U-S-A! Record 12 Americans taken in first round of draft

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The 2016 NHL Draft started with Auston Matthews going first overall to the Toronto Maple Leafs. It ended with a record number of American-born players getting selected in the opening round.

A total of 12 American-born players were taken in Friday’s first round, with Trent Frederic of St. Louis, Missouri, the last as he went to the Boston Bruins with the 29th overall selection.

As per Adam Kimelman of NHL.com, the previous record of 11 American players selected in the first round was set back in 2010.

Matthews also became the first American-born player to go No. 1 overall since the Chicago Blackhawks took Patrick Kane in 2007. The move served Chicago well, with three Stanley Cup championships in seven years and Kane capturing the Art Ross Trophy, Ted Lindsay Award and Hart Trophy for the 2015-16 season.

A historical night for Matthews. He’s also from Scottsdale, Ariz., which wouldn’t necessarily strike people as a hockey-mad region.

“I mean, it’s been a great reception,” said Matthews about what people in his home state have been saying to him about the top pick.

“I think it’s been great not only for Arizona, but the whole southwestern region. It’s continuing to grow, and it’s just cool to be a part of it.”

There were a few trends in this draft.

Finland saw three of its players taken in the top five.

The British Columbia Hockey League, a tier II junior circuit, had three players taken in the top 20.

But as the night went along, the number of American players hearing their name and taking those cherished steps to the podium kept increasing. Five of those players — Matthew Tkachuk, Clayton Keller, Logan Brown, Luke Kunin and Trent Frederic — grew up in the St. Louis area.

Tkachuk, who has experience with the U.S. U-18 and world junior teams, went sixth overall to Calgary.

Keller of the U.S. U-18 team went seventh overall to the Arizona Coyotes.

“It’s huge, and nobody would have ever thought that there would be this many Americans projected to go in the first round . . . but it’s going to continue in the right direction for USA Hockey,” said Tkachuk.

“And the U.S. National Team Development Program has done everything in its power to make sure that we’re ready for the NHL and we’re ready for this draft stuff and media and all that, and they do everything.”

It also helps having NHL experience within your family lineage.

Tkachuk and Kieffer Bellows can now call themselves first-round picks, just like their respective fathers, Keith Tkachuk and Brian Bellows, while Brown and Jakob Chychrun had fathers that also played in the NHL.

Jeff Brown played 747 games in the NHL and Jeff Chychrun played 262 games.

List of American-born players selected in first round of 2016 NHL Draft: