Firsts from Europe, OHL, USHL
As mentioned above, the first NHL prospect that was born in Belgium and identifies as such was selected at this draft. The Chicago Blackhawks chose goaltender Wouter Peeters from EC Salzburg 2 in Austria, but he was born in Turnhout, Belgium. Interestingly, two picks before Peeters was chosen, the New York Rangers chose Mississauga Steelheads defenseman Sean Day, who was born in Leuven, Belgium. But Day is considered a Canadian citizen, leaving Peeters as the first true Belgian to be drafted into the NHL.
In the OHL, the Flint Firebirds and Hamilton Bulldogs had their first players chosen by NHL clubs. The Firebirds’ Will Bitten led the way, going to the Montreal Canadiens in the third round, with Bulldogs’ defenseman Cole Candella going to the Vancouver Canucks in the fifth round and Firebirds’ winger Nick Caamano going to the Dallas Stars six picks later, also in the fifth round. Both teams existed as different franchises in previous seasons, the Firebirds as the Plymouth Whalers and the Bulldogs as the Belleville Bulls.
One team that was a true expansion team this season was the Bloomington Thunder of the USHL. The Thunder made the 2016 USHL playoffs in their first season of existence, helping to draw attention to a pair of their players who were chosen at this NHL Draft. Forward Mitchell Mattson, who was ranked by some as a potential first round talent at one point, went to the Calgary Flames in the fifth round. Two rounds later, defenseman Jeremy Davies was chosen by the New Jersey Devils. Mattson will play for the Thunder next season, then attend the University of North Dakota, while Davies will head to Northeastern University this Fall.
Coming to the defense
Breaking the draft down by position (per designations from NHL Central Scouting), defensemen led the way with a total of 75 defenders being chosen at the 2016 NHL Draft. Nine defenders were chosen in the first round, with 14 selections in the third and seventh rounds being the largest number chosen by round.
Next on the list is centers, with 54 going to NHL teams at this draft. Twelve pivots were selected in the first round, which was also the high-water mark for the seven rounds. At left wing, 33 players from that position were drafted this weekend, with the eight chosen in the fourth round representing the highest number in one round. Right wingers totaled 23 selections, with the eight drafted in the second round being the top figure by round. Eight players were identified by CSS as playing more than one position, with two dual-position players chosen in the second, sixth and seventh rounds.
And the last line of defense, the goaltenders, garnered 18 selections in Buffalo. The five chosen in the sixth round what the highest total in a round.
Maple Leafs’ rebuild continues apace
In addition to adding the top talent from the 2016 prospect pool in center Auston Matthews, the Toronto Maple Leafs also left Buffalo with the most selections of any club at the 2016 NHL Draft. The Maple Leafs added 11 players to their already large prospect pool, so the organization’s rebuild appears to be in good shape for the foreseeable future.
The host team for this draft, the Buffalo Sabres, totaled 10 selections, as did the Philadelphia Flyers and Tampa Bay Lightning. Five teams totaled nine selections apiece, including the Calgary Flames, Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago Blackhawks, Edmonton Oilers, and New Jersey Devils.
At the other end of the spectrum, the Los Angeles Kings and Minnesota Wild left town with the fewest selections at four apiece.