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Feeling a Draft

07/19/2019, 10:15am CDT
By Kevin Kurtt

A total of 12 Minnesota natives were selected at the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, continuing the state's proud tradition of developing NHL-caliber players

Former Minnetonka High School forward Bobby Brink (Excelsior, Minn.) was drafted in the second round by the Philadelphia Flyers. Let’s Play Hockey photo by Mike Thill

Shattuck-St. Mary’s defenseman Jackson Lacombe (Eden Prairie, Minn.) was drafted in the second round by Anaheim. Photo: Shattuck-St. Mary’s

When the Philadelphia Flyers selected Sioux City (USHL) forward Bobby Brink of Excelsior, Minn., with the 34th overall pick of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft on June 22, a notable streak continued. For 51 straight years now, a Minnesotan has heard his name called at the NHL Draft. In all, 12 Minnesota natives were selected in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft in Vancouver.

Historically, Minnesota has been well-represented in the NHL Draft, from the first-ever drafted Minnesotan (Wally Olds by Detroit in 1969) to the first-ever first-rounder (Mike Ramsey by Buffalo in 1979) to the first-ever No. 1 overall pick (Erik Johnson by St. Louis in 2006). In all, 692 Minnesota natives, including 39 first-round picks, have been selected in the NHL Entry and Amateur Drafts. 

Recent draftees from Minnesota
Minnesota has obviously been a hockey hotbed for many years now, but only recently has the State of Hockey seen the sheer numbers of players taken, both in the first round and in the draft overall. In fact, the last 15 NHL Drafts have seen a significant increase in the number of Minnesotans that have heard their name called by an NHL franchise.

For example, from 2005-19, 25 Minnesota natives were taken in the first round, including an all-time high of four in 2005 and 2006. In the previous 15 drafts (1990-2004), only nine players from Minnesota were selected in the first round. 

From 1990-2004, a total of 175 Minnesota natives were drafted, while from 2005-19, 205 Minnesotans were drafted. Noteworthy in those numbers is the fact that from 1984 to 1994, the draft consisted of 11 or 12 rounds, from 1995 to 2004 the draft was nine rounds and from 2005 to today the draft has been seven rounds.

First-round success
In 15 of the last 20 years, a Minnesotan has been drafted in the first round. Since 2000, a Minnesotan has gone in the first round in all but four drafts (2001, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2019).

Since 2004, Minnesota can claim one top overall pick (Johnson), two top-five picks (Blake Wheeler in 2004, Johnson in 2006) and six top-10 picks (Wheeler in 2004; Brian Lee in 2005; Johnson, Kyle Okposo and Peter Mueller in 2006; Casey Mittelstadt in 2017).

Minnesota natives taken in the first round in the last 15 NHL Drafts have historically chosen to continue their development in the college ranks, especially at Big Ten and NCHC schools (formerly WCHA schools). Of the 25 first round Minnesotans since 2004, 10 went to the University of Minnesota, six to North Dakota, three to Wisconsin, two to Minnesota Duluth, and one to St. Cloud State. Only three  first rounders from Minnesota left the Big Ten/NCHC – Peter Mueller (Everett Silvertips of the WHL), and Kieffer Bellows and Jake Oettinger (Boston University).

Minnesota Draft success stories
Minnesota’s prevalence in the NHL Draft has translated into success on the ice. Nine Minnesota natives who were drafted went on to earn a spot in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame, including all three 1979 draftees (Ramsey, Dave Christian, Neal Broten). Ten Minnesotan draftees were on the 1980 Miracle on Ice team, while 24 Minnesotans who have heard their name called at the NHL Draft have their name inscribed on Lord Stanley’s Cup (33 times).

Looking ahead
Minnesota looks to add to its list of first round picks in 2020 as Hermantown High School forward Blake Biondi and Rosemount High School defenseman Jake Ratzlaff are projected as possible first round selections at the 2020 NHL Entry Draft.

College hockey at the Draft
The 2019 NHL Entry Draft saw a total of 71 current or future collegiate hockey players, including nine first-round selections. Boston University led all schools with eight selections in the draft, followed by Minnesota with seven, North Dakota with six and Boston College with five.

Four players who spent 2018-19 in the NCAA ranks were selected, led by fourth-round selections Tyce Thompson (Providence) and Mac Del Gaizo (UMass). Hockey East ended the draft with 27players chosen, followed by the Big Ten with 18 and the NCHC with 14.

Nearly half of all Division I programs – 26 of 60 – had at least one representative selected. Almost all of the NHL teams – 26 of 31 – selected at least one player who was in college or is headed to school.

