PHILADELPHIA – Day two of the NHL Draft at the Wells Fargo Center proceeded without incident and any transactions of significance. Teams continued stockpiling talent to fit their needs. In round one teams focused on acquiring upfront talent. Twenty-five of the 30 players taken were forwards, eclipsing the previous best of 23 drafted in 2003.
Saturday was about building depth and assets for the future.
When the final player was chosen, 210 players in all were selected in the draft from twelve countries. 65 players were drafted from Europe, with a single-nation high 27 from Sweden. Russia had 13; Finland 9; the Czech Republic 8.
While Germany and Denmark only produced a prospect apiece, they were important selections in their significance. Germany’s Draisaitl went to the Edmonton Oilers and Denmark sniper Nikolaj Ehlers was chosen by the Winnipeg Jets, both in the first round. Slovakia also produced a lone draftee.
Canada saw a dip in the number of players selected from last year. 78 Canadians were chosen, down from 96 in 2013. United States draftees were up from 57 to 67. It was the country’s highest percentage of total selections ever in the draft at 32%.
There was much speculation about trade activity but that never materialized. A few transactions of note did take place. The Vancouver Canucks finally dealt Ryan Kesler. Kesler and a 2015 third round pick were sent to the Anaheim Ducks for Nick Bonino, Luca Sbisa, the 24th selection in the draft (they used to take center Jared McCann on Friday) and the third round pick.
The Pittsburgh Penguins traded James Neal to the Nashville Predators for forwards Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling.
This year’s entry draft was also a family affair among Europeans. First rounders Draisaitl, William Nylander, Nikolaj Ehlers and Kasperi Kapanen all have fathers who played professional hockey. In Kapanen’s case, his grandfather also played top-level hockey.
Ironically, when Kapanen was selected by Pittsburgh on Friday, it was deja vu for recently appointed general manager Jim Rutherford. Rutherford also selected his father Sami in the 1995 draft when he was directing the Hartford Whalers.
In the later rounds, the family ties continued. Anton Karlsson, who was selected 87th overall by the Arizona Coyotes is the brother of Frolunda skater Erik, who was drafted by the Carolina Hurricanes in 2012 with the 99th overall selection.
Edgars Kulda was drafted 194th overall by Arizona, joining his brother Arturs as part of the NHL fraternity. Arturs was drafted 200 overall by the Atlanta Thrashers in 2006 and played for Ufa last season in the KHL.
The big story on Saturday afternoon was Nathan Walker. The British-born Walker became the first Australian-raised player selected in NHL draft history when the Washington Capitals took him with the 89th pick. Walker played on Australian junior teams before moving to the Czech Republic (Vitkovice Ostrava) to improve his level of play and last season he played for the Capitals’ AHL affiliate Hershey Bears.
Like the Draisaitl selection in the first round was historical on Friday evening, so too was this one on Saturday. The global impact that hockey has in inspiring and reaching new audiences and youngsters is an encouraging sign for the future of the game around the world.
The Capitals moved back into the third round to have a chance at Walker by trading their 104th and 118th overall picks to the New York Rangers.
Walker played for the Hershey Bears of the AHL this past season. In 43 games he scored five goals and 11 points, showing toughness and some ability as an energy player.
Having been passed over in the previous two drafts, Walker, 20, finally got called. The Caps and Walker are no strangers to each other. He played for the Caps at their development camp and in the 2013 preseason. The team could not sign him unless they retained his rights, which they did not.
Since he’s already familiar with the Capitals and has played in the AHL, Walker is one of the few prospects in this draft who is already on the professional track and further advanced than most.
Overall the weekend went about as well as the City of Philadelphia and the Flyers could hope for. Flyers President Paul Holmgren was pleased with the results.
“Obviously the League does a lot of the stuff too, but our staff working behind the scenes did a tremendous job,” Holmgren said. “I was really proud of our organization [Friday] and again [Saturday]. We had a good turnout again [Saturday], what's normally a light day, the second day. But [Friday] was incredible.”