DALLAS — The Buffalo Sabres selected Swedish defenceman Rasmus Dahlin with the No. 1 pick in the NHL draft on Friday night.
Considered far and away the class of the 2018 talent pool, the slick 18-year-old had seven goals and 13 assists in 41 games for Frolunda of the Swedish Hockey League in 2017-18.
“It’s amazing to finally put on the Buffalo Sabres’ jersey,” Dahlin said. “I’ve been there twice. I love that city.”
Dahlin is the second Swedish-born player selected first overall. Mats Sundin was the top choice of the Quebec Nordiques in 1989.
Dahlin also was named his country’s top junior hockey player last season.
The six-foot-three, 185-pound Dahlin was honoured as the top blue liner at the 2018 world junior championship in Buffalo, registering six assists in seven games. He also played twice for his country as a 17-year-old at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.
“I’m so excited at the moment,” he said.
The Carolina Hurricanes, selecting second, took Russian-born Barrie Colts winger Andrei Svechnikov.
The Montreal Canadiens, the first Canadian team to pick, took Finnish centre Jesperi Kotkaniemi with the No. 3 selection.
The Ottawa Senators then selected Boston University winger Brady Tkachuk, the son of ex-NHLer Keith Tkachuk, at No. 4.
The Arizona Coyotes scooped up the first Canadian-born player in the draft, grabbing Barrett Hayton of Peterborough, Ont., with the fifth pick. The centre plays for the OHL’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.
When asked about being the top Canadian picked, Hayton said, “I haven’t really thought of it that much yet, but it’s a tremendous honour.”
At No. 6, the Detroit Red Wings landed Halifax Mooseheads winger Filip Zadina, who had a message for teams that passed on him.
“I’m telling my agent if they will pass on me, I will fill their net with the puck,” the Czech-born Zadina said. “Yeah, it’s just I want to prove (to) them that they have done, like, (a) bad decision.”
New Toronto Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas, in his first draft in the top job, traded down, sending the No. 25 pick to the St. Louis Blues for the No. 29 selection as well as the No. 76 pick in the third round. With the No. 29 pick, the Leafs took Swedish defenceman Rasmus Sandin from the Greyhounds, the junior team Dubas managed before coming to Toronto.
The Senators, after trading the 22nd pick to the New York Rangers for the Nos. 26 and 58 picks, used their second first-round spot to secure defenceman Jacob Bernard-Docker from Okotoks of the Alberta Junior Hockey League.
The only trade of the day with current NHL players came before the draft. The Colorado Avalanche acquired goalie Philipp Grubauer and defenceman Brooks Orpik from the Washington Capitals for the 47th pick. The move clears salary-cap space for the Stanley Cup champion Capitals to try to re-sign key pending free agents.
The Winnipeg Jets and Calgary Flames did not have first-round picks.
Prior to the start of the draft, NHL commissioner presented the 2017-18 Humboldt Broncos with the E.J. McGuire Award of Excellence.
The Broncos were on their way to Nipawin for a Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League playoff game on April 6 when their bus collided with a truck, resulting in the deaths of 16 people, including 10 players.
Created in 2015, the E.J. McGuire Award of Excellence is given annually by the league to the draft candidate who exemplifies commitment to excellence through strength of character, competitiveness and athleticism.
“From this tragedy, the hockey world has come to learn more about the Humboldt Broncos organization and players, their role in the fabric of their community, and their commitment to the pursuit of excellence both on and off the ice,” Dan Marr, director of NHL Central Scouting, said in a statement. “The stories we have heard about those who were lost and those who continue to heal have been truly inspirational and serve as great examples of all the characteristics this award was meant to recognize.”
The final six rounds of the draft will be held on Saturday.
Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press