On June 23 and 24, the next generation of NHL stars descended upon Chicago’s United Center for the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.
Leading up to the draft, there was widespread debate on who would be selected first overall, a fierce competition between Swiss centreman Nico Hischier of the Halifax Mooseheads and Canadian centreman Nolan Patrick of the Brandon Wheat Kings. In the end, the New Jersey Devils selected Hischier, marking the first time a Swiss-born player has been selected first overall in the draft. Hischier, a highly skilled player, presents the Devils with a potential future star who is talented in all aspects of the game.
The Philadelphia Flyers selected Nolan Patrick, son of former NHL forward Stephen Patrick, second overall, showing promise of becoming a top-tier centreman in the league. In the NHL’s coverage of the draft, Patrick is credited as the most NHL-ready player in the draft.
The Toronto Maple Leafs held the 17th overall selection after a strong season that saw them qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2013. They used their first round pick on Swedish defenceman Timothy Liljegren. The six-foot, 191-pounder has been praised for his speed, balance, and ability to make smart decisions quickly. Liljegren, a self-described “offensive defenceman,” is earning comparisons to the likes of Ottawa Senators all-star defenceman Erik Karlsson. At the beginning of the season, some ranked Liljegren as the top defenceman in this draft class, but missing over a month with mononucleosis hurt his draft stock.
The 2017 NHL Draft showed that the future of Finnish hockey is bright. A record six Finnish players were taken in the first round on Friday, including third overall Miro Heiskanen, who joined the Dallas Stars.
“I’ve always dreamed of being drafted and it came true,” Heiskanen said in an interview with the Stars’ Josh Bogorad. An article on the NHL’s site quotes Director of European Scouting Göran Stubb as having said Finland had a few terrible drafts 10 or 12 years ago, which led the Finnish hockey association to begin a new way of training players by focusing on individual skills. Finnish centre Aleksi Heponiemi, who was drafted 40th overall by the Florida Panthers, commented, “It’s really good for Finnish hockey, and I think there are a lot of good Finnish guys coming up next year too.”
Another draft this year was that of the Las Vegas Golden Knights’ first entry draft. With the sixth overall pick, the Knights selected Cody Glass from the Portland Winterhawks. Glass is highly skilled, competitive, and is strong in both the offensive and defensive zone. The Knights had two other first-round selections they received in trades from the Winnipeg Jets and New York Islanders. They selected centreman Nick Suzuki from the Owen Sound Attack and defenceman Erik Brännström from HV71 of the Swedish Hockey League.
The hard work now begins in earnest for young stars to fulfill their ultimate goal of one day lacing their skates in the NHL.