NHL draft: Sabres take Dahlin No.1, Habs select Kotkaniemi third
Senators pick Brady Tkachuk 4th, Canucks grab Quinn Hughes at 7
The draft has become one of the most highly-anticipated days on the NHL calendar in the league's salary cap era.
Unlike the trade deadline and the start of free agency, teams have often made big splashes with deals involving star players or high picks.
That didn't happen Friday night.
The Buffalo Sabres did the expected by selecting Swedish defenceman Rasmus Dahlin with the No. 1 pick, but none of the trade chatter on the floor of American Airlines Center ever metastasized into a blockbuster deal.
"It was a very quiet day on the phone," said Ottawa Senators general manager Pierre Dorion, who has been rumoured to be taking calls about captain Erik Karlsson.
"Very quiet," Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin added. "I don't know why."
Considered far and away the class of the 2018 talent pool, Dahlin had seven goals and 13 assists in 41 games for Frolunda of the Swedish Hockey League in 2017-18.
"It's amazing to finally put on the Buffalo Sabres' jersey," said the slick 18-year-old. "I've been there twice. I love that city."
The second Swedish-born player selected first overall after Mats Sundin was the top choice of the Quebec Nordiques in 1989, Dahlin also was named his country's top junior hockey player last season.
The six-foot-three, 185-pound Dahlin was honoured as the top blue liner at the 2018 world junior championship in Buffalo, registering six assists in seven games. He also played twice for his country as a 17-year-old at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.
"I'm so excited at the moment," he said.
The Carolina Hurricanes, selecting second, took Russian-born Barrie Colts winger Andrei Svechnikov.
Habs select Kotkaniemi, Sens take Tkachuk
Montreal, the first Canadian team to step to the microphone, took Finnish centre Jesperi Kotkaniemi with the No. 3 selection.
"He's getting more mature, he's getting more confident," Bergevin said. "He'll get stronger."
The Ottawa Senators then selected Boston University winger Brady Tkachuk, the son of ex-NHLer Keith Tkachuk and the brother of Calgary Flames winger Matthew Tkachuk, at No. 4.
"The father had an illustrious NHL career. We've seen the brother play," Dorion said. "Adding a third Tkachuk to the NHL family, it's good for the NHL and it's even better for the Ottawa Senators."
Hayton 1st Canadian off board
The Arizona Coyotes scooped up the first Canadian-born player in the draft, grabbing Barrett Hayton of Peterborough, Ont., with the fifth pick. The centre plays for the OHL's Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.
When asked about being the top Canadian picked, Hayton said, "I haven't really thought of it that much yet, but it's a tremendous honour."
At No. 6, the Detroit Red Wings landed Halifax Mooseheads winger Filip Zadina, who had a message for teams that passed on him.
"I'm telling my agent if they will pass on me, I will fill their net with the puck," the Czech-born Zadina said. "Yeah, it's just I want to prove [to] them that they have done, like, [a] bad decision."
The Edmonton Oilers selected Evan Bouchard 10th overall, filling a need on the blue line with the slick 18-year-old from Oakville, Ont.
"For me, I'm just trying to take it one step and a time [and] enjoy the process," Bouchard said. "I know there's a lot of stuff to work on for next season.
"The goal for me is to go into main camp ready and turn heads from there."
Bouchard led all Ontario Hockey League defenders with 87 points (25 goals and 62 assists) in 67 games for the London Knights in 2017-18. That was also good enough for eighth overall in the OHL scoring race.
Leafs move down, still manage to grab their guy
New Toronto Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas, in his first draft in the top job, traded down, sending the No. 25 pick to the St. Louis Blues for the No. 29 selection as well as the No. 76 pick in the third round. With the No. 29 pick, the Leafs took Swedish defenceman Rasmus Sandin from the Greyhounds, the junior team Dubas managed before coming to Toronto.
"We took the player that our scouts had as the best on our board," Dubas said. "They're the ones that do the work all year in the rink every single day from September through the end of May."
After trading the 22nd selection to the New York Rangers for the No. 26 and 58 picks, the Senators used their second first-round spot to secure defenceman Jacob Bernard-Docker from Okotoks of the Alberta Junior Hockey League.
The Flames and Winnipeg Jets did not have first-round picks.
Humboldt Broncos honoured
Prior to the start of the draft, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman presented the 2017-18 Humboldt Broncos with the E.J. McGuire Award of Excellence.
The Broncos were on their way to Nipawin for a Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League playoff game on April 6 when their bus collided with a truck, resulting in the deaths of 16 people, including 10 players.
Created in 2015, the award is given annually by the league to the draft candidate who exemplifies commitment to excellence through strength of character, competitiveness and athleticism.
"From this tragedy, the hockey world has come to learn more about the Humboldt Broncos organization and players, their role in the fabric of their community, and their commitment to the pursuit of excellence both on and off the ice," Dan Marr, director of NHL Central Scouting, said in a statement. "The stories we have heard about those who were lost and those who continue to heal have been truly inspirational and serve as great examples of all the characteristics this award was meant to recognize."
The final six rounds of the draft will be held on Saturday.
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