Canadiens take American winger Cole Caufield 15th overall at NHL draft

Montreal Canadians select Cole Caufield during the first round NHL draft at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, Friday, June, 21, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS / Jonathan Hayward

Cole Caufield isn’t concerned about his size.

At five-foot-seven, 163 pounds the right-winger from Wisconsin wasn’t the biggest player taken in the first round of the NHL draft on Friday, but the 18-year-old is confident his game is just as strong as any other prospect’s.

“I don’t think I’d be the player I am today without my size,” Caufield said after he was picked 15th overall by the Montreal Canadiens. “I can’t do anything about it so I think I’ve used it to my advantage my whole life and I’m going to continue to do that because it hasn’t slowed me down yet and I don’t think it will going forward.”

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Caufield spent last season with the U.S. under-18 team where he put up 72 goals and 100 points in 64 games.

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The teen’s known for having a lethal shot but said he’s looking forward to helping the Habs any way he can.

“There’s a lot of things I do other than score goals, too,” he said. “I’m a big competitor, I hate to lose. I’ll do anything to win.”

Caufield was ranked eighth amongst North American skaters by the NHL’s Central Scouting Bureau heading into the draft and said he wasn’t disappointed to be picked 15th.

“I’m just happy right now. I don’t really care what happened before that,” he said. “Really everything else in my mind has gone away. I’m just the happiest kid in the world.”

The Canadiens have nine other picks this year, starting with the 46th selection.

Last year, Montreal used the third overall pick to draft Jesperi Kotkaniemi. The Finnish centre had 11 goals and 23 assists in his rookie season before having arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in April to correct what Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin called a “chronic, minor injury.”

Kotkaniemi wasn’t the only young star to impress in Montreal this year, however.

READ MORE: NHL draft will add millions to local economy: Tourism Vancouver

Ryan Poehling, picked 25th overall by the Canadiens in 2017, joined the team for its last game in April after wrapping up a successful NCAA career at St. Cloud State University. The 20-year-old centre scored a hat trick in the outing, helping the Habs to a 6-5 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs.

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Montreal narrowly missed the playoffs, finishing just two points behind the Columbus Blue Jackets with a 44-30-8 record.

One of the team’s leading scorers was Jonathan Drouin, who came to the Canadiens in exchange for a top prospect.

Montreal had picked defenceman Mikail Sergachev ninth overall in 2016 and the Russian spent a single season with the organization, mostly playing for the Ontario Hockey League’s Windsor Spitfires before he was dealt to the Tampa Bay Lightning in June 2017.

Drouin, a 24-year-old left winger, tied a career high with 53 points last season, but was critiqued for putting up just three points in his final 18 games.

Montreal is set to host the 2020 draft.

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