Color of Hockey: Diversity on display during second day of NHL Draft
Seven players of color selected in rounds 2 through 7by William Douglas @WDouglasNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer
William Douglas has been writing The Color of Hockey blog for the past seven years. Douglas joined NHL.com in March and will be writing about people of color in the game. Today, he looks at players of color who were selected on the second day of the 2019 NHL Draft at Rogers Arena in Vancouver on Saturday.
VANCOUVER -- Diversity was on display during the second day of the 2019 NHL Draft with seven players of color selected.
Three players of Asian heritage, a Finnish forward with Brazilian roots and a black defenseman who played in the Little League World Series were among the players chosen in rounds 2 through 7 on Saturday.
Here's a look at the players selected:
Jayden Struble, D, Montreal Canadiens, second round (No. 46)
The spotlight in Montreal shouldn't faze Struble, who played for St. Sebatian's School in Massachusetts last season. The Cumberland, Rhode Island, native got prime-time exposure playing first base for a team that won the U.S. championship at the 2014 Little League World Series.
"If you can play in front of that many people when you're 12 years old, you can do it now," Struble said after being selected. "I'm not really a nervous kid. I'm just going to embrace the challenge ahead of me and I think it will work out."
Struble, who will turn 18 on Sept. 8, scored 40 points (10 goals, 30 assists) in 28 games for St. Sebatian's and was named to the USHS All-USA Hockey Second Team in 2018-19.
He said he was a little surprised to be selected by Montreal because other teams spoke with him more before the draft.
"I couldn't be more happy," said Struble, who has committed to play hockey at Northeastern University. "When you put on this jersey you know the history -- big hockey city, hockey state. It's just crazy. I'm so happy."
Nicholas Robertson, LW, Toronto Maple Leafs, second round (No. 53)
Robertson landed at his dream destination, just a round later than he expected.
"Toronto was one of the places I wanted to go to and be their first pick in the draft, and now to be part of it is amazing," Robertson said.
Robertson is a small (5-foot-9, 162 pounds) forward who was the second-leading scorer for Peterborough of the Ontario Hockey League last season with 55 points (27 goals, 28 assists) in 54 games.
"Toronto doesn't see [size] as a factor," said Robertson, who'll turn 18 on Sept. 11. "They're about skill, puck possession and hockey IQ and that's what I bring."
Robertson said him being drafted along with his older brother Jason (2017, Dallas Stars, second round, No. 39) Ryan Suzuki (2019, Carolina Hurricanes, first round, No. 28) and his brother Nick (2017, Vegas Golden Knights, first round, No. 13) shows a growing interest in hockey within Asian communities.
"There are a lot of Asian hockey players coming up, especially in California," he said. "It's great's great to represent the Asian community whether you're Filipino or Japanese or Chinese, whatever."
Jordan Spence, D, Los Angeles Kings, fourth round (No. 95)
Spence, 18, is truly an international hockey player. Born in Sydney, Australia, and raised in Osaka, his family settled in Cornwall, Prince Edward Island when he was 13.
"In Japan, they don't think they have hockey over there, but they actually do," he said. "Growing up there and first starting to play there, it's pretty cool. Obviously, going different places, Australia, Japan and Canada I think it's pretty cool and it's going to be part of me for the rest of my life."
Spence (5-10, 177) scored 49 points (six goals, 43 assists) in 68 games for Moncton of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, first among rookie defensemen. He was named the QMHL's rookie of the year.
"I think they like me that I'm an offensive defenseman," he said of the Kings. "I don't think size matters in the game now. Obviously there are bigger guys, but I think it's changing to speed and skill and that's what I bring to the table and that's what I hope to showcase at the rookie camp and development camp."
Isaiah Saville, G, Vegas Golden Knights, fifth round (No. 135)
Saville (6-1, 198) was one of 22 goalies drafted. He had a strong rookie season with Tri-City of the United States Hockey League, going 25-4-3 with a 1.90 goals-against average, .925 save percentage and four shutouts.
The 18-year-old from Anchorage, Alaska will play the University of Nebraska-Omaha starting in the fall.
"Saville is a battler -- he's athletic and has great feet -- very good laterally," said Al Jensen of NHL Central Scouting. "A tough guy to beat in tight -- he has pro attributes and moves around his crease very well."
Marcus Kallionkieli, LW, Vegas Golden Knights, fifth round (No. 139)
The Finnish-Brazilian forward (6-2, 195) led USHL rookies in goals with 29 and was 20th in the league in scoring with 53 points (29 goals, 24 assists). The 18-year-old said the Golden Knights are getting a swift-skating playmaker in the mold of Peter Forsberg.
"I'm a two-way forward who can score goals," Kallionkieli said. "Coming over here was a different challenge, different game style and the language. The game is much faster, and the physicality."
Greg Rainen of NHL Central Scouting said Kallionkieli is "a big kid that's quick out the blocks, though not really a physical player."
Kallionkieli plans to change that perception when he returns to Sioux City next season.
"I think I need to be hitting more guys, finishing checks more," he said.
[RELATED: Suzuki first player of color selected in 2019 NHL Draft]
Sasha Mutala, RW, Colorado Avalanche, fifth round (No.140)
Mutala (6-0, 200) scored 41 points (20 goals, 21 assists) in 65 games for Tri-City of the Western Hockey League games in 2018-19.
"Mutala plays with a lot of energy and has some heaviness to his game," John Williams of NHL Central Scouting said. "A two-way checker that's hard to play against. He can score some goals and really gets in on the forecheck quickly."
The Vancouver native, who didn't attend the draft, played the last two seasons while dealing with his parental health concerns in the past 18 months.His mother, Ji Young Kim, was diagnosed with breast cancer in December 2017, had surgery in February 2018 and then had chemotherapy. His father had a stroke in September 2018. They are recuperating.
Marshall Warren, D, Minnesota Wild, sixth round (No. 166)
Warren was all smiles at the end of an unexpectedly long day.
Ranked No. 61 by NHL Central Scouting among North American skater, Warren found himself waiting until the sixth round to hear his name called.
The defenseman with USA Hockey's National Team Development Program said he's thrilled by about being selected by the Wild -- his billet family are huge Minnesota hockey fans -- and motivated by his position in the draft.
"I'm a leader in the locker room and I'm going to be a captain for whoever team I play for in the future," Warren said. "I got picked a little later than I thought but that just fuels my fire -- I can't wait to prove to everyone what I can do."
Warren was fourth in scoring among defensemen with the NTDP with 34 points (eight goals, 26 assists) in 58 games despite being limited by a lower-body injury during the first half of the season.
The Laurel Hollow, New York, native is looking forward to playing for Boston College next season and to inspiring more people of color to get involved in the game.
"There are not a lot of African-Americans or people of color in the game and I'm trying to be a role model and just lead the way in some sort of way," he said. "Jordan Greenway, P.K. Subban, Seth Jones, those guys in the League are doing a great job. I'm just trying to pave my own way, do my own thing and try to help the community as much as I can."