A special video appearance from a University of Ottawa graduate helped the Ottawa Senators welcome one of Europe’s top prospects as the club’s first draft pick in Tuesday night’s first round of the NHL draft.
Hockey’s 2020 draft began in unsurprising fashion, with the New York Rangers selecting top-ranked prospect Alexis Lafreniere, after which the Los Angeles Kings chose six-foot-four centre Quinton Byfield of the Ontario Hockey League‘s Sudbury Wolves.
When it came time for the Sens to announce their No. 3 pick in the draft, the tape instead cut to the opening graphics for Jeopardy!
In the style of the popular television quiz show, Canadian host Alex Trebek then made a pre-taped appearance to read a clue in the category “The NHL.”
“With the third pick in the 2020 NHL draft, the Ottawa Senators choose this player,” Trebek read.
To which the answer — or rather, the question — was “Who is Tim Stützle?”
“I didn’t know, like, 100 per cent what was going on with (the No. 2 and 3) picks,” Stützle said. “It’s just a big honour to play for the capital of Canada.”
General manager Pierre Dorion said Trebek’s appearance was the idea of team owner Eugene Melnyk, adding that the gameshow icon also recorded versions for Lafreniere and Byfield.
Trebek’s inclusion even got a thumbs up from Toronto Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas.
“One of the highlights for me in all my time watching drafts,” Dubas said.
The top-ranked European skater, Stützle spent this season with Adler Mannheim in his country’s top professional league, where he was named rookie of the year. He’s also the third German-trained player to be drafted in the top six, matching 2020 Hart Trophy winner Leon Draisaitl’s selection at No. 3 by Edmonton six years ago.
“I want to win Cups in Ottawa, and I want to play in the NHL as fast as I can,” added Stützle, who admitted with a smile that he doesn’t watch Jeopardy!
Ottawa was back on the clock with a selection at No. 5 and chose blueliner Jake Sanderson from the U.S. under-18 program to become the first team since 2000 to make two picks in the top five.
The Senators, who have largely made headlines for all the wrong reasons since getting within a goal of the 2017 Stanley Cup final, hope securing Stützle and Sanderson will accelerate a rebuild that saw a roster once led by Erik Karlsson — the team’s captain and a two-time Norris Trophy-winning defenceman — torn down to its studs.
“It’s one of the biggest nights in this franchise’s history,” Dorion said.
The son of former NHLer Geoff Sanderson took in proceedings with his family from a suite at the University of North Dakota’s home arena where he started his first semester this fall.
“It’s a little bit different draft this year,” Sanderson said. “But I think it’s kind of special in its own way.”
The Senators selected centre Ridly Greig at No. 28, which originally belonged to the New York Islanders.
The 2020 NHL Entry Draft continues into the second round on Wednesday.
Tuesday also marked the reveal of the Sens’ new jerseys, featuring a return of the club’s 2D logo.
— With files from The Canadian Press’s Joshua Clipperton