Seven U.S.-born players go in top 15 of NHL draft

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Seven U.S.-born players were selected within the first 15 picks of the 2019 NHL draft on Friday, an all-time high for Americans in the modern draft (since 1963). Led by Jack Hughes, who went first overall to the New Jersey Devils, the 2019 crop surpassed the 2016 draft in which six Americans were taken in the top 15.

Also selected in the top 15 were No. 5 Alex Turcotte to the Los Angeles Kings, No. 9 Trevor Zegras to the Anaheim Ducks, No. 12 Matthew Boldy to the Minnesota Wild, No. 13 Spencer Knight to the Florida Panthers, No. 14 Cam York to the Philadelphia Flyers and No. 15 Cole Caufield to the Montreal Canadiens.

Also of note, all seven of those players came from the same team -- the U.S. National Team Development Program's Under-18 squad. Add in John Beecher, who was selected 30th overall by the Boston Bruins, and that team had eight players selected in the first round. That is also a record for most teammates selected from a single amateur team in the first round of the modern NHL draft. The previous record was set in 2000 when four players from Yaroslavl 2 were taken in the first round.

In all, 10 American-born players were selected in the first round, falling shy of the record 12 selected in 2016. Nolan Foote, who was born in Colorado but represents Canada internationally, was selected 27th overall by the Tampa Bay Lightning, and California native Ryan Johnson closed out the first round when selected 31st overall by the Buffalo Sabres.

Hughes became the eighth American-born player selected with the No. 1 selection and first since Auston Matthews went first overall in the 2016 NHL draft. Each of the past five American first overall selections have come from the NTDP.

Hughes also joins brother Quinn, who was selected No. 7 in the 2018 draft by the Vancouver Canucks, as the highest-drafted American brothers in back-to-back drafts. They also join Brady and Matthew Tkachuk as the only American brothers to be selected in the top 10.

Friday's first round included four players from Sweden, three from Finland and the host Canucks choosing Russian forward Vasily Podkolzin at No. 10.

"There's good players all over the world now. It's the evolution of our game,'' said Dallas Stars general manager Jim Nill, who selected U.S. defenseman Thomas Harley with the 18th pick. "It's good for hockey.''

With Hughes going first, it marked the fourth consecutive draft since a Canadian has been selected No. 1.

Doug Armstrong, general manager of the Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues, doesn't see a decline in Canada's dominance in the sport.

"We have a lot of Canadians, and we're Stanley Cup champions,'' Armstrong said. "That's not disrespecting the Russians or the Swedes or the Americans. I think what the game is is global. It think it's great for the game to be global.''

The Associated Press contributed to this report.