USA Hockey

Winners and losers of the 2019 NHL Draft

8 Comments

VANCOUVER — The 2019 NHL Draft is complete. Jack Hughes went first and Jeremy Michel was chosen with the 217th and final pick. A quiet first day was followed by a loud second day that saw a handful of big trades and a number of teams swapping draft picks.

A lot happened, so let’s take a look at some winners and losers from draft weekend.

WINNER: USA Hockey

There were 59 Americans were selected in Vancouver this weekend, led by Hughes, who went first overall to the New Jersey Devils. Hughes is the eighth American to be chosen with the first pick and only the second since 2007.  For the first time in draft history, seven of the first 15 picks were from the U.S., with a record eight coming directly from the United States National Team Development Program. (Hughes, Alex Turcotte, Trevor Zegras, Matthew Boldy, Spencer Knight, Cameron York, Cole Caufield, who makes the Canadiens a winner, and John Beecher.)

LOSER: Ontario Hockey League

For the first time in 33 years no players from the OHL went in the top 10 picks. They ended up with 25 players going in the seven rounds, down from 35 a year ago.

WINNER: Colorado Avalanche

A team that is on the rise had two first-round picks and are positioning themselves as big players over the next few seasons. Thanks to the Senators, the Avalanche had the No. 4 pick and used that on defenseman Bowen Byram. With Cale Makar and Sam Girard excelling already, Byram, a quality puck mover, will only strengthen the blue line.

At No. 16 they picked center Alex Newhook, who became the sixth Newfoundland native to be a first-round selection.

WINNER:  Yukon hockey

Yukon-born Dylan Cozens became the first player selected in the first round when was picked by the Buffalo Sabres seventh overall. He’s the third Whitehorse native to be drafted following Peter Sturgeon (1974, Boston) and Bobby House (1991, Chicago).

LOSER: Day 1 trades

Usually the lead up to the draft and then Round 1 gives us some interesting trades. This year? Nope. There was no fun to be had Friday night as teams continued discussing moves, but there was no player moves consummated.

WINNER:  Day 2 trades

Before Round 2 even began we had news that Patrick Marleau and P.K. Subban had been traded, along with the initial details of J.T. Miller being sent to the Canucks. There was talk of there being a ton of chatter among general managers this week compared to previous off-season. Maybe now that we know the salary cap range for next season the deals will continue into the week leading into free agency?

LOSER: The J.T. Miller price

The Canucks were part of that active Saturday morning adding Miller from the Tampa Bay Lightning for a conditional 2020 or 2021 first-round pick, a 2019 third-round selection, and goaltender Marek Mazanec. The versatile 26-year-old forward still has four years left on his deal that carries a $5.25M cap hit. Tampa gets cap relief while the Canucks gets a top-six forward coming off a year where he shot four percent. GM Jim Benning gave up a bit of the future — a potential lottery pick — in an attempt to fix problems now. 

WINNER: Walk-up songs

The 31 first round draft picks were able to choose their own walk-up song this year as they made their way to the stage at Rogers Arena. Sadly, Arthur Kaliyev went early in Round 2, robbing us of hearing “Old Town Road.”

View this post on Instagram

31 first rounders. 31 walk-up songs. #NHLDraft

A post shared by NHL (@nhl) on

LOSER: Slovakia

While countries like the U.S. (57) and Finland (22) saw increases in the number of players drafted from last year, Slovakia saw a drop from five in 2018 to one in 2019. Meanwhile, Belarus had three players drafted this year, tying the record from 2004.

WINNER:  The Foote family

Two year after the Tampa Bay Lightning selected Cal Foote with the 14th pick in 2017, Julien BriseBois added another member of the Foote family to the franchise by choosing Nolan 27th overall. The Footes are now the fourth set of brothers to be drafted by the same team, joining Dave and Mark Hunter (Montreal), Daniel and Henrik Sedin (Vancouver), and Duane and Brent Sutter (New York Islanders).

WINNER: Ray Shero

In the span of about 16 hours, the New Jersey Devils Jack Hughes first overall and then acquired Subban. He had the salary cap space to work with and took full advantage of it, knowing some teams may have shied away until they learned what the 2019-20 cap range would look like.. 

So if you’re keeping track, Shero has acquired Subban and Taylor Hall — how will this affect his extension talks? — for a package of Adam Larsson, Steven Santini, Jeremy Davies, and two second-round picks. Pretty, pretty good.

LOSER: The return for Subban

While moving Subban’s contract and not retaining any salary in the deal will help in his pursuit of an impact forward (Matt Duchene, hello!) this summer, the return for the defenseman was underwhelming. 

