Canadian teams make a splash in first round of 2016 NHL Draft

Toronto Maple Leafs pick Auston Matthews pulls on his sweater at the NHL hockey draft, Friday, June 24, 2016, in Buffalo, N.Y. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)

BUFFALO -- When the 2016 NHL Draft started, you could be forgiven if you thought you were at a playoff game.

Boisterous cheering followed by deafening boos rained down from the stands at First Niagara Center when Commissioner Gary Bettman called the Toronto Maple Leafs to announce the first overall pick.

As expected, the Maple Leafs took 6- foot-2, 210 pound centreman Auston Matthews who spent last season playing under Marc Crawford with the Zurich Lions.

Crawford, who played and coached in Vancouver and also coached in Quebec City prior to winning the Stanley Cup in 1996 when they relocated and became the Colorado Avalanche, schooled the  18-year-old phenom from Scottsdale, Ariz., about the pressures he will face in a Canadian market, especially Toronto.

“(I’ll be) under the microscope obviously with the media and everything,” Matthews said.  “He said if eventually I got there it would be a blast, now that I am part of the organization, I couldn’t be happier.”

Experts have said that Matthews is ready to jump in as a No. 1 centre, a position that has been questioned in Toronto since Mats Sundin departed in 2008.

“Hockey is a team game, so there is really no saviour,” he said.  “I want to be an impact player, I believe I can be a franchise centreman, a No. 1 centreman in the NHL, that’s my ultimate goal.”

With P.K. Subban trade rumors swirling, the Montreal Canadiens made a big splash in dealing forward Lars Eller to the Washington Capitals for second-round picks in 2017 and 2018.  They subsequently acquired gritty winger Andrew Shaw from the Chicago Blackhawks for picks No. 39 and No. 45 this year.

GM Marc Bergevin & Co. later selected blueliner Mikhail Sergachev ninth overall.

Winnipeg Jets fans are hoping for a rebirth of the “Finnish Flash” – Teemu Selanne, as right wing Patrik Laine is headed to Manitoba after being selected No. 2

“I think it is easier to go there, to the city and the organisation (when they) know something about the Finnish people and Finnish players,” he said.  “I hope that I could maybe do the same (as Selanne) someday.”

Laine was stellar on the international stage this season, leading Finland to a gold medal in the World Jr. Championships and to a silver a few months later at the World Championships.

The Jets later traded the 22nd overall pick to the Philadelphia Flyers to move ahead four spots where they obtained defenceman Logan Stanley at No. 18.

Laine’s compatriot, Jesse Puljujarvi was expected go third overall but slipped to fourth and was nabbed by the Edmonton Oilers who now have yet another emerging young forward on their roster but still covet an experienced D-man.

Forward Pierre-Luc Dubois was a surprise pick at No. 3 by the Columbus Blue Jackets.

It was expected no Canadian born player would be selected in the top five for the first time since 1999 but Dubois’ selection prevented that from happening.

The Vancouver Canucks stocked up on the blueline by selecting Olli Juolevi, the first defenceman taken in the draft. He was the third Finn taken in the first five picks.

Calgary Flames GM Brad Treliving obtained the goalie he so desperately sought when he nabbed Brian Elliott from the St. Louis Blues for a 2016 second round pick.  Elliott was very sharp in the playoffs, a key reason the Blues advanced to the Conference Final for the first time since 2001.

The Flames selected left wing Matthew Tkachuk, son of former Blues forward and U.S. standout Keith Tkachuk with the sixth overall pick.

The versatile forward was an integral member of the London Knights run to the 2016 Memorial Cup Championship.

Entering the draft all seven Canadian teams had a pick in the top 12.  The Senators swapped their 12th choice with the New Jersey Devils and nabbed center Logan Brown from the Windsor Spitfires (OHL) at No. 11.  The Senators gave up No. 80 overall as part of the deal.

Follow Neil Acharya on Twitter: @Neil_Acharya