Opening round of 2019 NHL Draft is a night of firsts for many CHL clubs


Thirteen players from the Canadian Hockey League were selected in the opening round of the 2019 NHL Draft on Friday in Vancouver, with many setting a high mark for their junior club.

Beginning at pick No. 3, Saskatoon Blades centre Kirby Dach, who was the first Canadian to hear his name called Friday, became the first member of the Blades to be selected in the top three since blue-liner Curtis Leschyshyn was chosen third overall by the Quebec Nordiques in 1988. Dach joins the Chicago Blackhawks, where he is excited to learn under the tutelage of former Erie Otters centre Dylan Strome.

Following Dach at fourth overall was Vancouver Giants defenceman Bowen Byram, who entered Friday’s draft as Central Scouting’s second-ranked North American skater before being selected by the Colorado Avalanche. In being chosen at No. 4, Byram joins Giants alumnus Evander Kane as the highest selection from the Vancouver franchise after Kane was originally selected with the fourth pick by the Atlanta Thrashers in 2009.

It was also a banner night for budding centre Dylan Cozens, as the Whitehorse native became not only the first player from the Yukon to be chosen in the first round, but the highest-ever selected from the Lethbridge Hurricanes after the Buffalo Sabres made him their pick at seventh overall. The title was previously held by forward Zach Boychuk, who was chosen 14th overall by the Carolina Hurricanes in 2008.

Also making headlines from the WHL was centre Peyton Krebs, who became the first member from the Winnipeg ICE franchise to be drafted into the NHL as he was selected by another newer club when the Vegas Golden Knights made him their pick at No. 17.

One pick later, Mississauga Steelheads blue-liner Thomas Harley was chosen by the Dallas Stars, making him the first player from the OHL to be drafted Friday. It also marked the highest a Steelheads defencemen has been selected in the NHL draft, topping the previous mark set by Nicholas Hague, who was picked 34th overall by the Golden Knights in 2017.

Sticking in the OHL, Connor McMichael’s selection at 25th overall marked the fifth-straight year in which a member of the London Knights has been chosen in the first round of the NHL draft, continuing the longest active streak of all CHL clubs. Since 2015, the Knights have produced eight first rounders, counting McMichael, Evan Bouchard (10th, Edmonton, 2018), Liam Foudy (18th, Columbus, 2018), Robert Thomas (20th, St. Louis, 2017), Olli Juolevi (5th, Vancouver, 2016), Matthew Tkachuk (6th, Calgary, 2016), Max Jones (24th, Anaheim, 2016), and Mitch Marner (4th, Toronto, 2015).

Also in the OHL, the Niagara IceDogs saw the selection of Philip Tomasino, who went 24th to the Nashville Predators. The IceDogs have seen at least one player chosen in each of the past 10 NHL drafts, including a franchise-record four taken in 2014. The list of IceDogs alumni now skating in the NHL is headlined by Ryan Strome (5th, New York Islanders, 2011), Dougie Hamilton (9th, Boston, 2011), and recently crowned Stanley Cup champion Alex Pietrangelo (4th, St. Louis, 2008).

There was also a steady stream of bloodlines players selected Friday, including Sherbrooke Phoenix right-wing Samuel Poulin, who was chosen 21st overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins as he became not only the first QMJHL player drafted in 2019, but also the first-ever first rounder produced by Sherbrooke. Poulin is the son of former NHLer Patrick Poulin, who was also the first player drafted out of the QMJHL in 1991 when he was chosen ninth overall by the Hartford Whalers.

Keeping up with the bloodlines was Barrie Colts centre Ryan Suzuki, the brother of Montreal Canadiens prospect Nick Suzuki (Guelph Storm), who was selected at pick No. 28 by the Hurricanes. The move also reunites Suzuki with a former member of the Colts in forward Andrei Svechnikov, was selected second overall by Carolina in 2018.

In the WHL, the Kelowna Rockets were the lone CHL club to have two players selected in the first round of the 2019 NHL Draft, beginning with left-wing Nolan Foote, who was chosen 27th by the Tampa Bay Lightning. Foote is the son of former NHL defenceman Adam Foote as well as the brother of fellow Lightning prospect Cal Foote, who was drafted 14th overall in 2017.

Meanwhile, the Rockets also saw the selection of rearguard Lassi Thomson, who was chosen with the 19th pick by the Ottawa Senators. In all, the WHL saw a CHL-leading seven selections on Friday, with leading rookie scorer Brayden Tracey of the Moose Jaw Warriors, who finished the season with 81 points, rounding out the list with his pick by the Anaheim Ducks at No. 29.

Additionally, rounding out the QMJHL was Moncton Wildcats left-wing Jakob Pelletier, who was drafted 26th overall by the Calgary Flames. Pelletier is the first member of the Wildcats to be taken in the first round since the then-Phoenix Coyotes selected defenceman Brandon Gormley with the 13th pick in 2010.

Rounds two through seven of the 2019 NHL Draft continue Saturday from Vancouver.

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