BUFFALO, NY – The first round of the 2016 NHL Draft is over, the cheers of Toronto Maple Leafs fans and the jeers of everyone else having finally died down.
What were the biggest moments and surprises in the first round? Here’s a look:
10. Jakob Chychrun Tumbles, Happily
Chychrun, the son of former NHLer Jeff Chychrun, was projected to go has high as seventh overall to the Arizona Coyotes and be the first defenseman taken in the NHL Draft. Instead, the Sarnia Sting standout tumbled down to No. 16 overall where he was taken … by the Arizona Coyotes, who traded up to take him as part of their taken on Pavel Datsyuk’s cap space (more on that later). So it all worked out!
9. Olli Over Tkachuk
Matthew Tkachuk fell to No. 5 in the draft, prompting some to assume that would be the choice for Vancouver Canucks GM Jim Benning. Instead, it was Finnish defenseman Olli Juolevi, arguably the best offensive D-man in the draft, going there with Tkachuk falling to the Calgary Flames at No. 6. Bit of a surprise.
8. Finns Up, D Down
It’s not every NHL Draft when three players from Finland are taken in the first eight picks but only one defenseman is taken. (Who also happened to be Finnish.) You have to go back to 2011 to find last draft with so few D-men taken, as Adam Larsson of the Devils was the only defenseman snagged in the Top 8.
7. Montreal Makes Trades (But Subban’s Safe)
The Canadiens moved forward Lars Eller to the Washington Capitals for picks, and then followed that with an interesting move: Acquiring Chicago Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw, a pending restricted free agent, for two second-round picks in 2016 (including one that was owned by the Minnesota Wild previously). The Canadiens intend to give Shaw the deal that proved too rich for the Blackhawks, who will miss his grit and net presence.
“We wish him well,” said GM Stan Bowman. “It was a tough phone call to make.”
Meanwhile, P.K. Subban, rumored all week to be potentially on the move, stayed put.
6. Moves Not Made
Puck-moving defensemen like Kevin Shattenkirk and Cam Fowler remained with their teams, while goalies Ben Bishop and Sergei Bobrovsky weren’t traded despite links to the Flames and Dallas Stars. Hey, there’s always Day 2.
5. John Chayka’s Big Debut
John Chayka, the 27-year-old general manager of the Arizona Coyotes, made quite an impact on the first round.
He stunned the arena by selecting center Clayton Keller of the US National Development Team with the No. 7 pick, a few slots before he was expected to go. “He’s too good to pass up. This guy is special. Statistical and passes the eye test,” said Chayka.
It was expected the Coyotes would take Chychrun at No. 7. Instead they got their man at No. 16, trading up while doing what we all expected they’d do, which was acquire Pavel Datsyuk’s cap space from the Detroit Red Wings.
“We’re using our assets. Everyone uses cash to get players. We have cap space. So why don’t we use that to get someone that we like?” he said.
“If I was battling for a Stanley Cup against the Red Wings next year, would I make the trade? Probably not.”
Strong debut for Chayka in the captain’s chair. Meanwhile …
4. Red Wings Clear Out For Stamkos
Detroit signaled its entrance in the Steven Stamkos sweepstakes by clearing out Datsyuk’s $7.5 million cap hit via that trade with the Coyotes. It cost them four spots on the draft and taking on Joe Vitale’s contract. Not the cap-a-geddon that was expected, and now the Wings have some room to breathe (down Stamkos’s neck).
“I was really going into unchartered waters,” said GM Ken Holland. “There’s not a handbook that I can’t tell you I’ve experienced this 15 years ago and here’s kind of what you do. Obviously it was a unique situation for us.”
On a night when Auston Matthews of Scottsdale, Ariz. was at the top of the draft by the Toronto Maple Leafs, a record 12 Americans were selected in the first round, which broke the record set in 2010.
2. Puljujärvi Falls To Edmonton
Columbus Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen is from Finland. Jesse Puljujärvi is from Finland. He’s also arguably the best power forward in the draft. Yet at No. 3, where the Blue Jackets were selecting, they instead opted for Pierre-Luc Dubois of Cape Breton of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Why? They liked him better than Puljujärvi, perhaps because the Blue Jackets are in desperate need for a center and Dubois thrived after moving to the middle.
1. Brian Elliott Goes To Calgary
The Calgary Flames were going to trade for a goalie. There was never any doubt about that. The only question was if it would be a blockbuster move like Ben Bishop or Marc-Andre Fleury, or something smaller. It wound up being somewhere in the middle: Elliott, the Blues’ veteran goalie, has a manageable cap hit and one year left on his deal. The Flames see him as a No. 1 goalie, and based on what Elliott's agent and Flames GM Brad Treliving said it appears he had grown tired of being in a platoon in St. Louis with Jake Allen.
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