Vancouver, B.C. – As another National Hockey League draft came to a close early Saturday afternoon, a record five Sioux Falls Stampede players heard their names called at Rogers Arena in downtown Vancouver. The record breaks the previous total of four set back during the 2014 NHL Draft.
The first selection was made on defenseman Ryan Johnson by the Buffalo Sabres with the 31st pick. The thirty-third ranked player by NHL Central Scouting in its final rankings was a fringe a first-round selection by some, but the Sabres saw Johnson as a big part of their future plans and couldn’t pass him up with the final pick on day one.
“When we talk about what our team eventually wants, how our team eventually wants to play when we’re successful, it’s our defensemen joining the rush, getting pucks up to our talented forwards, and we really think Ryan fits the bill,” Sabres general manager Jason Botterill said.
“I’m really excited,” said Johnson. “Obviously it was relieving, waiting the whole night, but I think it’s a special opportunity and I’m just looking forward to the future.”
On day two of the draft, forward Ethan Phillips heard his name called in the early going of the fourth round, 97th overall to the Detroit Red Wings.
“It was an amazing feeling just to hear your name called. You’re waiting all day, so when it does come it’s a weight off your shoulders,” Phillips said. “I’m so happy to be in Detroit right now.”
The Boston University forward joined the Stampede permanently in December after starting the season on the affiliate list, putting up two goals and six assists in five prior starts. He finished the season with 16 goals and 27 assists for 43 points.
At the end of the fourth round, the Tampa Bay Lightning used their 120th overall pick on defenseman Max Crozier. Crozier, who started the season unranked by Central Scouting, was a force for the Herd during the regular season, scoring 10 goals and 33 assists in 50 games. During the postseason, Crozier made an impact with four goals and 11 assists, including several key game-tying goals and assists.
Forward Anthony Romano was taken in the sixth round with the 176th selection by the Arizona Coyotes. The Canadian centerman played in 60 games for the Herd this season as a rookie and tallied a team-high 26 goals, with nine from the power play.
“It was indescribable, and it was surreal,” said Romano on being drafted to the Coyotes. “I never expected this to happen at the beginning of the year and just kept working hard, staying the course.”
Sioux Falls forward Andre Lee broke the record as he was selected in the seventh round, 188th overall by the Los Angeles Kings. A commit to the University of Massachusetts, Lowell this fall, Lee was a standout for the Herd during the postseason, recording a team-high 11 points from six goals, with three game-winning goals, and five assists.