The picks and trades came fast and furious for the Vancouver Canucks during Saturday’s full day of action at the 2019 NHL draft.
The Canucks started their day at Rogers Arena by acquiring Swedish forward Nils Hoglander in the second round as the 40th pick overall.
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The 18-year-old left-winger had been positioned by some as a first-round pick before finding himself available in the second, which kicked off Saturday morning.
Hoglander comes off a 14-point season with Rögle BK that saw him score seven goals with seven assists, and is known as a creative player when handling the puck.
Speaking after his selection, Hoglander said he was happy to be coming to Vancouver.
“They’re good players,” he said. “I’ve talked to them before. Those talks went well. I’m happy to be here.”
Shortly after that pick, the Canucks made a controversial trade that snatched up J.T. Miller from the Tampa Bay Lightning.
In exchange, the club gave up goalie Marek Mazanec to Tampa with a 2019 third-round draft pick and a 2020 conditional first-round pick.
The 26-year-old Miller had 13 goals and 34 assists for the Lightning last season and is seen as a versatile forward who can play all three positions.
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“Miller is an experienced and versatile offensive contributor,” Canucks general manager Jim Benning said in a statement. “This deal is about acquiring a player who can have an immediate impact in our top-six forward group for term.”
But critics said it was short-sighted for the Canucks to give away a future first-round pick to the Lightning, who were experiencing a salary cap crunch that was making it difficult to re-sign their centre Brayden Point, a restricted free agent.
The deal effectively frees Tampa from paying out the rest of Miller’s five-year, $26.25 million contract, which still had four years remaining.
The Canucks got Mazanec from the Nashville Predators in February but he did not play for Vancouver last season.
After the dust settled from the Miller trade, Vancouver made another exchange with the San Jose Sharks, trading forward Tom Pyatt and a sixth-round pick for left-winger Francis Perron and a seventh-round selection.
Both Perron and Pyatt spent last season in the American Hockey League, with the 23-year-old Perron scoring 47 points overall.
The Canucks then went to work on their picks, scoring 18-year-old forward Ethan Keppen from the Ontario Hockey League’s Flint Firebirds with the 122nd pick overall.
Speaking to reporters after donning his new jersey, the Whitby, Ont., native couldn’t contain his excitement and commitment to the team.
“Getting drafted by the home team is unreal,” Keppen said. “I don’t back down from anyone who wants to battle.”
Keppen spent two seasons with the Firebirds, racking up 59 points last season alone, including 30 goals.
Centre Carson Focht was next selected as the 133rd pick overall, getting scooped from the Calgary Hitmen.
The 19-year-old Regina-born Focht had an impressive 2018-19 season with the Hitmen, scoring 26 goals and 38 assists for a 64-point total.
The sixth round saw two more 18-year-old Europeans join the roster in Latvian goalie Arturs Silovs, who was the 156th pick overall, and Czech forward Karel Plasek as the 175th overall.
Silovs comes from HS Riga where he posted a .914 save percentage last season. Plasek racked up 15 points, including 10 goals, in his latest season with HC Kometa Brno.
Also brought into the fold during the sixth round was 18-year-old Madison, N.J. native John Malone, who spent the past two seasons with the Youngstown Phantoms in Ohio before earning the 180th overall pick.
The forward earned an impressive 59 points with the team last season with 19 goals and 40 assists.
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The Canucks used the seventh and final round to choose two forwards: 19-year-old Aiden McDonough as the 195th pick overall, and 17-year-old Arvid Costmar as the 215th overall pick.
McDonough is coming off a 42-point season with the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders, including 21 goals. He’ll be joining his childhood friend and fellow Canucks prospect Jack Rathbone, who was picked 95th overall in the 2017 draft.
Costmar, another Swedish prospect, boasted a 38-point total during his most recent season with Linköping HC.
On Friday, the Canucks selected 17-year-old right-winger Vasili Podkolzin of Russia with the 10th pick overall. The top pick won’t be hitting the ice as a Canuck for at least two years, however, due to an existing contract with the Kontinental Hockey League.
General manager Jim Benning said more trades of active players could be coming in the days following this weekend’s draft.
“I know there was a lot of talk leading up to the draft but nothing much happened, but I think this week we could see a lot more as we move into free agency,” he said.
—With files from the Canadian Press