“We had to make a business decision,” Poile said in a statement. “With an aim at strengthening our forward corps this offseason, and the continued strength of our defensive group, we felt it was necessary to clear up salary cap space this way.”

It was a straight salary dump and now freeing up the cap space ups the pressure to land a big fish in free agency, especially if Duchene is the No. 1 target.

WINNER:  Devils-Rangers rivalry

P.K. Subban. Jacob Trouba (if he signs!). Jack Hughes. Kaapo Kakko. There was an injection of juice into the Metropolitan Division rivalry this weekend. Both teams are in the midst of changing their futures, and the additions on draft weekend will certainly go a long way to doing that. Add in the New York Islanders to the mix and the Metropolitan Division and hockey in the New York metropolitan area just got more interesting.

MORE 2019 NHL DRAFT COVERAGE:
Shero on Subban trade, Hall’s future with Devils
Round 1 draft tracker
Rounds 2-7 draft tracker

————

Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

NHL Draft: USA Hockey big winner of Round 1

1 Comment

The first round of the 2019 NHL draft started with an American-born player, Jack Hughes, going to the New Jersey Devils with the No. 1 overall pick.

It wrapped up with another American-born player, Ryan Johnson, going to the Buffalo Sabres with the No. 31 pick.

In between those two bookends were a lot more American-born players as 11 of the first 31 players selected in this year’s class were born in the United States.

Even more amazing than that number is the fact that nine of those players have ties to the United States Hockey League, with EIGHT of them having all played for the U.S. National Development team (Johnson is the only USHL player that was not a member of that team).

That number sets a new NHL draft record for the most players selected from one team in the first round (the previous record was four).

A few facts to wrap all of that up…

• The Devils made Hughes the eight American-born player to ever go first overall in the draft. It was no surprise he was the top pick as he has been expected to go in that spot for more than a year now and will be the foundation the Devil’s organization alongside Nico Hischier (the 2017 No. 1 overall pick) and, if they can re-sign him, Taylor Hall.

• After Hughes, there were two other National Development Team players selected in the top-10 with Alex Turcotte (Los Angeles Kings, No. 5 overall), and Trevor Zegras (Anaheim Ducks, No. 9 overall) both being selected at the top of the draft. This is the fourth time in the past six years multiple American-born players went in the top-10 of the draft.

• There was a run on National Development team players between picks 12-15 with Matthew Boldy (Minnesota Wild), Spencer Knight (Florida Panthers), Cameron York (Philadelphia Flyers), and Cole Caufield (Montreal Canadiens) all going in a row. There is a lot of intrigue with those picks. Knight was the first goalie to go off the board in this year’s class and is only the 10th American-born goalie to ever go in the first round of the draft. York’s development will be interesting to watch because the Flyers traded down from pick No. 11, picking up an extra pick this year’s class. Then there is Caufield, perhaps the most intriguing player in this year’s class. What he lacks in size he makes up for in game-breaking goal-scoring ability. Given his build and incredible production he is going to draw inevitable comparisons to Chicago Blackhawks forward Alex DeBrincat, and if he becomes anything close to that the Canadiens and their fans are going to be extremely happy.

• After the selection of Caufield at No. 15, there was a bit of a gap in US Development Team players until the Boston Bruins took John Beecher at No. 30 to help start restocking their center depth.

• In between all of them, Thomas Harley (Dallas Stars) and Nolan Foote (Tampa Bay Lightning) were the other two American-born players selected. Foote is the younger brother of Cal Foote, the Lightning’s first-round pick in 2017. Both of them are the sons of former NHL defender Adam Foote.

Related: Complete Round 1 draft tracker

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

 

New Jersey Devils take Jack Hughes with No. 1 overall pick

VANCOUVER — The New Jersey Devils used the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft to select Jack Hughes from the United States National Team Development Program Friday night at Rogers Arena.

Atop the draft projections and scouting rankings all season long, Hughes is the second No. 1 overall pick by the Devils in the last three seasons following Nico Hischier’s selection in 2017. He’s now the eighth American to be taken first overall and only the second player chosen in that spot since Patrick Kane in 2007.

The 18-year-old Hughes was a prolific scorer during his time with the USNTDP. He broke Clayton Keller’s points record with 228 in 110 career games.  Internationally, he represented the U.S. at two U18 World Championships, winning silver and bronze, and led the tournament in scoring both times while earning MVP honors in 2018. He also helped the Americans to silver at 2019 World Junior Championship and played seven games at the World Championship this spring.

During that experience at the World Championship, Hughes was able to play with Kane, the player who he’s compared to a lot. The Chicago Blackhawks star had nothing but high praise for the young forward.

