There was talk prior to the 2016 NHL Draft that hockey power Canada was in for a disappointing showing at the NHL’s annual re-stocking of young talent. And, while it is true that just two players that identified as Canadian were chosen among the top 10 selections in this year’s draft, the “Great White North” can rest comfortably knowing that they had a stronger showing overall in 2016 than was the case at the last couple of drafts.
In all, 89 players showing Canada as their birthplace were chosen in this year’s draft, 10 more than in 2015 and eight more than the 2014 total. And, while it is true that a player such as Alexander Nylander, who was born in Canada but identifies as Swedish, might skew the final total, that is offset by a player such as Jakob Chychrun, who was born in Florida but identifies as Canadian.
Second to Canada, as they have been in recent years, was the USA with 52 players chosen. That number was down three from 2015, but down 15 from two years ago. Sweden, whose 2016 draft crop wasn’t necessarily considered their strongest in recent years, added six more picks over last year’s figure of 19, while Russia equaled their 2015 output. Finland certainly arrived as a hockey power in the 2015-16 season, but that success added just one more draft pick to last year’s total.
Countries represented at the 2016 draft that were not in evidence last year include Denmark, who had three of their countrymen chosen by NHL clubs, and Belgium, who had their first-ever selection at the NHL Draft in the form of goaltender Wouter Peeters (no relation to former NHL goaltender Pete Peeters).
One country surprisingly shutout of this year’s proceedings was Slovakia. Combined with a weak showing by the Czech Republic, who had just four native-born players chosen in Buffalo after having 11 chosen last year (five Slovaks were chosen in 2015), it was a disappointing year for the two countries that made up the former Czechoslovakia.
Other countries counted among last year’s selections that missed the cut in 2016 were China, the Netherlands, and the Ukraine, who each had one player chosen in 2015.
Below is how the birthplace numbers looked for the 2016 NHL Draft:
Country # of Selections
OHL ties 2012 mark, leads the way in CHL
The WHL scored a rare victory over the OHL at the 2015 draft in terms of the number of players chosen, but the OHL got their revenge in 2016, producing a bumper crop of talent during the proceedings at First Niagara Center in Buffalo, NY. In all, 48 OHL players were chosen by NHL clubs, with the WHL producing 34, the same number as last year. The QMJHL had 14 players chosen this year after a strong showing at the 2015 draft, where they had 30 players selected.
Not only did the OHL dominate the overall numbers in 2016, but they also produced the most first round prospects of any league with nine. The WHL produced four first round picks while the QMJHL had just two, although that league claims the highest CHL selection in this year’s draft, third overall selection Pierre-Luc Dubois who went to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Olli Juolevi was the top OHL player selected, going to the Vancouver Canucks at #5, while defenseman Jake Bean was the top WHL pick after his selection at No. 13 by the Carolina Hurricanes.
Perhaps most significant for the OHL is that their draft total of 2016 matches the 2012 figure of 48, which is the highest figure for a seven-round draft and is just four off the total of 52 from 1999, which was a nine-round draft.
BCHL leads the way in solid year for CJHL
Leading the way was the BCHL, who saw three of their players chosen, all in the first round of the draft. Two Penticton Vees led the way, with Tyson Jost going to the Colorado Avalanche, and Dante Fabbro landing in Nashville with the Predators. Draft riser Dennis Cholowski of the Chilliwack Chiefs was the third BCHL selection of the first round, going to the Detroit Red Wings at #20.
One other CJHL club produced two selections, that being the Carleton Place Canadians of the CCHL. Left wing Brett Murray went to the Buffalo Sabres in the fourth round of the draft, while goaltender Colton Point was chosen by the Dallas Stars in the fifth round.
NCAA’s present and future on display
Based strictly on the number of players chosen directly from member schools, the NCAA turned in a good showing at this year’s draft. After producing nine picks in 2015, NCAA schools had 13 players make the trek to NHL draft tables over the course of the two-day event.
NCAA schools matched last year’s first round showing of three selections, although the three picks at the 2015 draft all fell in the top 10. Leading the way in 2016 was defenseman Charlie McAvoy of Boston University, who was chosen 14th overall by the Boston Bruins. One pick later, University of Wisconsin forward Luke Kunin was selected by the Minnesota Wild, while forward Tage Thompson of the University of Connecticut was chosen by the St. Louis Blues with the 26th pick.
When taking into account the various leagues that produce talent for the NCAA schools, a total of 61 present or future U.S. college players were chosen by NHL clubs in 2016.
As always, leading the way as both a feeder league for the NCAA along with being well represented at the NHL Draft is the USHL, which produced 30 draft picks from the 2015-16 season and another 15 players that count themselves as USHL alumni.
The U.S. NTDP counted 12 of the current USHL players to have their names called by NHL teams, with Clayton Keller (ARI) at seventh overall being the highest selection from that program. Aside from the NTDP, 11 other USHL teams produced draft picks this year, with no team having more than two players chosen.
The NAHL maintained their total of five selection from last year’s draft, with goaltender Jack LaFontaine of the Janesville Jets leading the way as a third round pick to the Carolina Hurricanes. U.S. high school or prep schools produced six selections this year, six less than in 2015.
Hockey Factories for 2016
As has been the case in recent years, the program that produced the most NHL Draft picks in 2016 was the U.S. NTDP with 12, a figure that is three less than what they produced in 2015.
Unsurprisingly, the club team that produced the most NHL picks this year was the Memorial Cup champion London Knights, who had seven players don NHL jerseys this past weekend. The Knights had a mostly dominating performance in the postseason, winning the OHL title along with the CHL championship. London has had at least one player chosen in every NHL Draft since 1969.
Aside from the Knights, other CHL teams that showed well at this draft include the Calgary Hitmen and Mississauga Steelheads with five selections apiece, and the Victoria Royals and Kelowna Rockets with four picks each. No USHL club or NCAA program had more than two selections.
Over in Europe, the most well represented organization at the 2016 draft is a new one, Russia’s Under-18 program modeled along the lines of the U.S. NTDP. Four players were chosen from this program, including the Philadelphia Flyers‘ top pick, forward German Rubtsov.
Three more Euro organizations – all of them in Sweden – produced three selections, including Djurgarden, Farjestad, and Skelleftea. The highest selection from these three clubs was Farjestad center Rasmus Asplund, who went to the Buffalo Sabres early in the second round of the draft.