Ottawa Senators first round pick Mika Zibanejad, of Sweden, is all smiles at the 2011 NHL hockey draft in St. Paul, Minnesota, June 24, 2011.
ST. PAUL, Minnesota (Reuters) – The Edmonton Oilers stuck to the script by taking Canadian center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins with the number one pick but it was otherwise a night of surprises at the NHL draft Friday.
Winnipeg, the NHLâ€™s newest franchise, was back at the draft table for the first time since 1995 and used the stage to confirm the team would be named the Jets.
The Minnesota Wild made the biggest splash midway through the opening round, pulling the trigger on a blockbuster deal that sees all-star defenseman Brent Burns traded to San Jose for Devin Setoguchi, top prospect Charlie Coyle and the Sharksâ€™ first-round pick which they used on Zack Phillips.
Once among the most coveted players on draft day, only one Russian was selected in the first round with the Tampa Bay Lightning taking Vladislav Namestnikov with the 27th pick.
That was the same number of Danes and Swiss selected, the Calgary Flames taking Switzerlandâ€™s Sven Bartschi with the 13th pick and the Vancouver Canucks grabbing Denmarkâ€™s Nicklas Jensen at number 29.
Canadian and Swedish prospects were all the rave in the opening round of the two-day lottery with 16 Canadians taken and six Swedes, including three in the top six.
Top pick Nugent-Hopkins, an 18-year-old who had a league-high 75 assists with the Red Deer Rebels last season, could prove to be the ideal setup man for last yearâ€™s first overall pick, Oilers winger Taylor Hall.
While no players with the caliber of Sidney Crosby or Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky were expected to surface from this yearâ€™s talent pool, Nugent-Hopkins has been described in Gretzky-like terms for his on-ice vision and creativity.
â€œItâ€™s a dream come true,â€ said Nugent-Hopkins. â€œI always watched Edmonton this year and the past couple years actually and itâ€™s just amazing that I got picked there.â€
With the second overall pick the Colorado Avalanche took the player considered the most ready to make the jump to the NHL, Swedish winger Gabriel Landeskog.
The Florida Panthers, who have not made the playoffs the past 10 seasons, used the third selection on a pure goal scorer, claiming center Jonathan Huberdeau from the Memorial Cup champions Saint John Sea Dogs.
The New Jersey Devils, with the fourth pick, did not hesitate to grab Swedish defenceman Adam Larsson, who had been tipped by many scouts as the best player in the draft.
The New York Islanders snapped up Canadian center Ryan Strome with the fifth selection while the Ottawa Senators took Swede Mika Zibanejad, known as the â€˜Persian Princeâ€™ because his father is Iranian and mother Finnish.
Winnipeg celebrated their return to the NHL by taking Barrie Colts center Mark Scheifele with the seventh pick.
As a beaming Scheifele made his way onto the stage, Winnipeg officials unfolded a jersey with an NHL logo stitched on the front but confirmed the team would be named the Jets.
â€œWe are thrilled to be using a name that has so much history in our city and means so much to our fans,â€ said Mark Chipman, board chairman of owners True North Sports and Entertainment. â€œOur fans clearly indicated to us the passion they hold for the name since we acquired the franchise.â€
The Jets name and logo are well-known to Winnipeg hockey fans.
The Manitoba capital was home to the Jets of the World Hockey Association before the team joined the NHL in 1979.
The Jets played for 17 years in the NHL before moving to Phoenix, Arizona, in 1996.
When it was announced earlier this month that the financially troubled Atlanta Thrashers had been sold and relocated to Winnipeg, speculation immediately began about the teamâ€™s name with a majority of hockey fans wanting to see the iconic Jets back on the sweaters.