Junior hockey at the Draft
The USHL had another strong showing at the 2019 NHL Draft, as 55 players with USHL ties were selected, the second-highest total for the USHL after 57 players with league ties were selected in 2018. A record 52 of those 55 players skated in the USHL during the 2018-19 season, also setting a league record, breaking the previous mark of 45 set last year. The USHL also led all junior leagues in the world with the 52 players who played in the league last season.

Six players that play or have previously played in the NAHL were taken in the 2019 NHL Draft. 

Americans at the Draft
It may be impossible to pin down a sole reason for the increase of Minnesotans hearing their name called at the NHL Draft, but as a whole, American hockey has seen much more prosperity in recent years. The success of USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program has played a major role in the development of NHL-caliber American hockey players, as has the increase in opportunities for year-round, high-level hockey that have become available across the nation. 

In the 2019 NHL Draft, 59 Americans were selected, representing 18 states. Six Americans were chosen in the first round, including  the New Jersey Devils’ first-overall selection of forward Jack Hughes. He became the eighth American all-time to be taken first overall and the fifth player from USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program to be selected with the first pick.

For the first time in NHL Draft history, seven of the first 15 selections were American while eight American selections came directly from the NTDP, doubling the NHL Draft record of players to be taken from a single team in a single NHL Draft. A record 17 players with ties to the NTDP were selected in the 2019 NHL Draft.

U.S. Under-18 Team defenseman Drew Hellson (Farmington, Minn.) was drafted in the second round by Colorado.

Minnesotans in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft

2 34 Bobby Brink RW Philadelphia Sioux City (USHL) Excelsior native/Denver commit
2 39 Jackson Lacombe D Anaheim Shattuck-St. Mary’s Eden Prairie native/Minnesota commit
2 47 Drew Helleson D Colorado U.S. Under-18 Team Farmington native/Boston College commit
4 102 Aaron Huglen C Buffalo Roseau HS Minnesota commit
4 110 Ryder Donovan C Vegas Duluth East HS Wisconsin commit
5 131 Rhett Pitlick LW Montreal Chaska HS Minnesota commit
5 132 Trevor Janicke C Anaheim Central Illinois (USHL) Maple Grove native/Notre Dame commit
5 146 Mike Koster D Toronto Chaska HS Minnesota commit
5 148 Ethan Haider G Nashville MN Magicians (NAHL) Maple Grove native/Clarkson commit
6 163 Will Francis D Anaheim Cedar Rapids (USHL) Shoreview native/Minnesota Duluth commit
6 173 Ben Brinkman D Dallas Minnesota (B1G) Edina native
7 196 Bryce Brodzinski RW Philadelphia Blaine HS Ham Lake native/Minnesota commit

Minnesotans in the NHL Draft

2019 12 0
2018 10 1 (22 K’Andre Miller)
2017 17 3 (8 Casey Mittelstadt, 25 Ryan Poehling, 26 Jake Oettinger)
2016 11 2 (19 Kieffer Bellows, 25 Riley Tufte)
2015 7 1 (23 Brock Boeser)
2014 15 0
2013 15 0
2012 9 1 (28 Brady Skjei)
2011 15 0
2010 18 3 (15 Derek Forbort, 19 Nick Bjugstad, 30 Brock Nelson)
2009 13 2 (16 Nick Leddy, 22 Jordan Schroeder)
2008 11 1 (17 Jake Gardiner)
2007 17 3 (12 Ryan McDonagh, 25 Patrick White, 29 James O’Brien)
2006 17 4 (1 Erik Johnson, 7 Kyle Okposo, 8 Peter Mueller, 20 David Fischer)
2005 18 4 (9 Brian Lee, 24 T.J. Oshie, 27 Joe Finley, 28 Matt Niskanen)
2004 16 2 (5 Blake Wheeler, 12 A.J. Thelen)
2003 14 3 (17 Zach Parise, 21 Mark Stuart, 29 Patrick Eaves)
2002 9 1 (11 Keith Ballard)
2001 11 0
2000 14 1 (30 Jeff Taffe)
1999 8 1 (16 David Tanabe)
1998 7 0
1997 10 0
1996 10 1 (7 Erik Rasmussen)
1995 5 0
1994 5 0
1993 13 0
1992 9 0
1991 21 0
1990 23 0
1989 19 1 (7 Doug Zmolek)
1988 17 0
1987 24 0
1986 19 1 (16 George Pelawa)
1985 16 1 (16 Tom Chorske)
1984 21 0
1983 24 0
1982 30 1 (6 Phil Housley)
1981 18 0
1980 13 0
1979 3 1 (11 Mike Ramsey)
1978 16 0
1977 13 0
1976 12 0
1975 21 0
1974 24 0
1973 5 0
1972 5 0
1971 6 0
1970 2 0
1969 3 0
1968 0 0
1967 1 0
1966 0 0
1965 0 0
1964 0 0
1963 0 0

2019 NHL Entry Draft notebook

• 20 percent of the Americans drafted in this year’s NHL Draft hail from the state of Minnesota (12/59).

