For the second straight year, an Abbotsford hockey product has been scooped up in the first round of NHL draft.
Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin said he was open to trading the team’s first round pick but after noticing Juulsen in the stands, the decision to draft the young defenceman was solidified.
“Since I’ve been in Montreal, we’ve drafted forwards in the first round,” Bergevin told media at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla.
“[But] especially in our division, this is the kind of defenceman we need. We were happy to see he was still available at 26.”
Juulsen was listed No. 22 among North American skaters in the final NHL Central Scouting rankings heading into the draft. International Scouting Services also had him within their top 30, while TSN director of scouting Craig Button ranked Juulsen at No. 41.
His selection in the first round comes a year after the Vancouver Canucks selected fellow Yale grad Jake Virtanen with the sixth overall pick.
Juulsen told The News earlier he didn’t see himself in the position he was in last Friday, sitting among the top 30 young prospects anticipating their entry into the world’s top hockey league.
The 6’2”, 180-pound defenceman was described by his Everett Silvertips coach, Kevin Constantine, as a physical player with a heavy shot and competitive edge.
He was also a key component on the Silvertips’ powerplay unit which, according to Juulsen, helped boost his confidence and offensive output in 2014-15.
After registering 10 points in his WHL rookie year, Juulsen exploded on the scoresheet this past season, putting up 52 points, including nine goals in 68 games with a plus-22 rating on the season.
It was known the Canadiens were in the hunt for a blue-liner, preferably one with a left-handed shot — Juulsen shoots right — given their lack of depth with just three of their defencemen fitting that bill.
Juulsen will face tight competition for a spot on Montreal’s roster. Five members of the team’s defensive core are right-hand shots fitted to that side of the ice.