NHL draft: Leafs pick Matthews, Jets get Laine, Oilers choose Puljujarvi
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press
Published Thursday, June 23, 2016 6:12PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, June 24, 2016 10:00PM EDT
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- A feisty crowd welcomed highly touted American centre Auston Matthews and a trio of Finns to the NHL on Friday night as foreign talent dominated the top of the NHL draft.
As expected, Matthews went first to the Toronto Maple Leafs followed by Laine (pronounced LY'-nay) to the Winnipeg Jets. But fellow Finn Jesse Puljujarvi, who had been expected to go next to Columbus, remained on the board as the Blue Jackets opted for Cape Breton Screaming Eagles forward Pierre-Luc Dubois.
That allowed Edmonton to swoop up Puljujarvi (pronounced POOL'-yar-vee), who like Laine played in the Finnish Elite League last season, with the fourth pick.
The 18-year-old Matthews, an Arizona native who played professionally in Switzerland last season, is the first American to top the draft since Chicago took Patrick Kane in 2007. Laine, meanwhile, ties Kari Lehtonen as the highest Finn ever drafted.
Dubois, a native of Rimouski, Que., who turned 18 Friday, and Penticton Vees centre Tyson Jost, a St. Alberta, Alta., native taken 10th by Colorado, were the only Canadians to go in the top 10 although Sweden's Alex Nylander (Mississauga Steelheads), picked eighth by Buffalo, was actually born in Calgary.
Nylander matched older brother William, who was taken eighth overall by Toronto in the 2014 draft.
Vancouver took Finnish defenceman Olli Juolevi of the London Knights fifth overall before Calgary grabbed Knights winger Matthew Tkachuk, son of former NHLer Keith Tkachuk.
Arizona took U.S. under 18 development team centre Clayton Keller seventh. After Buffalo picked Nylander, Montreal chose Russian defenceman Mikhail Sergachev of the Windsor Spitfires with the ninth pick.
But the spotlight was on Matthews, seen as the franchise centre Toronto has been missing since Mats Sundin.
"Hockey's a team game so there's really no saviour," Matthews told reporters. "I want to be an impact player. I believe I can be a franchise centreman, a No. 1 centre in the NHL so that's my ultimate goal."
Matthews had hardly left the First Niagara Center stage when the trades began with Montreal sending forward Lars Eller to Washington for 2017 and 2018 second-round picks and the Canadiens acquiring Andrew Shaw from Chicago for a pair of second-round picks.
The Flames then got their goalie, acquiring Brian Elliott from the St. Louis Blues for the No. 35 pick in the draft and a conditional third-round pick in 2018.
Ottawa switched picks with New Jersey, moving up one spot to take American Logan Brown, a six-foot-six centre from the Windsor Spitfires 11th overall. His father, Jeff Brown, played 13 seasons in the NHL.
Poor showing during the regular season made for a Canadian logjam atop the draft with teams north of the border holding five of the first six picks and seven of the top 12.
In all 211 players will be taken, with rounds two through seven scheduled for Saturday.
The Leafs opened up proceedings for the first time since 1985 when they selected Wendel Clark, who went on to become a franchise icon who could decide games with his stick or fists.
The draft kicked off with a rousing ovation for Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula -- after fans in the arena booed most of the other NHL teams during the traditional pre-draft roll call -- with the loudest derision reserved for Toronto. A sizable contingent of Leafs fans made their voices heard.
There were more boos for commissioner NHL Gary Bettman, who drew an even louder reaction in announcing Toronto was on the clock. Perhaps appropriately the PA system played "Kickstart My Heart" by Motley Crue as the crowd waited.
Mark Hunter, the Leafs' director of player personnel, announced the first overall selection to boos. But they turned to cheers when he announced Matthews.
The American centre put on the new Toronto jersey, which has been dubbed "classic and timeless" by the franchise, flanked by 13 people on stage. A chant of Go Leafs Go was matched by home-town boos.
Laine, a sniper who admires Capitals star Alex Ovechkin, was all smiles as he pulled on a Jets jersey.
Dubois, a winger who moved to centre this season after being cut by the Canadian junior team, moved from No. 7 among North American skaters in Central Scouting's midterm review to No. 1 in its final rankings.
Matthews topped the list of European skaters, ahead of Laine and Puljujarvi.
Here are the draft picks so far:
1. Toronto -- Auston Matthews, C, Zuirch (Switzerland)
2. Winnipeg -- Patrik Laine, RW, Tappara (Finland)
3. Columbus -- Pierre-Luc Dubois, LW, Cape Breton (QMJHL)
4. Edmonton -- Jesse Puljujarvi, RW, Karpat (Finland)
5. Vancouver -- Olli Juolevi, D, London (OHL)
6. Calgary -- Matthew Tkachuk, LW, London (OHL)
7. Arizona -- Clayton Keller, C, USA U-18
8. Buffalo -- Alexander Nylander, LW, Mississauga (OHL)
9. Montreal -- Mikhail Sergachev, D, Windsor (OHL)
10. Colorado -- Tyson Jost, C, Penticton (BCHL)
11. Ottawa (from New Jersey) -- Logan Brown, C, Windsor (OHL)
12. New Jersey (from Ottawa) -- Michael McLeod, C, Mississauga (OHL)
13. Carolina -- Jake Bean, D, Calgary (WHL)
14. Boston -- Charles McAvoy, D, Boston University (NCAA)
15. Minnesota -- Luke Kunin, C, Wisconsin (NCAA)
19. N.Y. Islanders
20. Arizona (from N.Y. Rangers)
21. Carolina (from Los Angeles)
22. Winnipeg (from Chicago)
27. Tampa Bay
28. St. Louis
29. Boston (from San Jose)
30. Anaheim (from Pittsburgh via Toronto)