• Draft selections by birthplace:
Canada 66
United States 59
Russia 26
Sweden 26
Finland 22
(Minnesota 12)
Czech Republic 8
Belarus 3
Denmark 2
Germany 2
Latvia 1
Slovakia 1
Switzerland 1

• Draft selections by position:
Defenseman 66
Center 54
Right wing 41
Left wing 34
Goaltender 22

• Draft selections by league:
WHL 28
OHL 25
Sweden 25
Russia 21
Finland 19
HS - Minnesota 6
Czech Republic 4
HS - Massachusetts 4
Hockey East 3
HS - Connecticut 2
Big Ten 1
Denmark 1
Germany 1
HS - New Hampshire 1
HS - New Jersey 1
HS - Ontario 1

• 12 Minnesota natives were selected in the 2019 NHL Draft. Ten of the 12 played for a MSHSL team, including four who played through their senior season.

• 692 Minnesota natives have now been selected all-time in the  NHL Draft, including 39 in the first round.

• A Minnesota native has been selected in every NHL Draft since 1969.

• Since 2000, a Minnesota native has been selected in the first round in all but four drafts (2001, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2019).

• Since 1980, a MSHSL player has been drafted in all but two NHL Drafts – 1996, 2003. 

• A Minnesotan from the U.S. Under-18 Team has been selected in 13 of the last 15 NHL Drafts (2009, 2015).

• A Minnesotan from the USHL (not including USNTDP players) has been selected in 19 of the last 20 NHL Drafts (2012).

• 70 current or future NCAA players representing 26 schools were selected in the 2019 NHL Draft, including nine first-round picks. For the fifth year in a row, multiple current college players were selected in the first round. 

• 26 of the 31 NHL teams (Columbus, N.Y. Islanders, San Jose, St. Louis, Washington selected a current or future college hockey player.

• A goalie from Minnesota has now been drafted in four straight NHL Drafts  – Ethan Haider in 2019, Jared Moe in 2018, Jake Oettinger in 2017 and Peter Thome in 2016. Haider became the 47th goalie from Minnesota to be selected in an NHL Draft.

• A University of Minnesota player or commit has been selected in 18 consecutive NHL Drafts. 2001 was the last Draft without a Gophers draftee. Since 1969, a Gopher player or commit has been selected in all but two NHL Drafts – 1970, 2001.

• A University of Wisconsin player or commit has been selected in 22 consecutive NHL Drafts. 1997 was the last Draft without a Badgers draftee. Since 1969, a Badger player or commit has been selected in all but three NHL Drafts – 1969, 1983, 1997.

• Since 1970, a  Minnesota Duluth player or commit has been selected in all but six NHL Drafts -- 1973, 1995, 1997, 1999, 2002, 2014.

• Since 1968, a University of North Dakota player or commit has been selected in all but five NHL Drafts – 1974, 1976, 1995, 1996, 1998.

• Bobby Brink became the third ever Excelsior native taken in an NHL Draft after Tim Hanus to Quebec in 1987 and Steve Johnson to Los Angeles in 2014.

• Jackson LaCombe became the 10th Minnesotan from Shattuck St. Mary’s to be selected in the NHL Draft, and the first since John Draeger and Zach Stepan were taken in the 2012 NHL Draft.

• Drew Helleson became the third ever Farmington native taken in an NHL Draft after Steve Barger to Washington in 1978 and Tim Conboy to San Jose in 2002.

• Aaron Huglen became the 24th ever Roseau native taken in an NHL Draft, and first since Michael Lee (Phoenix) and Nick Oliver (Nashville) were selected in 2009.

• Ryder Donovan became the 25th ever Duluth native taken in an NHL Draft, and first since Dominic Toninato (Toronto) and Judd Peterson (Buffalo) were selected in 2012.

• Rhett Pitlick became the fourth member of his family to be selected in an  NHL Draft after his father Lance went to the Minnesota North Stars in 1986, his cousin Tyler went to Edmonton in 2010, and his older brother Rem went to Nashville in 2016.

• Bryce Brodzinski became the third member of his family to be selected in an NHL Draft after older brothers Michael (San Jose) and Jonny (Los Angeles) were both taken in the 5th round in 2013.

• With Dallas’ sixth-round selection of Ben Brinkman, an Edina native has now been taken in nine straight NHL Drafts (2011-19).

• Brinkman became the 57th Edina native to be taken all-time in the NHL Draft.

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