The Sabres made 11 picks, including two in the first round Friday: defenseman Owen Power at No. 1, and right wing Isak Rosen at No. 14.
The draft was held virtually for the second time in its 59-year history and had plenty of firsts.
Here are 10 moments to remember from the 2021 draft:
Seattle’s historic pick
The expansion Seattle Kraken, who begin play next season, chose center Matthew Beniers from the University of Michigan with the No. 2 pick Friday as the first NHL Draft pick in their history.
“He fits every box that we talked about,” Seattle director of amateur scouting Robert Kron said. “He’s an extremely hard-working kid. He’s an extremely talented hockey player. He’s a smart kid. He’s got a very positive attitude. He’s very, very exciting to watch and very exciting to be around, so I think we feel very, very happy having him.”
Beniers scored 24 points (10 goals, 14 assists) in 24 games in his first college season. He led first-time draft-eligible NCAA players in goals, goals per game (0.42) and shots on goal per game (2.38).
Power, Beniers and Kent Johnson became the first three players from the same NCAA program to be selected in the first round of the same draft.
“It’s a great night for Michigan, a great night for the Big Ten, and a great night for college hockey,” Michigan coach Mel Pearson said. “I’m really, really happy and proud of our guys. They’ve put in a lot of work, so it’s nice to see them get rewarded. And you know the thing about it? They’re all really good kids. They’re really good kids. They’re really good people. It’s exciting for them and their families.”
After Power at No. 1 and Beniers at No. 2, Johnson, a forward, was drafted No. 5 by the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Hughes brothers
When Luke Hughes was selected No. 4 by the New Jersey Devils, they became the first American family with three siblings selected in the first round.
Luke joined his brother, center Jack Hughes, with the Devils, who picked him No. 1 in the 2019 NHL Draft. Quinn Hughes, a defenseman for the Vancouver Canucks, was selected No. 7 in 2018.
Jack jumped into his brother’s arms with much excitement after Devils general manager Tom Fitzgerald said Luke’s name.
“It’s a dream come true to play in the NHL,” Luke said. “It’s also a dream come true to play with your brother. Both of those things are happening. I’m so excited to be a Devil and play with Jack someday. I’m super excited.”
Goalies have their day
Two goalies were chosen in the first round for the first time in nine years: Sebastian Cossa at No. 15 by the Detroit Red Wings, and Jesper Wallstedt at No. 20 by the Minnesota Wild.
The Red Wings moved up from No. 23 in a trade with the Dallas Stars to select Cossa.
“I was getting anxious, but then Detroit traded up, and I had quite a bit of calls with them last week, so I was getting a bit antsy there, and when I heard my name called, just straight excitement and couldn’t be happier that I’m with my family enjoying the moment,” Cossa said.
The Wild traded the No. 22 pick to the Edmonton Oilers to move up for Wallstedt, who became the first Sweden-born goalie to be selected in the first round.
‘Bittersweet’ weekend for Blue Jackets
In a span of 48 hours, the Blue Jackets traded defenseman Seth Jones, added two NHL defensemen, and made nine picks in the NHL Draft, including three in the first round.
The Blue Jackets drafted center Cole Sillinger at No. 12, a pick obtained from the Chicago Blackhawks in a trade for defenseman Seth Jones on Friday. Columbus also drafted defenseman Corson Ceulemans at No. 25, and added defenseman Adam Boqvist in the trade with Chicago, and defenseman Jake Bean in a trade with the Carolina Hurricanes.
“A bittersweet day, but exciting, and I think we accomplished a lot,” Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen said. “With the picks that we got, they were basically exactly who we targeted. A lot of times you get disappointed one or two picks before yours. We had some nervous moments today, obviously, waiting to see if any of the guys fall.”
Simon Edvinsson was the first of six Sweden-born players drafted in the first round, tying a record from 1993, 2009, 2011 and 2018.
The defenseman was the No. 6 pick by the Detroit Red Wings. He was followed by left wing William Eklund (San Jose Sharks, No. 7), Rosen (Sabres, No. 14), Wallstedt (Wild, No. 20), right wing Fabian Lysell (Boston Bruins, No. 21), and right wing Oskar Olausson (Colorado Avalanche, No. 28).
“I’m so thankful and excited,” Edvinsson said. “To be a part of the Detroit family is amazing, to be with the fans on an Original Six team … it’s amazing. After one more year in Sweden, I hope to compete for a place (on the Red Wings).”
There were 24 Sweden-born players chosen in the seven rounds (223 players), four short of the high set in 2011 and 2018.
Mason McTavish was the first of seven Ontario Hockey League players drafted in the opening two rounds, including five in the first round, despite the fact the OHL season was canceled in April due to the pandemic.
The center was drafted No. 3 by the Anaheim Ducks. He scored 11 points (nine goals, two assists) in 13 games this season on loan with EHC Olten in the Swiss League, the second-highest professional league in Switzerland.
Other players from the OHL drafted in the first round were defenseman Brandt Clarke (Los Angeles Kings, No. 8), right wing Brennan Othmann (New York Rangers, No. 16), center Wyatt Johnston (Dallas Stars, No. 23), and right wing Chase Stillman (New Jersey Devils, No. 29).
The Minnesota Wild paid a memorable tribute to their late assistant general manager Tom Kurvers, a defenseman in the NHL for 11 NHL seasons before moving into the front office and who died in June from lung cancer at age 58.
His four children, Madison, Rosie, Weston and Roman, were on hand at the Wild practice facility to announce Minnesota’s draft picks with GM Bill Guerin.
“This year we lost a beloved friend and colleague in our assistant general manager, Tom Kurvers,” Guerin said from the podium before the Wild made the No. 20 pick. “After a long playing career, Tom reentered the hockey world as an executive, where he had a positive impact on every team he worked for and every individual he came in contact with. Tom will be dearly missed and fondly remembered.”
Guerin then gave the podium to Roman Kurvers, who announced the No. 20 pick of Wallstedt. Weston Kurvers announced the No. 26 pick, Lambos.
Josh Doan joins father in Arizona
Josh Doan, the son of former NHL forward and current Arizona Coyotes chief hockey development officer Shane Doan, was drafted in the second round (No. 37) by the Coyotes.
“Today was the day that he’s worked a long time and hard for, to have the opportunity to get drafted into the NHL,” Shane Doan said. “It’s something that he didn’t take for granted. For me, it’s surreal that it happened to be the Coyotes. He deserves every single bit of everything he’s getting today. So proud of him.”
The right wing, who was not selected in the 2020 NHL Draft, scored 70 points (31 goals, 39 assists) in 53 games this season for Chicago of the United States Hockey League. He’s committed to Arizona State University for next season.
“I think just kind of being around the rink my whole life as a kid, it just makes it that much sweeter and cooler,” Josh Doan said. “Growing up with my dad and going to the games and watching all the time, being a part of the fan side of it, made it a really cool experience today for me and my family.”
Center Colton Dach had a surprise visitor during his Zoom call with the media after being selected by the Blackhawks in the second round (No. 62) on Saturday.
His brother, center Kirby Dach, who has played with the Blackhawks the past two seasons, interrupted him by wrapping his arm around Colton’s neck and yelling, “Woo! Hawks baby!”
“It’s very nice, as you can see,” Colton, a forward, said with a grin. “I think with Chicago, it’s just that much easier for us to, I guess, be together and be excited. I would’ve been excited with any other team, but I’m extremely excited for Chicago, that they called on me.”
Kirby Dach was selected No. 3 by the Blackhawks in the 2019 NHL Draft.
Main photo courtesy: Minnesota Wild