As team executives began gathering on the arena floor an hour before the start of the NHL draft's second round Saturday morning, a video highlighting former No. 1 selections began playing on the big-screen video boards. The first player featured just happened to be Steven Stamkos, the top pick in 2008. At a time when Arizona-born center Auston Matthews was selected first by Toronto, and on the heels of the buzz the league's expansion into Las Vegas created, the Tampa Lightning captain's presence during the two-day draft in Buffalo was hard to overlook.
The weakest first-time eligible group in decades has left the doors open to the Hockey Hall of Fame for several players who have been awaiting the call.
On the heels of the NHL expanding into Las Vegas, the Toronto Maple Leafs pinned their future on Arizona-raised center Auston Matthews with the first pick in the NHL draft. ''Twenty years ago, I certainly didn't think I'd be sitting here,'' Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff said, referring to whether he ever envisioned a player from Arizona going first in the draft. Cheveldayoff started the Finnish run by drafting forward Patrik Laine with the No. 2 pick.