SUNRISE, USA – A couple players from non-traditional hockey countries made history on Day 2 of the NHL Draft including the first-ever Chinese player drafted by an NHL team.
The New York Islanders looked to the Far East for its sixth-round choice (172nd overall), making Andong Song the first Chinese-born player selected in the NHL draft. Song started to play hockey in his hometown of Beijing but moved to Canada when he was 9. He played for the Chinese U18 national team in the last two years. The Islanders are owned by Chinese-born Charles Wang.
The Pittsburgh Penguins made right wing Daniel Sprong the first Dutch-born player drafted in the NHL with their second-round selection (46th overall). He could become the second Dutch-born player to play in the NHL.
Though both players honed their game in Canada, they remain tied to their home nations.
"I'm proud of where I was born and I'll always be Dutch," Sprong, who also has Canadian citizenship, said. "I remember when I was little and watching NHL players how they inspired me, so hopefully in Holland – or even in Montreal – I can inspire some kids as well."
Song, who played at Lawrenceville High School in New Jersey last year, said he hopes to make his homeland proud.
The defenceman captained the Chinese U18 national team at the 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Group B Division II, registering two assists in five games.
The widening influence of hockey may have teams increasing their travel budget.
"It's great for the game. It's absolutely phenomenal for the game that we have players coming to Canada and the U.S. to play from all these countries," Florida Panthers head scout Scott Luce said. "Hopefully hockey is going to grow in those countries because those players are going to be playing in the NHL. That's just great for our sport."
Luce, who found himself tracking players from non-hockey markets in North America, sees the situation as being similar worldwide.
"It's just a matter of time," Luce said. "It's great to see the sport of hockey growing."
The number of 36.2 per cent of the players from nationalities outside of North America was the highest since 2002. Notable was a comeback of Russians with 17, the highest number since 2004. There were also more Finns (13, highest number since 2006) and Czechs (11, most since 2005) than usual including 12 from Finnish clubs and eight from Czech clubs. 18 players came from Swedish clubs, most in Europe while the Western Hockey League led all leagues with 34 players.NOTES
BREAKDOWN BY COUNTRY
- Other nations which broke through with a selection on Day 2: Belarus (Pavel Karnaukhov, LW), Germany (Frederik Tiffels, LW), Latvia (three players) and Slovakia (five players).
- Latvia tied a record with three draftees. The same number was also reached in 2002.
- Jeremy Bracco (United States), the leading point scorer at the U18 World Championship eligible for the 2015 Draft, was selected with the 31st overall pick by the Toronto Maple Leafs.
- The gold-medal winning U.S. U18 National team produced 11 selections.
Canada - 80
United States - 55
Sweden - 20
Russia - 17
Finland - 13
Czech Republic - 11
Slovakia - 5
Switzerland - 4
Latvia - 3
Belarus - 1
China - 1
Germany - 1