The 2019 NHL Draft is underway in Vancouver, B.C. and night one was a momentous one for the Western Hockey League. Seven WHL players were drafted in the first round, including Saskatoon Blades forward Kirby Dach and Vancouver Giants defenseman Bowen Byram who went third and fourth overall, respectively.
Over the last ten NHL drafts, the WHL had the most success in 2010 when 43 players were selected. After a strong showing by the league on Friday night, there is a chance another historic draft class.
With the 31st overall pick in the first round, the Buffalo Sabres selected Winterhawks list prospect Ryan Johnson. Johnson recently won a Clark Cup Championship in the United States Hockey League and is committed to the University of Minnesota for the 2019-20 season.
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The Western Hockey League saw five more players selected in the second round of the NHL draft, including a couple Winterhawks prospects.
With the 34th overall pick of the NHL Draft, third pick of the second round, the Philadelphia Flyers drafted up to select Winterhawks list prospect Bobby Brink. The United States Hockey League Forward of the Year played this past season in Sioux City, leading the league in points per game (1.58). He scored 35 goals and 33 assists for 68 points in just 43 games.
Brink also helped Team USA win the World Junior A Challenge this past winter. He recorded two goals and six assists in six games en route to the gold medal. The Minnesota native is set to attend Denver University in the fall.
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Just a few picks later, Winterhawks list prospect Drew Helleson was selected 47th overall to the Colorado Avalanche. The 6-foot-3, 195-pound defenseman played this past season for the U.S. National Development Program. He is committed to Boston College.
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Draft Day Interview – Helleson
The third round started off with a bang when the Florida Panthers selected Winterhawks defenseman John Ludvig with the 69th overall pick. Ludvig was the second defenseman drafted this year by the Panthers and first prospect they selected out of the WHL.
During his second season in the WHL, Ludvig scored five goals and 13 assists for 18 points in 58 games. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound player is a stay-at-home defenseman who was a key contributor to the Winterhawks penalty kill. He becomes the 29th player drafted under Head Coach and General Manager Mike Johnston.
Ludvig is just the second player (highest overall) to ever be drafted by the Florida Panthers. Joey Tetarenko was the only other Winterhawk to be selected by Florida, when he went in the 4th round of the 1996 NHL Draft.
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Johnny Ludvig Draft Profile
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Four more WHL players were selected in the third round, including three from the U.S. Division. Ludvig was the first WHL skater selected in the round, followed by Spokane’s Adam Beckman (75th overall) and Everett’s Gianni Fairbrother (77th overall).
No current WHL players were selected in the fourth round.
Reece Newkirk headlined the fifth round when the New York Islanders selected the Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan native with the 147th overall pick. Newkirk enjoyed a break through season in Portland, setting new career highs with 23 goals and 36 assists for 59 points in 68 games.
The 5-foot-11, 170 pound centreman is a versatile forward who plays key minutes on both special teams units. He will return to Portland next season as one of their leading scorers.
The Islanders have had success with Winterhawks in the last ten years with Nino Niederreiter and Kieffer Bellows. Newkirk is the 30th player drafted to the NHL under Mike Johnston.
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Reece Newkirk Draft Profile
Reece Newkirk Highlight Reel
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Also in the fifth round, Winterhawks 2016 10th round WHL Bantam pick Judd Caulfield was selected 145th overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Five WHL players were selected in the fifth round, giving the WHL 21 total drafted players through the first 155 picks.
Three more WHL players heard their name announced in the sixth round of the draft, including a notable name in the U.S. Division – Seattle goaltender Roddy Ross.
The 2019 NHL Draft concluded with four more WHL players getting selected in the final round. Nine of the ten Western Conference teams were represented at the draft.