Six years ago, a 12-year-old Brett Howden sat in the stands at Los Angeles’ Staples Center and watched his brother Quinton get selected by the Florida Panthers in the first round of the 2010 NHL Draft.
On Friday, the two brothers switched places, Quinton in the stands at Buffalo’s First Niagara Center as the Tampa Bay Lightning took Brett with their first round pick (27th overall) at the 2016 NHL Draft.
“It’s pretty crazy. I mean, my brother and me kind of swapped shoes here,” said Brett Howden, who comes to the Lightning via Moose Jaw of the Western Hockey League. “I knew he was feeling what I was feeling back when he got drafted. I could see the nerves in him. I was pretty nervous as well. It’s pretty cool to kind of share this moment together.”
The Lightning selecting Brett adds another dynamic to the in-state grudge match with Florida. Quinton just completed his third season with the Panthers. Already, older brother has a leg up in the sibling rivalry, getting picked 25th overall in 2010.
“For my brother to be a first rounder, that was my goal was to try and be around where he was picked,” Brett said. “He got the better of me. He got two picks ahead of me, so he’ll for sure give that to me. But, no, I’m very excited.”
Brett Howden, an 18-year-old left-handed shot, recorded 24 goals and 40 assists over 68 games for Moose Jaw during the 2015-16 season, finishing fourth on the team for goals and points. The center added four goals and 11 assists in 15 postseason games, including four-straight multi-point performances in a first round playoff series with over Prince Albert. He was named the Warriors’ Rookie of the Year and Most Sportsmanlike Player during his rookie year in the WHL in 2014-15.
Howden, from Oakbank, Manitoba, captained Canada to a gold medal at the 2015 Ivan Hlinka Memorial as well as back-to-back years for Team Canada at the Under-18 World Championships.
Howden was the first player selected this season from Manitoba.
“It’s a big honor,” he said. “There are a lot of great players from Manitoba that are going to be drafted (Saturday) for sure. It’s very special.”
Howden said the Lightning are getting a guy who “cares” about his team and will “work hard every night.”
“I think my size will be a big factor,” added Howden, who is 6-foot-2, 193 pounds. “I think my ability that I have to play with the puck will help as well. I have pretty good vision and like to make plays. I think I bring a 200-foot game to the table. I think that’s something that’s very big in my game.”
Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman felt the Bolts got good value for their first opening round selection since 2014, when they took defenseman Anthony DeAngelo with the 19th overall pick. The Bolts traded away their first round selection in 2015.
“He’s got size, has got a chance to play in all areas, good defensive centerman, play on the power play, kill penalties, really good hockey sense,” Yzerman said. “We feel really good about getting him where we picked.”
Howden said he met with 27 teams during the pre-draft process but his interview with the Lightning felt the most comfortable.
“They were definitely the best (interview) I had for sure,” he said. “It was a good feeling with them. I just didn’t know it was going to happen. Now that it’s come true, it’s pretty amazing.”
Howden played the last two seasons and a small portion of a third with Lightning prospect Brayden Point in Moose Jaw. Howden said Tampa Bay’s familiarity with Point and scouting of Moose Jaw played a role in his being selected by the Bolts.
“I heard (Point) was kind of helping me out, talking a little bit (to Lightning management),” Howden said. “I may have to thank him for that later. But, no, I’m really excited to get to camp with him. I know he’s going to be excited as well.”
Howden made the trek to Sunrise a few times to watch his brother play but has never been to Tampa. He said he’s “excited” to check out the city and to be part of a winning organization.
“They’ve been a playoff contending team for a while now,” Howden said. “…They have a great organization, great owners and people running the system. I’m very excited.”
The draft picks back up Saturday starting at 10 a.m. with rounds two through seven. The Lightning have eight more selections: a single pick in each remaining round plus two in the second and two in the seventh.