ST. PAUL, Minn. —Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was picked first in a center-heavy NHL draft by the Edmonton Oilers on Friday night.
The Oilers, slotted first overall for the second straight year, selected the slick passer from the Red Deer Rebels of the Western Hockey League. The 18-year-old center led the WHL last season with 75 assists.
Nugent-Hopkins is the first WHL player to be drafted first since 1996. Six of the first eight picks this year were centers. Then came a run of defensemen, with six going in the top 14. After that, came a couple of eyebrow-raising trades.
The Oilers chose left wing Taylor Hall from the Windsor Spitfires of the OHL No. 1 in 2010, and Nugent-Hopkins could eventually find himself on a line with him.
To get there, Nugent-Hopkins has to bulk up. Listed at 6-foot-1 and 164 pounds, the native of British Columbia said this week he's added 10 pounds to that total since the end of his junior season and plans to pack on five more.
The first British Columbian to be taken first overall in the NHL draft, Nugent-Hopkins has already spoken with Hall.
"He was so great to talk to. Everything looks good right now," Nugent-Hopkins said. "He just said, 'Enjoy this whole experience. You're going to be nervous and stuff, but try to enjoy it as much as you can."'
Left wing Gabriel Landeskog of Sweden went second overall to the Colorado Avalanche. He had 36 goals in 53 games last season for the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League.
Jonathan Huberdeau, a center from Quebec, was taken third by the Florida Panthers, who were also in the same slot for the second year in a row.
Adam Larsson, a 6-foot-3, 200-pound defenseman from Sweden, was selected fourth by the New Jersey Devils. He played two full seasons for Skelleftea and was the third blue-liner to make his debut in the Swedish Elite League at age 16.
Then the New York Islanders chose center Ryan Strome of the Niagara IceDogs of the OHL.
After that, the Ottawa Senators chose center Mika Zibanejad from Djurgarden of the Swedish Elite League.
The Winnipeg Jets chose center Mark Schiefele with the seventh selection to announce the new — er, old — nickname.
The Philadelphia Flyers, using the eighth pick they obtained in Thursday's stunning trade of leading scorer Jeff Carter to the Columbus Blue Jackets, took center Sean Couturier of the Drummondville Voltigeurs of the QMJHL.
Defenseman Dougie Hamilton was drafted ninth overall by the Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins.
Then came more cheers from the crowd, with defenseman Jonas Brodin from Farjestad of the Swedish Elite League drawing a roar from the Wild fans in attendance at Xcel Energy Center.
The first American selection and first college player — was defenseman Jamieson Oleksiak of Northeastern University by the Dallas Stars at No. 14. Another American, center Jonathan Miller, went 15th to the New York Rangers. Miller, headed for the University of North Dakota in the fall, was part of the U.S. national team development program. He had 37 points in 48 games last season in the United States Hockey League.