BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) As a longtime NHL scout and general manager, George McPhee has had a hand in providing opportunities to countless prospects at the NHL draft.
It wasn’t until Saturday, when McPhee fully appreciated how significant that moment felt as a father.
McPhee was in the stands with his family in Buffalo when his son Graham was drafted in the fifth round, 149th overall, by the Edmonton Oilers.
“Even though you’ve been in the business a long time, it blows you away,” said McPhee, the former Washington Capitals general manager who is serving as a special adviser to the New York Islanders.
“It’s an emotional thing. I was hoping it wouldn’t be this emotional,” he added, with his voice cracking. “Got the lump in the throat.”
McPhee spoke as the draft drew to a close with rounds 2 through 7, and a day after Arizona-born center Auston Matthews was selected No. 1 by Toronto to spark a record run of 12 Americans taken in the first round.
The host Sabres made the biggest splash early in the second round, addressing a key need by acquiring veteran defenseman Dmitri Kulikov in a trade with the Florida Panthers. Besides swapping second-round picks that had Buffalo moving up to No. 33 from No. 38, the Panthers acquired defenseman Mark Pysyk and the Sabres’ third-round pick, 89th overall.
“We have a need for a left-shot D. He had an outstanding playoff for them,” Sabres general manager Tim Murray said of the Russian-born player.
Murray also addressed another topic that loomed over the draft by confirming his interest in making an offer to sign Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos, should he enter the free agent market on July 1.
“I’m going to ask if he would be interested in Buffalo,” Murray said. “I have to ask that question, or I wouldn’t be doing my job.”
The interest in Stamkos ramped up Saturday because it was the first day all NHL teams were allowed to contact pending free agents.
Lightning general Steve Yzerman said his approach hasn’t changed. He still isn’t ruling out re-signing Stamkos, and added he has no control over what other teams might do.
“It’s all part of the business. We all have decisions to make,” Yzerman said. “We’re both very clear on our positions.”
The Lightning made the second trade of the day, by sending prospect defenseman Anthony DeAngelo to Arizona for the 37th pick. Tampa Bay used the pick to select Czech Republic-born defenseman Libor Hajek.
The New Jersey Devils traded the 77th pick to Pittsburgh to acquire right wing Beau Bennett.
In a swap of prospects, the Los Angeles Kings traded defenseman Nick Ebert to Dallas for goalie Jack Campbell.
The Philadelphia Flyers were the first to draft a goalie, selecting Canadian junior netminder Carter Hart at No. 48. It marked the latest a goalie has been drafted since 1986, when Washington selected Shawn Simpson 60th.
Another notable pick was the Panthers selecting Jonathan Ang 94th overall. Born outside of Toronto, he has the opportunity to become the first with Malaysian roots to play in the NHL.
Over the final six rounds, there were 24 players drafted with family ties to current or former players.
Ottawa used the 42nd pick to select Jonathan Dahlen, whose father Ulf played 906 games spread across five teams. Buffalo used the 86th pick to select defenseman Casey Fitzgerald, whose father Tom played 1,097 NHL games. David Quenneville, the second cousin of Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville, was selected 200th by the New York Islanders.
And then, of course, there was Graham McPhee, who spent last season playing for USA Hockey’s under-18 developmental team.
Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli said the 5-foot-11, 176-pound left wing plays an aggressive style. It’s the hard-hitting type of game that reminded Chiarelli of how George McPhee once played before making the jump to scouting.
“If you remember George when he played, he had the heart of lion,” Chiarelli said. “And this kid has the heart of a lion. So that helped us in selecting him.”