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Maple Leafs turn to kid from desert

Maple Leafs pick Auston Matthews pulls on his sweater after going first overall, the seventh American to do so.

Associated Press

Maple Leafs pick Auston Matthews pulls on his sweater after going first overall, the seventh American to do so.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — On the heels of the NHL expanding into Las Vegas, the Maple Leafs are pinning their future on Arizona-born center Auston Matthews.

Amid chants of "Go Leafs, Go!" the 18-year-old from Scottsdale was selected by Toronto with the first pick in the NHL draft Friday night. Though the Maple Leafs had kept their decision under wraps since winning the draft lottery in April, Matthews was the expected choice.

NHL Central Scouting ranked the 6-foot-2, 210-pound playmaker as its top draft-eligible project, and he's also a natural center, a position that's difficult to fill. Matthews already has pro experience after spending last season with Zurich in the Swiss Elite League.

Matthews is the seventh American selected at No. 1, and first since Patrick Kane with the Blackhawks in 2007.

The Jets selected Finnish forward Patrik Laine with the second pick, before the draft took a slight turn.

The Blue Jackets passed over Finnish forward Jesse Puljujarvi to take Quebec-born forward Pierre-Luc Dubois. Puljujarvi was regarded the third-best prospect, just ahead of Dubois in the Central Scouting rankings.

Puljujarvi was selected fourth by Edmonton.

Two trades were announced by commissioner Gary Bettman before the second pick.

Montreal traded forward Lars Eller to Washington for the Capitals' second-round draft picks in 2017 and 2018. And Chicago sent forward Andrew Shaw to Montreal for the Canadiens' two second-round picks — No. 39 and 45 — in this year's draft.

The Flames — thought to be pursuing a deal with the Lightning for Ben Bishop — instead got their goaltender from the Blues in Brian Elliott. St. Louis acquired Calgary's second-round pick, 35th overall, and a conditional third-round selection in 2018.

The Red Wings gained salary-cap relief by trading Pavel Datsyuk's contract to the Coyotes. Datsyuk will return home to play in Russia next season. He will count $7.5 million against Arizona's salary cap. The Coyotes got the No. 16 pick, used to select defenseman Jakob Chychrun, with Datsyuk for the No. 20 pick, a second-round pick (No. 53 overall) and forward Joseph Vitale. Detroit selected defenseman Dennis Cholowski at No. 20.

Stars: Defenseman Jordie Benn, the brother of high-scoring Dallas forward Jamie Benn, re-signed to a three-year contract. The Dallas Morning News reported that the deal is for an average of $1.1 million a season.

Wild: The team bought out the final year of left wing Thomas Vanek's contract. Vanek's disappointing two-year stint with Minnesota ended with 39 goals, 54 assists and a minus-15 rating in 154 games.

Maple Leafs turn to kid from desert 06/24/16 [Last modified: Friday, June 24, 2016 10:40pm]
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