PITTSBURGH (Reuters) - The Edmonton Oilers took Russian sniper Nail Yakupov with the number one pick at the National Hockey League (NHL) draft on Friday, dashing speculation the team would deal the selection.
Yakupov, a dazzling skater rated the best offensive player available, had 31 goals and 69 points in 42 games last season for the Ontario Hockey League’s Sarnia Sting.
His addition gives the Oilers a trio of young, dynamic forwards, after they used the first overall selection in 2011 on Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and the top pick in 2010 on Taylor Hall.
“The natural ability, the skill set that Nail has is elite and we’ve been talking about elite athletes coming to our organization,” Oilers general manager Steve Tambellini told reporters at Pittsburgh’s Consol Energy Center.
“He’s dangerous, he’s hungry to score goals and I think he’s a pretty good fit with the people we already have.”
The Columbus Blue Jackets, who earlier in the day sent three later round picks to the Philadelphia Flyers for netminder Sergei Bobrovsky, held onto the second overall selection and used it on Canadian defenseman Ryan Murray.
The Montreal Canadiens, picking third, grabbed Yakupov’s compatriot and Sting team mate centre Alex Galchenyuk before the focus shifted back to defensemen with a record eight blueliners taken in the first 10 selections.
Picking fourth, the New York Islanders started a run of seven consecutive defensemen taking Griffin Reinhart, whose father Paul was a first round selection in 1979, while the Toronto Maple Leafs went for Morgan Reilly at number five.
The first round also featured a major trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins shipping centre Jordan Staal to the Carolina Hurricanes for Brandon Sutter, defenseman Brian Dumoulin and the eighth overall selection, which they used on Canadian defenseman Derrick Pouliot.
Staal, who turned down a 10-year $60 million contract extension earlier in the week, learned he was joining his brother Eric in Carolina on his wedding day.
”As an organization we just thought it was the right thing to do for Jordan, he’s ready for an expanded role and Carolina is certainly a great place for him,“ Penguins general manager Ray Shero. ”He had a wonderful six years here.
”The reality of the salary cap and having three centers (Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Staal) who are this good, it was time for him to go.
“It was a good return for us.”
In a particularly cosmopolitan draft, 24 of the top 30 in the opening round were non-Americans, with neighboring Canada producing 14 picks, and Russia three.
Sweden, Czech Republic, Finland all contributed two picks, while Zemgus Girgensons was Latvia’s sole drafted player, and became the highest ever pick from the small Baltic country when the Buffalo Sabres pounced on him with the 14th selection.
The draft continues on Saturday with rounds two through seven.
First round of the 2012 National Hockey League draft:
1. Nail Yakupov: Right Wing (Russia) - Edmonton Oilers
2. Ryan Murray: Defenseman (Canada) - Columbus Blue Jackets
3. Alex Galchenyuk: Center (USA) - Montreal Canadiens
4. Griffin Reinhart: Defenseman (Canada) - New York Islanders
5. Morgan Rielly : Defenseman (Canada) - Toronto Maple Leafs
6. Hampus Lindholm: Defenseman (Sweden) - Anaheim Ducks
7. Matt Dumba: Defenseman (Canada) - Minnesota Wild
8. Derrick Pouliot: Defenseman (Canada) - Pittsburgh Penguins (from Carolina
9. Jacob Trouba: Defenseman (USA) - Winnipeg Jets
10. Slater Koekkoek: Defenseman (Canada) - Tampa Bay Lightning
11. Filip Forsberg: Right Wing (Sweden) - Washington Capitols
12. Mikhail Grigorenko: Center (Russia) - Buffalo Sabres
13. Radek Faksa: Center (Czech Republic) - Dallas Stars
14. Zemgus Girgensons: Center (Latvia) - Buffalo Sabres (from Calgary Flames)
15. Cody Ceci: Defenseman (Canada) - Ottawa Senators
16. Tom Wilson: Right Wing (Canada) - Washington Capitols
17. Tomas Hertl: Center (Czech Republic) - San Jose Sharks
18. Teuvo Teravainen: Center (Finland) - Chicago Blackhawks
19. Andrei Vasilevski: Goalie (Russia) - Tampa Bay Lightning (from Detroit Red
20. Scott Laughton: Center (Canada) - Philadelphia Flyers
21. Mark Jankowski: Center (Canada) - Calgary Flames
22. Olli Maatta: Defenseman (Finland) - Pittsburgh Penguins
23. Michael Matheson: Defenseman (Canada) - Florida Panthers
24. Malcolm Subban: Goalie (Canada) - Boston Bruins
25. Jordan Schmaltz: Defenseman (USA) - St Louis Blues
26. Brendan Gaunce: Center (Canada) - Vancouver Canucks
27. Henrik Samuelsson: Center / Right Wing (USA) - Phoenix Coyotes
28. Brady Skjei: Defenseman (USA) - New York Rangers
29. Stefan Matteau: Left Wing (USA) - New Jersey Devils
30. Tanner Pearson: Left Wing (Canada) - Los Angeles Kings
Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto and Ben Everill in Los Angeles; Editing by Ian Ransom