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Knights take Swedish center with first-round pick in NHL draft

Updated June 28, 2023 - 10:03 pm

The Golden Knights won the Stanley Cup in part because no team could match their quartet of savvy centermen that made an impact all over the ice.

They added to that area of strength Wednesday during the first round of the 2023 NHL draft at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee, on Wednesday.

The Knights, after receiving congratulations from various teams for their championship, selected Swedish center David Edstrom with the last pick of the night at 32nd overall. They became the first Cup holders since the Washington Capitals, and only the second since the 2014 Los Angeles Kings, to make a first-round pick.

Edstrom gives the Knights another big, skilled body up the middle after being measured at the combine at 6 feet, 3 inches. He’s the sixth forward the team has taken in seven first-round picks, as well as the fifth center.

“I would describe myself as a hard-working, two-way centermen that is good at both ends of the ice,” Edstrom said in an interview with the Knights. “I’m a reliable player that the coaches trust and I can play in every situation. Good hockey sense, always working hard, wanting to win.”

Edstrom, 18, is known for playing a well-rounded game at a young age. ESPN analyst Brian Boucher compared the Goteborg, Sweden, native to Minnesota Wild center Joel Eriksson Ek, who has finished in the top 10 of the Selke Trophy voting for best defensive forward the last three years while also scoring 68 goals.

Edstrom fits a profile the Knights have followed previously with fourth-line center Nicolas Roy (6-4) and 2022 second-round pick Matyas Sapovaliv (6-3) — large, two-way centermen who are able to use their size in all three zones.

“Well-rounded,” Boucher said of Edstrom on the ESPN broadcast. “Consistent. Not flashy, but wins battles, competes hard. That seems to fit right into the mold of the way Vegas wants to play.”

Edstrom, beyond his stature, has shown he can hang with his peers and against adults.

He scored 15 goals and 28 points in 28 games last season for his under-20 team in Sweden, Frolunda Jr. He added five goals and nine points in seven games at the World U18 Championship in April to win a silver medal. Edstrom played more minutes for his country at that event than any other forward.

He also didn’t back down when given opportunities to face older competition. Edstrom scored four points in 11 games for Frolunda’s senior side in the Swedish Hockey League.

ESPN analyst Meghan Chayka highlighted Edstrom’s ability to get to the front of the net as one of the strengths of his game, as a high percentage of his shots come from the slot area.

Edstrom also has some athletic genes. He said his father and mother both played competitive badminton at Arizona State. His father, Mike Edstrom, was an All-American in 1992 and 1993 and later took part in international events.

Edstrom said he’s only played badminton “just for fun” and his favorite sport outside of hockey is golf. He’ll have plenty of courses to choose from if he’s able to earn his way onto the Knights.

“Vegas, it’s a really good organization,” Edstrom said. “I’m really proud and excited to be here.”

Edstrom joins a farm system that was ranked 21st before the start of last season by Elite Prospects and 23rd in January by The Athletic. The Knights haven’t been shy about dipping into their prospect pool for immediate help, one reason why they won their first championship June 13.

Only one of their previous six first-round picks — right wing Brendan Brisson — is still with the organization.

The Knights will get another chance to restock their pipeline the final six rounds of the draft Thursday. They are scheduled to make four more selections, starting at 77th overall.

Contact Ben Gotz at bgotz@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BenSGotz on Twitter.

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