American Players Rise to the Top in the N.H.L. Draft

American Players Rise to the Top in the N.H.L. Draft

The first eight of the nine American players who were drafted Friday are products of U.S.A. Hockey’s national team development program in Plymouth, Mich.

Hughes, a center, spent the last two seasons in the program racking up record points and dazzling the scouts. Alex Turcotte, a crafty, physical wing from Illinois who plans to play at the University of Wisconsin this fall, was taken fifth by the Los Angeles Kings. Trevor Zegras, a Boston University-bound center from Bedford, N.Y., went to the Anaheim Ducks as the ninth pick.

Matthew Boldy of Massachusetts, another versatile wing, was chosen by the Minnesota Wild at No. 12. He was followed by three more Americans: Spencer Knight, taken 13th by the Florida Panthers; Cameron York, an offensive defenseman, chosen 14th by the Philadelphia Flyers; and Cole Caufield, a small but deadly sniper, selected 15th by the Montreal Canadiens. Boldy and Knight plan to play this fall at Boston College, York at the University of Michigan, and Caufield at Wisconsin.

With the 30th pick, the Boston Bruins chose John Beecher, a big center who has committed to attend Michigan. Ryan Johnson, who played in the United States Hockey League last year and is headed to the University of Minnesota, was the final player taken in the first round, at No. 31, by the Buffalo Sabres.

A half-dozen or more American players were expected to be taken in the second round on Saturday.

Mike Eruzione, who was captain of the United States Olympic hockey team that upset the Soviet Union and won gold in 1980, said the number of elite players the United States is developing today is “off the charts” compared with his playing days. The 1980 Olympic team was made up of former college players, including several, like Eruzione, who were undrafted.

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