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NHL Draft

Canada could go without top-five draft pick

Would be first time since 1999; Hockey Canada CEO Renney not concerned

by Mike G. Morreale @MikemorrealeNHL / Staff Writer

BUFFALO -- Tom Renney, the president and chief executive officer of Hockey Canada, said he isn't too concerned that there may not be a Canada-born player picked in the top five at the 2016 NHL Draft.

The first round of the draft is Friday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports). Rounds 2-7 are Saturday (10 a.m. ET; NHLN, SN, TVA Sports 2).

The last time there wasn't a Canadian-born player picked in the top five was 1999, when the first Canadian picked was goaltender Brian Finley at No. 6 by the Nashville Predators. The Atlanta Thrashers selected Patrik Stefan (Czech Republic) at No. 1, fthe Vancouver Canucks picked Swedish forwards Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin at No. 2 and No. 3; the New York Rangers picked forward Pavel Brendl (Czech Republic) No. 4; and at No. 5 the New York Islanders selected forward Tim Connolly (United States).

American-born center Auston Matthews is expected to be picked No. 1 by the Toronto Maple Leafs. Also expected to go in the top five are Finnish forwards Patrik Laine and Jesse Puljujarvi. Other candidates to go in the top five are American forward Matthew Tkachuk and American defenseman Jakob Chychrun. 

"I think it suggests to me that globally the game is alive and well," Renney said. "I don't know that we have to measure success of the game by whether or not we have a first overall pick or we have the captain of the Stanley Cup-winning team raising the trophy.

"I think the bottom line is are kids active, is our social and mental health strong because of families' choice to participate in hockey."

The first Canadian player picked could be left wing Pierre-Luc Dubois of Cape Breton in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He is No. 1 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters.

"I think there's lots of ways to measure the success of the growth of the game," Renney said. "I think we have to, as a constituent of the world, recognize that it's a global game and understand we're not always going to be first up on the podium. It doesn't mean we don't try, because there's nothing wrong with wanting to be the best at something."

Canadian-born players have been picked first in each of the past three years, and in seven of the past eight. 

"Each year is different," Renney said. "Some years it seems like the back end of the draft is strong and the front end less so, and then it's just the opposite in other years. Every draft takes on a life of its own and I don't think this year is any different.

"It's safe to say there are lots of good players that will be making a living [playing hockey]." 

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