NHL draft: How Swede it is!

Gabriel Landeskog of the Kitchener Rangers was the first of a handful of Swedes drafted early in...

Gabriel Landeskog of the Kitchener Rangers was the first of a handful of Swedes drafted early in the first round of the NHL draft Friday night. Colorado selected the big defenceman with the second over-all pick. (DAVE ABEL/QMI Agency)

Lance Hornby, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:42 AM ET

A sprinkling of trades and Swedes flavoured 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 re-launched Winnipeg Jets, made some bold moves amid a field of juniors that will mostly need a year or two of seasoning. The seven Canadian teams accounted for 11 of the 30 picks, 15 of which were Canadian. The overall group was 19 forwards, 11 defencemen, with six of the first eight picks listed as centres.

Five trades made Thursday and right before and during the proceedings at the Xcel Energy Center altered the order.

Edmonton had two high slots, Nugent-Hopkins and Swedish defenceman Oscar Klefbom at 19th, one of six Tre Kronor players taken during the night. Ottawa dealt with Detroit to enjoy three choices in the top 24, taking a Swede, a Texan and a Canadian.

The Maple Leafs sent a first and second rounder to Anaheim to move up and take feisty forward Tyler Biggs at 22nd, before using a second acquired pick from the Kris Versteeg deal to take local product Stuart Percy.

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 playing down the road for the WHL Red Deer Rebels. “I was watching Edmonton (play) the past couple of years.”

Oilers’ general manager Steve Tambellini was tempted by at least three other top prospects, but Nugent-Hopkins steadily 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.”

Three Swedes went in the first five selections and four in the nine that followed the Nugent-Hopkins’ pick.

Abrasive left winger Gabriel Landeskog went second to the Colorado Avalanche, while big defenceman Adam Larsson, at one time in contention to be No. 1 overall, went to New Jersey at fourth. Landeskog played for the Kitchener Rangers last year to enhance his development. Justin Huberdeau was grabbed third by Florida, which is trying to end a decade out of the playoffs. Huberdeau, who rose quickly through CSB rankings since last year, had 105 points for the Memorial Cup-champion Saint John Sea Dogs. The Sens took centre Mika Zibanejad at sixth, from the Djurgardens club that sent Mats Sundin to be picked first overall in 1989, the last time the draft was in Minnesota.

Plano, Texas-born Stefan Noesen at 21st and the Sens ended with a player the rival Leafs had coveted, winger Matt Puempel .

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

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

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.”

Philadelphia inherited the eighth spot in the Mike Richards’ trade, to take another frontrunner 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 on Thursday.

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

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, a defenceman who was 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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