By STEPHEN HAWKINS
AP Sports Writer
DALLAS (AP) – The Montreal Canadiens could make the first real move in the NHL draft with the third overall pick.
If everything goes as expected in Big D on Friday night, play-making Swedish defenseman Rasmus Dahlin will be the first overall pick by the Buffalo Sabres. Russian forward Andrei Svechnikov will then go to Carolina.
“Obviously Rasmus and Andrei deserve it, they’re unbelievable players,” American prospect Brady Tkachuk said Thursday. “From the third (pick) on, it’s just whatever the team wants, so we’ll see what happens. But it’s going to be pretty exciting to be a part of.”
So the real draft action should begin when Montreal goes on the clock.
The Canadiens will have their choice of the other top prospects like right wing Filip Zadina, who’s playing in the Quebec league, and Tkachuk, the left wing from Boston University who is looking to follow father Keith and brother Mathew into the NHL. Maybe Finnish center Jesper Kotkaniemi.
Plenty of other top defensemen will also be on the board, including Adam Boqvist, Quintin Hughes, Noah Dobson and Evan Bouchard.
“The most important is going to be tomorrow when Montreal goes on the stage, and they will say my name or not,” Zadina said. “I’m just glad I can be there in the top five, top six players. It’s unbelievable.”
Or maybe the Canadiens, who have 10 picks in the seven-round draft over two days, make a deal and let another team move into that slot.
Trevor Timmins, Montreal’s assistant general manager, expects GM Marc Bergevin’s to be ringing.
“We’re ready to go,” Timmins said Thursday. “The list is never set in stone until we go head to the draft from the hotel here, but we’re confident of the prospects that we like … right from that third overall pick to the last pick we make on Saturday.”
Timmins said centers, offensive defensemen and scoring wingers have the highest asset value on the Canadiens draft board, and that all are needs in their organization.
Ottawa has the fourth pick, and No. 22, and team officials were going through scenarios again Thursday.
“It was one of the best meetings I’ve had with scouts in 20 years talking about what we plan on doing at (No.) 4, what possibilities are at 22, how these players will impact our organization moving forward,” Senators GM Pierre Dorion said. “We’re just excited. We suffered this year. There’s no doubt we suffered as a team with the number of losses. But the one good thing is we know we’re getting a really good player here.”
Arizona, Detroit, Vancouver, Chicago, the New York Rangers and Edmonton hold the final picks in the top 10. The New York Islanders, who on Thursday hired Stanley Cup champion coach Barry Trotz, then have consecutive picks before the draft-hosting Dallas Stars select 13th.
The draft at the American Airlines Center comes 25 years after the former Minnesota North Stars moved to bring NHL hockey to Dallas.
Coyotes GM John Chayka said he has five players who would fit his team in the fifth spot.
“We understand that there’s a variety of outcomes that could exist and then we’re going to have a plan in place that accounts for any of the iterations of what could occur,” Chayka said. “It’ll be an interesting draft. I’m sure there’ll be opportunities to move up and opportunities to move down and opportunities to stay and take the pick.”
While general managers and team officials did their final prep for the draft, several of the top prospects took part in other activities in the Dallas area.
The prospects first were at a youth hockey clinic with several players from the Dallas Stars. There was then a media availability at Reunion Tower, more than 500 feet above the ground. That vantage point overlooks the city and next to the open lot where once stood Reunion Arena, the home of the Stars when the won the Stanley Cup in 1999.
Dahlin said he wasn’t feeling nervous about the likelihood of having his name called first Friday night.
“I haven’t actually thought about it so much yet,” Dahlin said. “It’s crazy to be here actually, I can’t believe it. … Sometime in the near future I will stop and think what I am going through. I’m just trying to enjoy this time as much as I can.”
AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno contributed to this report.
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