PITTSBURGH — In what could have been a poor showing for college hockey at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, Friday’s opening round ended with more-than-respectable results.
Led by Jacob Trouba, who was selected ninth overall by the Winnipeg Jets, players with collegiate ties heard their names called six times from the stage at the Consol Energy Center.
Trouba, who said he is committed to attending Michigan in the fall, has been to Winnipeg just once in his life and said he mostly remembers it as cold.
“It’s a great city but it’s pretty cold,” Trouba laughed. “Going to have to get the boots out.”
Trouba said he is excited to get his education under way at Michigan but also hopes to use his time in Ann Arbor to get stronger and fill out more of his 6-foot-2 build.
Five picks after Trouba, Vermont recruit Zemgus Girgensons became the first Latvian-born player to be selected in the first round of the draft. Last year, he captained the Dubuque Fighting Saints in the USHL, scoring 55 points in 49 games.
While Vermont is his plan for next year, he said he feels he’s already set to step right into the NHL.
“People tell me I can play in the NHL and I think I’m ready to play in the NHL,” Girgensons said.
Probably the biggest first-round surprise was Providence recruit Mark Jankowski. Ranked 74th in the midterm rankings from NHL Central Scouting, he jumped to 43rd by the final ranking and ended up being selected 21st overall by the Calgary Flames. The Flames, in fact, traded up to make sure they got their man.
“I’m a little bit surprised,” Jankowski said. “I kind of had it in my mind that I might be going to Calgary. I met with them early today. I just didn’t want to get my hopes up.”
Jankowski received great praise from Calgary general manager Jay Feaster, who said 10 years from now, Jankowski might be the best player to come out of this draft class.
Providence coach Nate Leaman, on hand in Pittsburgh on Friday to support Jankowski, said he wasn’t sure whether Jankowski intended to come to Providence next year or in 2013. Minutes later, Jankowski answered that question, saying he plans to play a year in the USHL before joining the Friars.
Boston College recruit Michael Matheson was selected 23rd overall by Florida. Unlike the other two Hockey East picks, he said he will be in Chestnut Hill next fall.
“I’m 100 percent committed to going to Boston College next year,” Matheson said.
Two picks after Matheson, North Dakota commit Jordan Schmaltz was nabbed by the St. Louis Blues, 25th overall. The list of collegians was capped off as the New York Rangers selected defenseman and Minnesota recruit Brady Skjei 28th.
There were a number of collegians who had first-round aspirations but will have to wait until Saturday to hear their names called. Heading that list is Michigan forward Phil Di Giuseppe, who was ranked 22nd among North American forwards by Central Scouting but failed to become a first rounder.
The draft concludes Saturday when rounds two through seven will take place beginning at 10 a.m. EDT.