Morgan Rielly, a defenseman from the Moose Jaw Warriors, was picked fifth overall by Toronto. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH - The dust has settled on a crazy first night of the draft and it's fair to say a lot of unexpected moves and picks went down. Here are some of the highlights, split into winners and losers.
'Dub' Defensemen: This was supposed to be a big year for blueliners and obviously that played out with eight of the top 10 picks coming from the 'D' corps. But it was the Western League that reigned supreme, with all of the 'Big Five' going early. Ryan Murray, Griffin Reinhart, Morgan Rielly, Matt Dumba and Derrick Pouliot all repped the 'Dub,' with only Sweden's Hampus Lindholm interrupting at No. 6. As crazy as it looks on the board, these were the players that teams were excited about and all bring different looks, so there were a lot of skill sets to be coveted. Still, it's impressive.
“It's pretty cool,” said Dumba, now a member of the Minnesota Wild. “I don't know if anything like that has ever happened. I guess we're making history.”
Buffalo Sabres: If everything shakes out the right way, the Sabres just nabbed their top two centers for the next decade in Mikhail Grigorenko and Zemgus Girgensons. Grigorenko naturally brings the point-piling playmaking skills, while Girgensons has a Ryan Kesler ceiling to his game.
“To acquire two centers – two different centers – is good,” said GM Darcy Regier. “We had a list of four forwards and we wanted to get two of them. Grigorenko was there and so was Girgensons.”
Regier moved up in the draft to nab the burly Latvian Girgensons by packaging picks to Calgary.
“We were pretty sure he wouldn't be there at No. 21,” Regier said. “So we paid a bit more to get down.”
Dubuque Fighting Saints: Quickly becoming the class of the United States League, the Saints saw two current (Girgensons, Michael Matheson) and one future (Mark Jankowski) player go in the first round. Most impressive is that Dubuque put three on the board before the U.S. NTDP, traditionally the biggest supplier of high draft picks from the USHL.
“Our philosophy has been to get great kids from great families,” said Dubuque coach Jim Montgomery. “All three come from fantastic families, are great teammates and great in the dressing room.”
Joining Jankowski next year will be Brandon Shea and John Stevens Jr. Shea's father is a scout with Colorodo while Stevens' dad just won the Stanley Cup as an assistant coach with the Kings this year.
Kids Born in Ontario: Stamkos, Tavares and Doughty all ruled early in their draft years, but in 2012 the talent was coming from elsewhere. In a rare down year, the Ontario League didn't produce a homegrown product until Slater Koekkoek at No. 10. Overall, seven Ontario natives went (plus OHLers Yakupov, Galchenyuk and Faksa) and Belleville Bulls center Brendan Gaunce was one of the biggest sliders, landing in Vancouver at No. 26 after being solidly ensconced in the top-15 for most rankings.
Swedes: While Hampus Lindholm went higher than expected, Filip Forsberg dropped (though to his advantage in Washington). Meanwhile, Pontus Aberg, Sebastien Collberg, Ludvig Bystrom and Oscar Dansk were all shut out Friday night. It's a surprising development given the recent run on Swedes in drafts.
Nashville Predators: The Preds sacrificed their first-rounder for Paul Gaustad and though he helped get the team one round further than usual, it was a steep price. In a backhanded way, Nashville loses here because GM David Poile and his staff generally make pretty good selections in the draft.
Ryan Kennedy, the co-author of Young Guns II, is THN's associate senior writer and a regular contributor to THN.com. His column appears Wednesdays and The Hot List appears Tuesdays. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/THNRyanKennedy.
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