“I feel like when smaller players come into the League and they have that offensive- type game, it seems to be easy to compare them to a guy like me,” Kane said. “But I think he does a lot of things better than me, to be honest with you. He’s always moving, always skating, and even if he’s not near the puck or the action, he’s still got his speed and he’s coming into the zone or coming into the action with a lot of movement and speed.”

Hughes’ older brother Quinn was chosen seventh overall last year by the Vancouver Canucks. Younger brother Luke will play for the USNTDP next season and is draft eligible in 2021.

MORE: Jack Hughes and the impact of USA Hockey

————

Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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.

USA Hockey produces bumper crop of elite NHL draft prospects

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — John Wroblewski wasn’t entirely sure what he was getting into in 1997 as a member of the inaugural group of players selected to participate in USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program.

Nor could he have envisioned during those humble beginnings how much the program would eventually evolve.

Some 22 years later, Wroblewski coached the Under-18 team and played a key role in helping produce a bumper-crop class of elite prospects eligible to be selected in the NHL draft at Vancouver, British Columbia, in three weeks.

”Every day, you drive in and coast past the flag on the way to your parking spot … and you kind of pinch yourself at what’s been fostered,” Wroblewski said by phone Saturday, referring to the program’s headquarters in Plymouth, Michigan. ”It’s unfathomable what’s occurred.”

Led by center Jack Hughes , who has a chance of becoming the eighth American-born player selected first overall and first since Toronto drafted Auston Matthews No. 1 in 2016, the NTDP has the potential of having a program-record six players taken in the first round.

Though alums include Matthews, Chicago’s Patrick Kane and Buffalo’s Jack Eichel, the program has never had more than three players selected in the first round immediately after completing their two-year terms.

Reflecting on the team assembled from a five-day tryout camp in March 2017, the 38-year-old Wroblewski knew there was something special about this group.

”We had the team picked on Saturday night, when the camp was going to break on Tuesday morning,” he recalled. ”When that separation point was quite apparent at the time, we knew what we had.”

Hughes is NHL Central Scouting’s top-ranked North American prospect after setting a two-year NTDP record with 228 points (74 goals, 154 assists). Centers Alex Turcotte and Trevor Zegras are ranked fourth and sixth.

Though under-sized at 5-foot-7 and 162 pounds, winger Cole Caufield is ranked eight after scoring a NDTP record 72 goals this season. And the list of potential first-round selections are rounded out by left winger Matthew Boldy and defenseman Cameron York.

That’s not all. A total of 10 NTDP players are ranked among Central Scouting’s top 50 North American prospects, and that doesn’t include Spencer Knight, the bureau’s top-ranked North American goalie.

”It’s an exceptional year for the program and these kids have worked hard to gain the recognition that they’re getting,” Central Scouting director Dan Marr said during the NHL’s annual pre-draft combine, which closed in Buffalo on Saturday. ”I anticipate USA Hockey will have the biggest smile on their faces on draft day because of the number of players to go in the first round, the top-three rounds and through the entire draft.”

The program was established to develop America’s top 17-year-olds under one roof and spend two years playing a barn-storming schedule against U.S. Hockey League and college teams. The players also represent the U.S. at Under-17 and 18 international tournaments.

The 18-year-olds finished this season with a record of 48-16 and won the bronze medal at the world championships, while outscoring their opponents by a combined 369-188.

Turcotte credited the level of competition simply during practice in spurring players’ development.

”We all became better hockey players because of how competitive we are and how everyone wants to be the best,” Turcotte said. ”No one wants to look bad.”

Arizona Coyotes general manager John Chayka credited the NTDP for staying ahead of the curve in developing players best suited to match the fast-paced style the NHL game is currently trending.

”The game’s getting to speed and skill, and these guys have it in spades,” Chayka said, adding he doesn’t consider the depth of this year’s class of NTDP prospects to be a fluke. ”They did a very good job obviously with this group. And I think it’s going to continue.”

USA Hockey executive director Pat Kelleher hopes the trend continues with Americans now making up about 30% of NHL rosters.

”Our goal is to make this more of the norm,” he said. ”We’re getting not only depth of players, but high-end players, elite-level players who are the faces of their franchise as well as USA Hockey. And that’s where we want to be.”

Hughes credited the NTDP for transforming him from what he said was a skinny 16-year-old into ”more of a man.” He also predicted the NTDP producing even more high-end players in the future.

”I don’t think this is a blip. I think USA Hockey’s at the best it’s ever been right now,” Hughes said. ”You see all the young guys in the NHL, the Americans that are at the top of the league right now. I think there’s a lot more from where that came from.”

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports