Day One of the NHL draft always belongs to the young men selected.
Young men like Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko who, as expected, went first and second, respectively, to the New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers in Vancouver on Friday evening.
Occasionally, there is a big trade that steals the show, and there was no shortage of massive names being bandied about before the curtain was raised on the 2019 draft.
P.K. Subban, Kris Letang and Tyson Barrie were some of the more prominent ones in play.
They still are. But they weren’t moved on the first day of the draft. One of the reasons is that the salary cap limit has yet to be finalized and there are several teams with concerns. That salary cap limit will likely be made official over the weekend.
No doubt the next 10 days will prove intriguing, especially with July 1 free-agent day fast approaching.
So back to the draft. Yes, the night belonged to the Hughes family. Jim and Ellen watched their oldest son Quinn, a defenceman, selected in the seventh slot by the Vancouver Canucks a year ago. Jack was No. 1 this time, and 16-year-old Luke is the early favourite to be the top pick in 2021.
WATCH | Jack Hughes goes No. 1 to New Jersey:
Kakko will likely make the most significant impact next season. Any hockey nut who tuned into the World Championship last month saw just how brilliant this 18-year-old right wing could play in helping Finland win gold.
The stories, however, didn’t stop at the top two. The Chicago Blackhawks and Colorado Avalanche selected Canadians Kirby Dach and Bowen Byram with the third and fourth overall choices, respectively.
Size and toughness once again skated to the forefront in the playoffs with the success of the St. Louis Blues and the team that stretched them to seven games, the Boston Bruins.
Dach is a determined 6’4″, 198-pound centre from Fort Saskatchewan, Alta. He showed his diligence in the playoffs for the Saskatoon Blades.
Joe Sakic, the Avalanche general manager, played to the crowd in selecting Vancouver Giants defenceman Bowen Byram of Cranbrook, B.C.
Sakic also selected, at 16th overall, one of the best stories in Alex Newhook. Born in St. John’s he moved to the Toronto area at age 15 to further his development. He then made his way to Victoria to play for the tier II Grizzlies and, after being named captain, earned a scholarship to Boston College.
The Toronto Maple Leafs were the only one of the seven Canadian-based teams to not have a first-round selection. The Edmonton Oilers were up first, and with the eighth-overall choice, new GM Ken Holland went to a familiar well by selecting a Swedish defencemen: Philip Broberg.
WATCH | Edmonton selects Philip Broberg:
Two spots later the hometown Vancouver Canucks chose Russian right wing Vasily Podkolzin. He scared off teams because he recently signed a two-year contract to play in the KHL with SKA St. Petersburg. He played a few games with Pavel Datsyuk last season.
WATCH | Vancouver takes Vasily Podkolzin:
The Montreal Canadiens selected Cole Caufield, another pint-sized 5’7″ forward and the whopping seventh of eight players taken from the United States junior development program in the first round.
WATCH | Cole Caufield goes 15th to Habs:
The Ottawa Senators took Kelowna Rockets defenceman Lassi Thomson of Finland with the 19th pick. Thomson has made waves about returning to Finland next season instead of playing for the Rockets, who will play host to the Memorial Cup next May.
WATCH | Senators select Lassi Thomson:
The Winnipeg Jets also snatched a Finn in defenceman Ville Heinola with the 20th choice. He helped Finland claim the 2019 IIHF World junior championship.
WATCH | Jets select Ville Heinola:
The Calgary Flames chose Jakob Pelletier at 26th, a playmaking left wing with the Moncton Wildcats.
WATCH | Flames take Jakob Pelletier:
There were plenty of sweet moments, as usual, but expect the fireworks to come in the next few days. There is too much chatter out there.