The first round of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft is in the books and there were some surprises. There was also a heavy presence, as expected, for the USA Hockey National Team Development Program. Eight players were chosen out of that program in the first round.
Saskatoon’s Kirby Dach was third overall, going to the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Colorado Avalanche stepped up to the Vancouver podium and picked a Giant in defenceman Bowen Byram. It’s a smart move for Joe Sakic and Co., who have the opportunity to really shore up their blueline.
Alex Turcotte was drafted by the Los Angeles Kings, going fifth overall. He could be the future for an aging, lumbering hockey club.
In the sixth spot, the Detroit Red Wings went with defenceman Moritz Seider. This was a surprise on a number of levels, as nobody really expected the Mannheim player to go so high. Still, Seider was named his league’s rookie of the year and had six points in 20 games with Mannheim – plus he was fun to watch at the 2019 IIHF World Championship.
In the seventh spot, the Buffalo Sabres rolled on with centre Dylan Cozens from Lethbridge in the WHL. The Whitehorse native is in rarefied air in terms of players from the Yukon making the NHL, but he has every chance to become just the third player from the region to skate in the bigs. Cozens will join Jack Eichel and Casey Mittelstadt on a team with a rather deep pool of centres.
The Edmonton Oilers took left-shot defenceman Philip Broberg with their first round pick. The eighth overall draft pick is 6’3 and 200 pounds. He’s a two-way defender, putting up nine points in 41 games in Sweden’s second division. He was also named the best defenceman in the 2019 IIHF World Under-18 Championship, where he helped Sweden win gold.
Trevor Zegras was selected by the Anaheim Duck at ninth overall, while the Vancouver Canucks went with Vasily Podkolzin to round out the top 10. The Russian winger won’t be able to join the Canucks for two more seasons, but there’s a lot to like about the left-handed shot. Podkolzin had 11 points for five games for Russia at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup and eight points in six games for the under-19 team at the World Junior A Challenge.
Other Canadian teams were active in the first round, with the Montreal Canadiens selecting Cole Caufield and the Ottawa Senators going with defenceman Lassi Thomson from Kelowna. The WHL blueliner was the highest-scoring rookie defenceman in his league this past season, plus he was third among all first-year players with seven goals on the power play.
The Winnipeg Jets were also thinking D, going with Finland’s Ville Heinola with their first round selection. This addresses a rather immediate need for the Jets, who recently parted ways with Jacob Trouba. Heinola had 14 points in 34 games in Finland’s top men’s league, plus he also picked up four points in five games for Finland at the IIHF World U18 Championship.
For the Calgary Flames, it was all about Jacob Pelletier. The winger from Moncton was picked 26th overall. He’s on the sort side, like Johnny Gaudreau, but he had nine power plays in 65 games this past season and finished seventh overall in scoring in the QMJHL.
(Lead photo credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin/USA TODAY Sports)