Third member of Steelheads top line taken in draft

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Nathan Bastian watched Mississauga Steelheads linemates Alex Nylander (No. 8, Buffalo) and Michael McLeod (No. 12, New Jersey) go in the first round of the NHL draft.

On Saturday as the draft went into overdrive for rounds two through seven at First Niagara Center, the six-foot-four Bastian wasted little time joining McLeod as a New Jersey Devil in the second round when he was selected 41st overall.

"For me it was kind of long," Bastian said of the first round Friday evening. "But at the end of the day, I'm a draft pick now and I'm so excited."

Bastian was also over the moon to join McLeod in New Jersey. "It's so cool we're together now."

Nylander, a left-winger whose older brother William is a Maple Leaf, led all Ontario Hockey League rookies with 75 points (28 goals, 47 assists) in 57 games last season. McLeod, a centre, was No. 2 in team scoring with 61 points (21-40) while right-winger Bastian had 59 points (19-40) in 64 contests.

Nylander was ranked third among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting while McLeod was No. 13 and Bastian No. 35.

"I think hockey in Mississauga and the Steelheads organization itself is really underrated," Bastian said. "And people think it's not the best place to play. But our fanbase keeps getting better and our staff is amazing and we're taken care of so well there. I think it's showing and we keep getting better every year."

Mississauga defenceman Sean Day, granted exceptional-player status to play in the OHL as a 15-year-old in 2013, became a New York Ranger in the third round, going 81st overall.

"It's amazing," said Day. "I think just being picked by any team would be awesome but hearing your name finally called, it's awesome. I can't even describe it. I was shaking and smiling the whole time I was walking down the (arena) stairs."

The Rangers are gambling the Belgium-born Day delivers on his early promise. He fell to No. 59 in the Central Scouting final rankings from No. 43 in the midterm numbers.

The six-foot-two 228-pound Day says he is doing the work, noting his body fat was down to 12 per cent from 19 per cent last year.

"I can tell that they wanted me," Day said of the Rangers. "That's the most important thing going to a team that wants you and wants to develop you."

New York can pick them. It was 16 years ago to the day that they selected Henrik Lundqvist in the seventh round of the 2000 draft.

Gatineau right-winger Vitaly Abramov, taken in the third round 65th overall by Columbus, has his own story.

In 2013, he survived a meteor explosion over his Russian hometown of Chelyabinsk. The explosion's energy was estimated at 300 to 500 kilotons. Abramov was in school at the time. The windows in his class smashed but he escaped injury.

There was a run on goaltenders late in the second round as Philadelphia used the 48th overall pick to take Everett's Carter Hart, the WHL and CHL goalie of the year.

It marked the latest a goaltender has been taken since the 1986 draft when Shawn Simpson went 609th.

Calgary then took Tyler Parsons of the London Knights 54th overall, Pittsburgh chose Sweden's Filip Gustavsson 55th and St. Louis picked Sherbrooke's Evan Fitzpatrick 59th. The Maple Leafs then took U.S. under-18 goalie Joseph Woll with the first pick of the third round, 62nd overall, and Carolina picked Jack Lafontaine of the NAHL's Janesville 75th overall.

Central Scouting ranked Fitzpatrick, Hart and Parsons 1-2-3 with Woll fifth among North American goalies. Gustavsson was the top-ranked European goaltender.

Colton Point, the No. 4 goalie in the North American rankings, went 128th to Dallas.

Day 1 saw a record 12 Americans taken in the first round, led by the Leafs' No. 1 pick Auston Matthews. Five of those Americans grew up in the St. Louis area: Matthew Tkachuk (No. 6, Calgary), Clayton Keller (No. 7, Arizona), Logan Brown (No. 11, Ottawa), Luke Kunin (No. 15, Minnesota) and Trent Frederic (No. 29, Boston).

Matthews was the first American to go first overall since 2007 when Chicago took Patrick Kane.

Eleven Canadians went in the first round, along with four Finns, two Russians and a Swede.

Tkachuk and Kieffer Bellows (No. 19, Islanders) joined fathers Keith and Brian as first-round picks. There have been only seven other father-son first-round duos.

In all, the NHL said 14 of the first 30 players picked had league bloodlines in some form.

There were more bloodlines in Saturday's draft.

Jonathan Dahlen (Ottawa, No. 42) is the son of Ulf Dahlen, who played 906 NHL games. Casey Fitzgerald (Buffalo, No. 86), is the son of Tom Fitzgerald, who played 1,097 career NHL games. Riley Stillman (Florida, No. 114) is the son of former Panthers assistant captain Cory Stillman. Graham McPhee, taken 149th by Edmonton, is the son of former NHL player and executive George McPhee.

The list goes on.

It was a day for optimism all around.

"I guess everyone says this but we were really excited for the guys that we got," said Chicago GM Stan Bowman.

In all, 211 players were chosen over the two days. Canada led the way with 89 players followed by the U.S. (52), Sweden (25), Russia (17), Finland (14), Czech Republic (4), Denmark (3), Belgium (2), Switzerland (2), Belarus (1), Germany (1) and Latvia (1).

A record 12 of those Americans went in the first round.


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