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NHL Draft

Record first round for U.S. after run on Finns

Three players from Finland go in top five of NHL Draft; 12 Americans selected

by Adam Kimelman @NHLAdamK / NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

BUFFALO -- Center Auston Matthews was taken by the Toronto Maple Leafs to start the 2016 NHL Draft at First Niagara Center on Friday, but there was a distinct Finnish flavor to the rest of the top five.

Matthews, a native of Scottsdale, Ariz., is the first United States-born player to be picked No. 1 since Patrick Kane in 2007 by the Chicago Blackhawks.

"A dream come true today," Matthews said. "It's a great organization. … Just got drafted into the NHL. One of the best days of my life."

The 6-foot-2, 210-pound forward was No. 1 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of international skaters. Playing with Zurich in National League A, Switzerland's top professional league, he had 24 goals and 46 points in 36 games and was runner-up in voting for the league's most valuable player award. He also led the United States with six goals in 10 games at the 2016 IIHF World Championship.

"Very rarely are you able to get a center with the size and strength that he has who is a complete player," Maple Leafs general manager Lou Lamoriello said on NBCSN. "He's a 200-foot player and we're just delighted and I think it's just great for the Toronto Maple Leafs."

Matthews next will play for Team North America at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. All games in that tournament, which starts Sept. 17, will be played at Air Canada Centre in Toronto.

The run on top-end Finns started when the Winnipeg Jets selected right wing Patrik Laine from Tappara in Liiga, Finland's top professional league, at No. 2. The Edmonton Oilers picked right wing Jesse Puljujarvi from Karpat in Liiga at No. 4, and the Vancouver Canucks took defensemen Olli Juolevi of London of the Ontario Hockey League at No. 5.

It's the first time three Finns have gone in the top five. Prior to Friday, a total of five had been picked in the top five: The Atlanta Thrashers took goalie Kari Lehtonen with the No. 2 pick in 2002; the Florida Panthers drafted forward Aleksander Barkov No. 2 in 2013; the Los Angeles Kings picked defenseman Aki Berg No. 3 in 1995 and forward Olli Jokinen No. 3 in 1997; and the Philadelphia Flyers selected defenseman Joni Pitkanen No. 4 in 2002.

"It's huge to have five people and three of them are Finns," Laine said. "That tells you something about our country and us as players. I think it's a huge thing to have those guys in the top five."

Four Finns in all were picked in the first round; the Florida Panthers selected center Henrik Borgstrom from HIFK's team in Finland's junior league at No. 23. It's the second-most Finns drafted in the first round; five were taken in 2002.

There also was a record number of U.S.-born players selected, with 12 going in the first round, including nine who played for USA Hockey's National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Video: Top 3 Drafted players post draft

"The NTDP is unbelievable with the weight training and everyone there that helps you succeed," said center Clayton Keller, who went No. 7 to the Arizona Coyotes. "Unbelievable to be there with such great guys and people that make you feel at home."

After Matthews and Laine were taken with the first two picks, the Columbus Blue Jackets selected left wing Pierre-Luc Dubois from Cape Breton of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with the third pick.

"I'm just really happy," said Dubois, who turned 18 on Friday. "It was an honor."

Although some were surprised by the pick, Dubois knew it was coming.

"My agent told me about a minute before, so I was able to prepare myself," he said. "Told my family, told them to get ready and start listening. I'll always remember this for the rest of my life."

Video: Looking at Possible First Round Sleepers

After Puljujarvi and Juolevi rounded out the top five, the Calgary Flames picked left wing Matthew Tkachuk of London of the OHL at No. 6. The Coyotes selected Keller, and then the host Buffalo Sabres picked left wing Alexander Nylander of Mississauga of the OHL with the eighth pick.

Nylander's selection should add fuel to the Atlantic Division rivalry with the Maple Leafs, who had older brother William Nylander make his NHL debut this season.

"It'll be a lot of fun playing against my brother when the time comes and we're ready to play in the NHL," Alexander said.

The Montreal Canadiens selected defenseman Mikhail Sergachev from Windsor of the OHL at No. 9, and the Colorado Avalanche chose center Tyson Jost from Penticton of the British Columbia Hockey League with the 10th pick.

The Ottawa Senators traded with the New Jersey Devils to move up from No. 12 to No. 11 in the first round and selected Windsor center Logan Brown. The Devils then picked Mississauga center Michael McLeod. The Devils also got the No. 80 pick from the Senators.

That was one of a number of trades made during the first round. The Detroit Red Wings sent forward Pavel Datsyuk and the 16th pick to the Coyotes for the 20th and 53rd picks in the draft, and forward Joe Vitale. Datsyuk said last week he would play in Russia next season, which would have left the Red Wings with a $7.5 million NHL salary-cap charge had they not been able to trade him..

Arizona picked defenseman Jakob Chychrun of Sarnia of the OHL at No. 16, and Detroit selected defenseman Dennis Cholowski from Chilliwack of the BCHL at No. 20.

The Flames acquired goaltender Brian Elliott from the St. Louis Blues for the No. 35 pick and a conditional third-round pick in the 2018 draft.

The Jets traded the 22nd and 36th picks to the Flyers for the 18th and 79th picks. At No. 18, Winnipeg picked Windsor defenseman Logan Stanley; Philadelphia selected center German Rubtsov from Team Russia U-18 at No. 22.

The Canadiens made two trades, acquiring forward Andrew Shaw from the Blackhawks for the 39th and 45th picks. They also traded forward Lars Eller to the Washington Capitals for a second-round pick in 2017 and in 2018.

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