved down and we got him with the third pick. Since then, I heard from Tim Bernhardt [Stars director of amateur scouting] in Dallas, and he said they were devastated because they were going to take him with their third pick."

By the next season, Mason was a junior star, and the Jackets from top to bottom were thrilled with their gamble.

"When I watched him the next year in London, he was unbelievable. He just took off," MacLean said.

We reached Boyd in Sweden on Monday. He obviously is thrilled to see what Mason is doing for the Jackets this season but sounded embarrassed when told MacLean had singled him out along with Wamsley.

"The whole staff was involved; it wasn't just me. It was a group effort," Boyd said. "I have a good working relationship with the London Knights. And Rick [Wamsley] at the time was our goaltending coach, and he had a personal relationship with the Hunters ..."

That would be Dale Hunter and Mark Hunter, the owners of the London OHL club.

"It wasn't as though the Hunters were hiding him just for us, but we stayed on top of the situation," Boyd said. "He only played 12 games that year, so we needed to be sure about what we were seeing when we saw it. We also scouted some his junior B starts.

"But two of the OHL games I saw him start, they were 50-save efforts," Boyd added.

Looking back, the Jackets picked Mason just in time in the third round. Not only was Dallas interested, according to MacLean, but Boyd said he knows of two other teams as well.

"And one was almost right behind us in the third round," Boyd said. "So we got lucky."

Time will tell just how much of a steal this was. Erik Johnson was the first overall pick that season (St. Louis), and season-ending knee injury aside, we all expect him to be the stud defenseman the Blues project him to be. Jordan Staal went second overall that year, followed by Jonathan Toews, Nicklas Backstrom, Phil Kessel and Brassard.

Today, it's hard to argue Mason wouldn't go first. But that's the lottery aspect of the NHL draft. It's often just a roll of the dice.

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