Friday was a great day for college hockey. It was equally as great a day, though, for the U.S.A.
For the first time in the history of the NHL Entry Draft, two American-born players became the top two overall picks with major junior stud Patrick Kane being chosen No. 1 overall pick by the Chicago Blackhawks, and New Hampshire recruit James vanRiemsdyk going number two to the Philadelphia Flyers.
The ultimate day for college hockey was supplemented by the Phoenix Coyotes selecting Canadian-born Kyle Turris, an incoming freshman at Wisconsin.
At the end of the made-for-television first round, 10 Americans and 11 with collegiate ties were selected. The 10 Americans tied a record after the same number were selected in the first round of the 2006 Entry Draft. The 11 players with collegiate ties were one better than the 10 picked in 2003.
“It’s an honor for him and me to be the first two Americans,” said vanRiemsdyk, the top player with college ties selected, of himself and Kane.
In truth, the numbers could have easily been higher for both Americans and collegians as Boston College-bound Tommy Cross, who injured his knee in the offseason playing baseball and saw his stock fall after finishing 12th in the final Central Scouting Bureau (CSB) rankings, watched Friday’s 30 picks go past without being selected.
On the other hand, possibly the upset of the evening was Notre Dame incoming freshman Ian Cole, ranked 81st by the CSB, yet picked 18th by the St. Louis Blues.
“I had heard I could go anywhere from ninth to 80th,” said Cole, who admitted he was pretty shocked to hear his name when the Blues stepped to the podium.
That, though, was the sentiment among many American picks.
“You hear rumors every single day of where you’re going to go or where you’re going to be,” said Ryan McDonagh, picked 12th by the Montreal Canadiens, who will attend Wisconsin in the fall. “When the Montreal Canadiens said my name it was definitely a thrill to be joining a great tradition franchise, no question.”
It was McDonagh and the Badgers who had the single best day on Friday. He, Turris and Brendan Smith, a Canadian-born defenseman ranked 68th by the CSB and selected 27th by the Detroit Red Wings, will all attend Wisconsin in September.
Now, for each of the 11 collegians selected the question becomes just how long their collegiate careers will be.
Both vanRiemsdyk and Turris have the highest flight risk attached to them, but both were emphatic on Friday night that they’ll be in their respective colleges come September.
Turris, who sits at about 170 pounds right now, hopes to bulk up before arriving in Madison.
“I’m hoping to go into Wisconsin next year at about 180 to 185 pounds and see where I can contribute,” said Turris.
VanRiemsdyk, who surprised some by being the top collegian taken, said he was happy to hear his name called so early.
“After Chicago picked [first], I started getting a little tight and my stomach started doing back flips,” said vanRiemsdyk. “I had heard [Kane] was going to be the guy to go number one but you never know until it happens.
“I was anxious to know where I was going to go, so I’m glad the wait was short.”
After vanRiemsdyk at number two and Turris following at three, it seemed like an eternity before college hockey reached the stage again. But after McDonagh was chosen by Montreal at 12, it became a river of collegians hearing their names called.
BU-bound Kevin Shattenkirk, a forward who scored 34 points in 48 games for the U.S. National Team Development Program last season, was picked 14th by Colorado.
Cole, in the 18th slot, became the first player with ties to Notre Dame ever to go in the first round of the NHL Draft. He became the 50th Notre Dame player overall picked in the Draft.
After Angelo Esposito, a major junior player ranked first in the mid-term rankings, was finally chosen 20th by Pittsburgh, Cornell-bound Riley Nash was picked 21st by Edmonton.
Incoming Michigan frosh Max Pacioretty was taken in the 22 slot by the Canadiens, while future Minnesota Golden Gopher Patrick White was taken 25th by the Vancouver Canucks.
With Smith heading to Detroit in the 27th slot, future Boston College Eagle Nicholas Petricki going 28th to San Jose and current Gopher James O’Brien selected 29th by the Ottawa Senators, college hockey’s best draft day of all time was complete.
The NHL, which hosted the first round as a stand-alone event for the first time ever, will complete its final six rounds beginning at 10 a.m. on Saturday morning.