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NHL Draft

NHL Draft first round marked by Europeans at top, defensemen throughout

Picks 1-3 born outside North America, record 14 blueliners selected

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

DALLAS -- It didn't take long for things to get interesting following an anticlimactic start to the first round of the 2018 NHL Draft at American Airlines Center on Friday.

The top two picks went as expected, with the Buffalo Sabres selecting Swedish defenseman Rasmus Dahlin at No. 1 and the Carolina Hurricanes taking Russia-born right wing Andrei Svechnikov No. 2.

"It feels great and I'm super happy," Svechnikov said. "It was my dream and it came true and just the best moment of my life."

Then came the first surprise of the draft.

The Montreal Canadiens chose Finland-born center Jesperi Kotkaniemi with the No. 3 pick, opting to shore up a positional need rather than taking the player considered by scouts to be the best available. Kotkaniemi was No. 6 on NHL Central Scouting's final list of International skaters.

 

[RELATED: 2018 NHL Draft first-round results, analysis | Complete NHL Draft coverage]

 

It was the first time in 19 years a player born in the United States or Canada was not among the first three selections.

The Ottawa Senators ended the run of European selections when they took U.S.-born left wing Brady Tkachuk at No. 4. Brady's father, Keith, was selected No. 19 by the Winnipeg Jets in 1990, and brother Matthew was picked No. 6 by the Calgary Flames in 2016.

"The weight is definitely off my shoulders, and [Matthew] will definitely hear about it later," Brady said. "I think he's super proud, and I'm just so happy right now."

Video: Jackie chats with Brady Tkachuk

The Arizona Coyotes then chose center Barrett Hayton with the No. 5 pick, and the Detroit Red Wings got right wing Filip Zadina at No. 6.

Hayton, No. 9 on Central Scouting's final list of North American skaters, might have been a reach to some with the fifth pick, but not to the Coyotes.

"It was something I got a great feel from Arizona through the interview process (at the NHL Scouting Combine), so I knew there was a chance," Hayton said. "When I heard my name called, it was unbelievable."

Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said they did not expect Zadina to be there. Zadina, who was born in the Czech Republic but played the 2017-18 season for Halifax of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, was No. 3 on Central Scouting's final list of North American skaters.

"We feel lucky," Holland said. "We obviously were picking sixth, and we know he can score goals and he had a coming-out party at the [IIHF]World Junior Championship when he led his team in scoring."

Video: Holland on two first-rounders in NHL Draft

The rest of the top 10 was defenseman Quintin Hughes to the Vancouver Canucks at No. 7, defenseman Adam Boqvist to the Chicago Blackhawks at No. 8, right wing Vitali Kravstov to the New York Rangers at No. 9, and defenseman Evan Bouchard to the Edmonton Oilers at No. 10.

"I think probably the top 10 were guys we thought would go, and after that there was some things that happened that we weren't ... you predict some and others you don't," Philadelphia Flyers GM Ron Hextall said.

Among the surprise picks the rest of the first round were center Ty Dellandrea (No. 25 on Central Scouting's final list of North American skaters) to the Dallas Stars at No. 13, center Jay O'Brien (No. 32) to the Flyers at No. 19, and defenseman Ryan Merkley (No. 45) to the San Jose Sharks at No. 21.

"There were kind of three different tiers in the draft, and they fell kind of how we thought," Stars general manager Jim Nill said. "A couple guys dropped maybe a couple more than we thought, but that happens every draft. As we got going, we were scratching off names -- next, next, next, next. And that went kind of how we thought it would go."

Video: Nill discusses Dellandrea, hosting the NHL Draft

O'Brien (5-11, 176), a right-shot center from Thayer Academy (Massachusetts), was the first high school player chosen in the first round since the Florida Panthers selected Nick Bjugstad of Blaine High School (Minnesota) at No. 19 in the 2010 NHL Draft.

"He's a really smart player, really good hockey sense," Hextall said. "He's competitive, strong, and he's got a little agitator in him. He's got a good shot and sees the ice well. He's a little bit undersized, but we think he's going to be a fit kid and a strong kid. We really liked him."

Six Sweden-born players were chosen in the first round to equal a record set three other times (1993, 2009, 2011).

Additionally, 14 defensemen were chosen in the first round, breaking the record of 13 from the 2012 NHL Draft.

Rounds 2-7 are Saturday (11 a.m. ET; NHLN, SN, TVAS).

There were only two trades made during the first round: The Rangers sent the Nos. 26 (defenseman Jacob Bernard-Docker) and 48 picks to the Senators for No. 22 (defenseman K'Andre Miller), and the St. Louis Blues traded the Nos. 29 (defenseman Rasmus Sandin) and 76 picks to the Toronto Maple Leafs for No. 25 (right wing Dominik Bokk).

"The only thing I'm going to say is there was what, two trades made today? It was a very quiet day on the phone," Senators GM Pierre Dorion said. "I made a lot of calls and many calls, and the GM said, 'Hey, you're my first call today.' And that happened in the afternoon."

The last time the top of the draft was dominated by European players was 1999, when the Atlanta Thrashers chose Czech Republic native Patrik Stefan No. 1 and the Vancouver Canucks selected Sweden-born forwards Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin with the second and third picks. Then at No. 4, the New York Rangers chose Czech Republic-born forward Pavel Brendl.

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