VANCOUVER — Nicolas Robertson has long wanted to wear the Toronto Maple Leafs logo on his chest.
Toronto Maple Leafs
The 18 year old finally pulled on a Leafs jersey with his name emblazoned on the back on Saturday after Toronto picked him 53rd overall at the NHL draft.
“It was definitely exciting,” Robertson said. “Toronto was kind of one of the places I wanted to go to and to be their first pick in (this year’s) draft is something special.”
The southern California-born forward moved to the Toronto area with his mom when he was 14 to play hockey, and he knows the city’s passion for sports well and hopes he can add to the franchise’s storied history.
Robertson spent last year playing for the Ontario Hockey League’s Peterborough Petes, tallying 27 goals and 28 assists in 54 games.
He’s hoping to one day bring that offensive prowess to the Leafs.
“I think they play my style,” Robertson said. “They have a big, skilled game with Matthews, Marner. I’m not saying I’m that calibre player yet. I hope to be.”
The Leafs also selected defencemen Mikko Kokkonen (84th), Michael Koster (146th) and Kalle Loponen (204th), and centres Mikhail Abramov (115th) and Nicholas Abruzzese (124th).
Shane Pinto was the first prospect to hear his name called in Vancouver on Saturday. The 18-year-old centre from Franklin Square, N.Y., was taken 32nd overall by the Ottawa Senators.
“It’s crazy. It’s pretty surreal. I’m shaking right now, but I’m just going to try and enjoy the whole moment,” he said. “It’s awesome though. I’m really excited.”
Pinto had 59 points in 56 games with the U.S. Hockey League’s Tri-City Storm last season.
He was Ottawa’s second pick of the draft, coming after the franchise took Finnish defenceman Lassi Thomson 19th overall. The Sens also picked up goalie Mads Sogaard (37th), centres Viktor Lodin (94th) and Mark Kastelic (125th), and defenceman Maxence Guenette (187th).
The Montreal Canadiens picked up a multi-talented blue liner on Saturday, taking Jayden Struble 46th overall.
Hailing from Cumberland, R.I., the 18-year-old spent the last two years playing high school hockey.
But Struble’s also had success in other sports and played first base in the Little League World Series when he was 12.
Playing basketball, baseball and lacrosse growing up helped the teen develop into a well-rounded athlete, but his first love has always been hockey.
“My poppa taught me how to play when I was three years old. I always loved it,” he said. “I always knew that was going to be my sport. So I’ve just stuck with it ever since.”
The Habs also took right-winger Cole Caufield (15th), left-wingers Rhett Pitlick (131st) and Rafael Harvey-Pinard (201st), centre Arsen Khisamutdinov (170th), defencemen Mattias Norlinder (64th), Gianni Fairbrother (77th), Jacob Leguerrier (126th) and Kieran Ruscheinski (206th), and goalie Frederik Nissen Dichow (138th).
The Edmonton Oilers added centre Raphael Lavoie to their prospect pool with the 38th selection on Saturday.
The 19-year-old native of Chambly, Que., won a Memorial Cup with the Halifax Mooseheads of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League last month and put up 32 points in the playoff run.
Lavoie said he’s looking forward to joining some of the world’s best hockey players in Edmonton and wants to work on his “explosion” to better fit in with the squad.
“If I want to be able to skate with (Connor) McDavid, I need to be a lot faster,” he said.
The Oilers also took Swedish defenceman Philip Broberg (eighth), goalie Ilya Konovalov (85th), right-winger Matej Blumel (100th), centre Tomas Mazura (162nd) and centre Maxim Denezhkin (193rd).
Finnish defenceman Ville Heinola joined the Winnipeg Jets franchise with the 20th pick on Friday. The Jets then added defenceman Simon Lundmakr (51), centres Henri Nikkanen (113) and Harrison Blaisdell (134), and goalie Logan Neaton (144) on Saturday.
Jakob Pelletier, a left-winger from Quebec City, was scooped up 26th overall by the Calgary Flames, who also took centres Ilya Nikolaev (88) and Joshua Nodler (150), left-winger Lucas Feuk (116), and goalie Dustin Wolf (214).
The Vancouver Canucks hosted this year’s draft and substantially beefed up their future prospects. The team added Russian right-winger Vasily Podkolzin with the 10th overall pick on Friday, then drafted left-wingers Nils Hoglander (40), Ethan Keppen (122) and Aidan Mcdonough (195), right-wingers Karl Plasek (175) and Jack Malone (180), centres Carson Focht (132) and Arvid Costmar (215), and goalie Arturs Silovs (156).
Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press