BUFFALO — Hockey is Canada’s game, but this will be America’s NHL draft.
The Toronto Maple Leafs’ anticipated selection of Arizona native Auston Matthews with the No. 1 draft pick tonight (7 p.m., ET, NBC Sports Network) could launch a record-setting day for American-born players.
As many as 12 Americans are projected to go in the first round, and the USA could boast two players in the top four and three-to-five players in the top 10.
“This is an excellent and diverse group of Americans who will be taken in the draft, especially in the first round,” said Jim Johannson, USA Hockey’s assistant executive director of hockey operations. “The unique part is that we have forwards projected to go high in the draft who have a mix of skill and scoring. And we have another group with size and physical play.”
Americans hold approximately 25% of the roster spots in the NHL, and 12 players would represent 40% of the first-round draft spots.
Power winger Matt Tkachuk, son of U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame forward Keith Tkachuk, is…