Oilers don't go off board, take Nugent-Hopkins

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is selected 1st overall by the Edmonton Oilers. (Dave Abel/QMI AGENCY)

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is selected 1st overall by the Edmonton Oilers. (Dave Abel/QMI AGENCY)

Lance Hornby, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:12 PM ET

A sprinkling of trades and Swedes changed the flavour of Friday's first round of the National Hockey League draft.

Though the Edmonton Oilers did the expected and chose Ryan Nugent-Hopkins first overall, the other Canadian teams, including the reconstituted Winnipeg Jets, made some bold moves in a field of juniors that was short on recognized stars.

Edmonton had two high picks, Nugent-Hopkins and Swedish defenceman Oscar Klefbom at 19th, while Ottawa enjoyed three choices in the top 24, taking a Swede, a Texan and Canadian. The Maple Leafs sent a first- and second-rounder to Anaheim to change places and take fiesty forward Tyler Biggs at 22.

Three Swedes went in the first five picks and four in the nine that followed Edmonton leading off with Nugent-Hopkins at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

Abrasive left winger Gabriel Landeskog went second to the Colorado Avalanche. Landeskog played for the Kitchener Rangers last year to enhance his development. Meanwhile, big defenceman Adam Larsson, at one time in contention to go No. 1 overall, passed to New Jersey at fourth. The Sens took centre Mika Zibanejad at sixth.

Huge growth years by Nugent-Hopkins and Justin Huberdeau saw them chosen first and third overall, Huberdeau by Florida.

Nugent-Hopkins became the second Oiler in as many years to lead the parade to the podium. Last year's No. 1, Taylor Hall, was there to greet the kid who could be his linemate one day.

"It's amazing, a dream come true," said Nugent-Hopkins, who accumulated 106 points down the road for the WHL Red Deer Rebels. "I was watching Edmonton the past couple of years."

Oilers' general manager Steve Tambellini was tempted by the other four top prospects, but Nugent-Hopkins rose to No. 1 in the Central Scouting rankings.

"They're all great players, but Ryan possessed a level of skill which we haven't seen in a long time," Tambellini said. "They ranked him No. 1 for a reason."

Nugent-Hopkins' lack of bulk is his only drawback. At 170 pounds, he might not be ready for the NHL next year.

"There's no pressure for him to play," Tambellini said. "We'll see what happens at camp."

Colorado followed with Landeskog, who was nearing a 50-goal season before getting hurt. He goes to the team where Peter Forsberg, one of his favourite players, started his career.

Centre Huberdeau, who rose quickly through CSB rankings since last year, had 105 points for the Memorial Cup-champion Saint John Sea Dogs.

Looking for a blue-chip defender to replace their departed stars, the Devils were ecstatic to get Larsson. He is very experienced through the Swedish national team.

Ryan Strome of the Niagara IceDogs moved up to fifth, a centre that the New York Islanders hope can complement John Tavares.

The Sens' second move was for another Swede, Zibanejad, who comes from the Djurgardens club that sent Mats Sundin here to be picked first overall in 1989, the last time the draft was in Minnesota. They ended up with a forward the Leafs coveted, winger Matt Puempel, with the 24th pick.

The Jets celebrated their return with the evening's first surprise pick, centre Mark Scheifele from the OHL's Barrie Colts. But with Jets' hero Dale Hawerchuk running the Colts' bench, perhaps it wasn't such a shock.

Winnipeg fans, who made as much noise as the hometown Wild supporters, made Scheifele feel right at home.

"Dale has told me a lot of stories (of the old Jets)," Scheifele said. "I'm so excited."

GM Kevin Cheveldayoff didn't think he'd gambled, even though Scheifele was not considered a top-10 prospect by many.

"We have a good, young player here and we'll surround him with good people," Cheveldayoff said.

Philadelphia inherited the eighth spot in the Mike Richards' trade, to take another front runner who had tumbled down the list a bit. Centre Sean Couturier could replace some of the offence lost when Philly moved Richards and Jeff Carter.

Boston also benefitted when giant defenceman Dougie Hamilton dropped to them at the ninth. His 58 points with Niagara shows he's got some offensive upside. That choice heralded four straight defencemen getting picked, led by the Wild going for Swede Jonas Brodin and Colorado taking its second swing at the plate, Duncan Siemens from Saskatoon.

After Carolina took a quality blueliner in Ryan Murphy, the Calgary Flames went the Swiss route, with Sven Bartschi, who played last year with Portland in the WHL.

While Minnesota had gone for skill over size with Brodin, the former North Star franchise, Dallas, aimed high with Jamie Oleksiak, a 6-foot-7, 244-pounder out of Northeastern University.

The Buffalo Sabres veered away from a trend to taking North Americans by grabbing Finn Joel Armia to boost their size on right wing.

As Huberdeau made his name at the Memorial Cup, so did defenceman Nathan Beaulieu. The Montreal Canadiens took the Strathroy, Ont., native who said despite his francophone surname, he'll have to work on his French.

The Oilers bookended Nugent-Hopkins with Klefbom, captain of the Swedish under-18 team. He had considered staying at home next year, but the chance to step in right away to a rebuilding Edmonton club might sway him.


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