The Toronto Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets did what everyone expected them to do to start the 2016 NHL Draft, selecting center Auston Matthews and winger Patrik Laine with the first and second overall picks, respectfully.
It was at three that everyone did a double take, as the Columbus Blue Jackets opted to select Pierre-Luc Dubois instead of the expected Jesse Puljujarvi.
“I gained 40 pounds the past two years,” Dubois said. “I think my ceiling and my potential is still far away. … Now everyone is talking about the Finns and Matthews 1-2-3, but in the next couple years I’ll be in that discussion too.”
Dubois is a 6-foot-3 left wing from Cape Brenton of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He scored 42 goals and 99 points in 62 games in the scoring-friendly league. He’s a strong two-way player who has an edge to his game. He is Central Scouting’s top-ranked North American skater (Matthews is registered as a European due to playing in Switzerland).
“I started listening after the second pick, so I was pretty surprised,” Dubois said.
The move pushed Puljujarvi down to the Edmonton Oilers at No. 4, as GM Peter Chiarelli was able to add to his dangerous arsenal of forwards. Although Puljujarvi looked a bit stunned when he name wasn’t called at three, Edmonton is far from the worst case scenario for any forward. He could get the chance to alongside last year’s first overall pick Connor McDavid.
“Maybe,” Puljujarvi said. “I’d like to play with him. It’s very nice.”
Puljujarvi scored 13 goals and 28 points in 50 games with Karpat of the Finnish Liiga and five goals and 17 points at the World Junior Championship with Finland. He was named the tournament’s MVP, top forward and to the All-Tournament team.
The 6-foot-3 winger was slotted third in the draft by nearly every ranking system and expert. If he was upset by sliding one pick, he didn’t show it.
“I like Edmonton,” Puljujarvi said. “I’m pretty excited to go there. I’m happy now.”
Any rumblings that Winnipeg wasn’t sold on Laine turned out to false. The Jets took the player who was pegged as the second overall pick even before the draft order was set. He’s the highest drafted Jet since the franchise returned to Winnipeg.
The Jets have been able to see their pick play and succeed against men at both the club and international level. Laine scored 17 goals and 33 points with Tappara in the Finnish Liiga and at the 2016 World Championships he scored seven goals and 12 points in 12 games.
His international coming-out party came at the 2016 World Juniors, where he scored 13 points in seven games and helped lead Finland to a Gold Medal. Some scouts say he has the highest offensive ceiling of any player in the draft.
Although all signs pointed to Winnipeg, he was still relieved to officially know where he’s going to be living next year.
“It was quite special to hear my name second overall,” Laine said. “When the draft started, then I was nervous.”
Vancouver rounded out the top five by selecting defenseman Olli Juolevi from the London Knights.