SUNRISE, USA – It took a little while before the 2015 NHL Draft displayed some international flair. Once it did, though, NHL teams cast nets wide across Europe in search of their next stars.
As many expected leading up to this year's event, 18-year-old world junior standouts Connor McDavid (Canada) and Jack Eichel (United States) went first and second to the Edmonton Oilers and Buffalo, respectively.
“I didn't know exactly how I was going to feel. I wasn't too nervous, I was just anxious. It was just so exciting to hear your name called and go through all that. It was unbelievable,” said McDavid, who represented Canada in the last two World Junior Championships.
“There's so much to be excited about to be an Edmonton Oiler. I'm just thrilled. I think just the change and the excitement of the fans and the long list of great players that have played there.”
Rounding out the top five were Canadians Dylan Strome (Arizona) and Mitchell Marner (Toronto) and American defenceman Noah Hanifin (Carolina).
Four of the next five selections came from overseas.
Pavel Zacha of the Czech Republic became the first European selected, going to the New Jersey Devils at No. 6. Russian-born defenseman Ivan Provorov (Philadelphia) went seventh overall. Switzerland's Timo Meier went ninth – the second-highest Swiss pick ever behind Nino Niederreiter – and Mikko Rantanen from Finland rounded out the top 10.
Of the early European selections, Zacha, Provorov and Meier honed their game in North America for at least the last season in preparation for professional careers while Rantanen spent part of the last three seasons in the top Finnish senior league.
New Jersey Devils GM Ray Shero said their decision to ply their trade in juniors is just "part of the background."
"I think whether he's coming directly from Europe to the draft that's not a problem," Shero said. "I think there are adjustments to be made. Sometimes they come over and there are tough adjustments in the CHL or college."
But sometimes it has advantages for fast-tracking development.
"Provlov was her at 14 years old, I believe," Shero said. "When he came over he couldn't speak English, and now he's fluent."
Provorov said he felt comfortable playing in Russia, but "to grow as a player I thought I needed to move here and learn the game, the North American way of playing the game.
"That was hard for me to leave my family and not be able to see them every day," Provorov said. "But it was the right way for me to go, and I'm really grateful I chose this way."
Zacha had a similar decision to make after long discussions with mentor Petr Nedved.
Nedved, who was Zacha's teammate with HC Liberec, shared the experience of going to Canada to improve his draft status.
"He went to the CHL to improve his draft [status]," Zacha said. "He didn't want to tell me to go or not. After that, I was okay, it's probably 90 per cent I'll go to the CHL."
Other notable picks in the first round included Swede Joel Eriksson Ek, who went to Minnesota at No. 20 and Russian Ilya Samsonov, the only goaltender taken in the first round, selected by Washington two picks later.
Rounds 2 through 7 will take place Saturday beginning at 10 a.m. ET. NOTES
- Meier became the second Swiss player selected in the first round by the Sharks in two years.
- Defenceman Mirco Muller, a teammate of Meier at the World Junior Championship, went 18th overall to San Jose in 2013. "For sure I asked him a couple questions about San Jose," Meier said. "He told me really good things about it, so I'm really happy."
- Samsonov became the first goaltender since 2012 to be selected in the first round.
No., NHL Team, Player (Country), Positioni, Recent Club
1. Edmonton, Connor McDavid (CAN), C, Erie (OHL)
2. Buffalo, Jack Eichel (USA), C, Boston Univ. (Hockey East)
3. Arizona, Dylan Strom (CAN), C, Erie (OHL)
4. Toronto, Mitchell Marner (CAN), C, London (OHL)
5. Carolina, Noah Hanifin (USA), D, Boston College (Hockey East)
6. New Jersey, Pavel Zacha (CZE), C, Sarnia (OHL)
7. Philadelphia, Ivan Provorov (RUS), D, Brandon (WHL)
8. Columbus, Zachary Werenski (USA), D, Michigan (Big Ten)
9. San Jose, Timo Meier (SUI), RW, Halifax (QMJHL)
10. Colorado, Mikko Rantanen (FIN), RW, TPS Turku (Finland)
11. Florida, Lawson Crouse (CAN), LW, Kingston (OHL)
12. Dallas, Denis Gurianov (RUS), RW, Lada Togliatti (Russia)
13. Boston, Jakub Zboril (CZE), D, Saint John (QMJHL)
14. Boston, Jake DeBrusk (CAN), LW, Swift Current (WHL)
15. Boston, Zachary Senyshyn (CAN), RW, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
16. N.Y. Islanders, Mathew Barzal (CAN), C, Seattle (WHL)
17. Winnipeg, Kyle Connor (USA), LW, Youngstown (USHL)
18. Ottawa, Thomas Chabot (CAN), D, Saint John (QMJHL)
19. Detroit, Yevgeni Svechnikov (RUS), LW, Cape Breton (QMJHL)
20. Minnesota, Joel Eriksson Ek (SWE), C, Farjestad Karlstad (Sweden)
21. Ottawa, Colin White (USA), C, USA U-18 (USHL)
22. Washington, Ilya Samsonov (RUS), G, Magnitogorsk (Russia)
23. Vancouver, Brock Boeser (USA), RW, Waterloo (USHL)
24. Philadelphia, Travis Konecky (CAN), C, Ottawa (OHL)
25. Winnipeg, John Roslovic (USA), C, USA U-18 (USHL)
26. Montreal, Noah Juulsen (CAN), D, Everett (WHL)
27. Anaheim, Jacob Larsson (SWE), D, Frolunda Gothenburg (Sweden)
28. N.Y. Islanders, Anthony Beauvillier (CAN), LW, Shawnigan (QMJHL)
29. Columbus, Gabriel Carlsson (SWE), D, Linkoping (Sweden)
30. Arizona, Nicholas Merkley (CAN), RW, Kelowna (WHL) BREAKDOWN BY COUNTRY
Canada - 12
United States - 7
Russia - 4
Sweden - 3
Czech Republic - 2
Finland - 1
Switzerland - 1