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Bettman, Thomas among U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame inductees

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman headlines the 2019 class of the United States Hockey Hall of Fame.

Bettman, former Boston Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas, longtime NHL forward Brian Gionta, Washington youth hockey staple Neal Henderson and U.S women’s star Krissy Wendell will be inducted at a ceremony Dec. 12. Bettman was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto last year.

Thomas in 2011 became the second American and the oldest player to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP in 2011 when he led the Bruins to the Stanley Cup. He made headlines for skipping the trip to see then-President Barack Obama in the White House and has been virtually invisible since walking away from hockey in 2014.

Gionta put up 595 points in 16 NHL seasons and won the Cup with New Jersey in 2003. He represented the U.S. in the 2006 and 2018 Olympics.

Henderson in 1978 co-founded the Fort Dupont Ice Hockey Club, the oldest minority hockey club in North America, and was part of the NHL’s launch of its “Hockey is for Everyone” initiative.

Wendell won two NCAA titles at Minnesota and ranks fourth all-time with 2.35 points a game. She put up 247 points in 147 international games, was the MVP of the 2005 world championships when the U.S. won gold for the first time and served as captain at the 2006 Olympics.

Winners and losers of the 2019 NHL Draft

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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.”

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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

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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

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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

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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.