U.S. trending to take 2019 NHL Draft’s first round by storm

It might be hard to top the record of 12 Americans taken in the first round of the 2016 NHL Draft, but the country might have a little history on its side once again this year.

In 2016, it was an American — Auston Matthews — who was taken first overall. He’s the last American to be selected at the spot, something that is likely to change on Friday night (8 p.m. ET on NBCSN). 

There, in Vancouver, it’s expected that Jack Hughes, born in Orlando, will be taken first overall by the New Jersey Devils. Before the end of the first round, the number of Americans drafted could get dangerously close to numbers seen in 2016.

Depending on where you look, you’ll see varying numbers of Americans on mock draft lists and final draft rankings heading into Friday.

For example, TSN has declared that Americans are set to dominate the first round:

  • Jack Hughes
  • Alex Turcotte
  • Trevor Zegras
  • Cole Caufield
  • Matthew Boldy
  • Spencer Knight
  • Cam York
  • Arthur Kaliyev
  • Bobby Brink
  • Alex Vlasic

As Bob McKenzie points out in his final Top 31 rankings, eight of the 10 Americans all come from the U.S. U-18 team. Assuming the ‘Bobfather’ is right on his picks, it would more than double the current record of three taken in any one draft prior to this years.

Rotoworld’s latest mock draft adds Ryan Johnson and Robert Mastrosimone while substituting him for Alex Vlasic on TSN’s, making it 11 players on that particular list that could go in the first round.

And the lists go on and on. Rankings are everywhere and a common theme this year is that Americans are going be highly picked, including the possibility of five U.S. players going in the Top 10.

Meanwhile, Spencer Knight could become the first goalie to be drafted in the Top 15 since Jack Campbell in 2011.

“You can’t win without a good goalie and it’s hard to get goalies in trades,” Knight told NHL.com. “It’s tough to find guys who are high-caliber goalies because the team that found them isn’t just going to let them go. Look at the importance of quarterbacks in football and pitchers in baseball. Those players routinely go in the first round because you need them to win.”

Knight would become just the seventh goalie picked in the opening round in the past 10 years.

And like any first round at any NHL Draft, there will always be surprises. We’ll find out Friday if the U.S. can repeat 2016, or better.

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck.

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