With three first-round selections on their to-do list, the Ottawa Senators were already a team to watch heading into Tuesday’s NHL draft.
They leapt even further into spotlight, right off the bat, by introducing “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek to announce their first choice.
The draft, similar to the NFL, is being held at team sites with league executives stationed at the NHL Network in New Jersey. From his television setup there, commissioner Gary Bettman welcomed Trebek, a graduate of the University of Ottawa, into the broadcast as a “special guest.”
Trebek, standing at his traditional “Jeopardy!” dais, took it from there and announced “The NHL” as the topic. He eventually selected German center Tim Stutzle with the third overall pick, as the “Jeopardy!” theme music played in the background.
It was an unexpected moment for a non-descript franchise that traditionally doesn’t make many headlines. But Trebek, 80, currently battling stage 4 pancreatic cancer and a recipient of the Order of Canada, performed a key moment for the team with his traditional, stoic delivery that “Jeopardy” viewers have been familiar with since 1984.
At No. 5, the Senators selected Jake Sanderson, the first American player to be drafted this year. A defenseman, from the University of North Dakota, he is the son of former NHL forward Geoff Sanderson. The second pick was announced by Ottawa general manager Pierre Dorion, who thanked Trebek for the first selection.
Ottawa also held the rights to the No. 28 pick. In a rare draft oddity, the Senators joined the New Jersey Devils as two franchises with three first-round picks on the same night. New Jersey opened their run, at No. 7, selecting Swedish forward Alexander Holtz, and chose Canadian center Dawson Mercer at No. 18, followed by Russian defenseman Shakir Mukhamadullin at No. 20.
Also in the first round, the Winnipeg Jets selected No. 10 overall. A key number in their franchise history — 10 was the number worn Hall of Fame forward Dale Hawerchuk, who died in August after battling stomach cancer — the Jets introduced Hawerchuk’s wife, Crystal, to make the pick.
After thanking the hockey community for its well wishes to the family, Hawerchuk announced the Jets’ choice of Canadian forward Cole Perfetti.
The draft, originally scheduled to be held in Montreal, began with the New York Rangers selecting the consensus No. 1 prospect, Canadian forward Alexis Lafreniere.
Lafreniere, from suburban Montreal, was the first Canadian to go No. 1 since Connor McDavid was chosen by Edmonton in 2015.
Bettman began the broadcast with an announcement that the league is planning to begin next season on Jan. 1, 2021.
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