Published: June 30, 2013
Incoming Colorado College freshman Gustav Olofsson and commit Teemu Kivihalme may still be catching their breath this morning. There's little doubt they're still smiling from the night before.
Both defensemen were selected during the 2013 NHL draft with Olofsson picked 46th (second round, No. 16) by Minnesota and Kivihalme 140th (fifth round, 19th pick) by Nashville.
Olofsson was the Wild's first selection at the Prudential Center in New Jersey Sunday night.
"It hasn't really sunk in yet," Olofsson said early Monday morning Manhattan time after running a gauntlet of interviews and pictures with Wild coaches, staff, family, friends and media. "It probably will overnight."
Kivihalme had a similar experience after hearing his name called.
"It was definitely a heart-stopper," he said.
Both said their NHL organizations support them playing for Colorado College.
"They said they like CC because they tend to develop good NHL defensemen," Kivihalme said.
"No doubt," Olofsson said. "It's all good with them as long as I develop."
Both are headed to NHL prospect camps next month. Olofsson will move to Colorado Springs in August.
Many draft prognosticators predicted Olofsson, listed at 6-foot-2, 185 pounds, would go as late as the third round. But the U.S. Hockey League all-rookie team honoree (23 points, 21 assists) did better than expected because he showed considerable offensive potential for a defenseman.
"Gustav is a big mobile defenseman that really jumped up our draft rankings," Wild assistant general manager Brent Flahr said. "He's an intelligent player with quality natural instincts for the game. We feel like his game will continue to improve as he gets stronger and gains experience."
His younger brother Fredrick, a forward, is a CC commit scheduled for 2014.
Olofsson, 18, was the sixth college player chosen. He became a San Jose Sharks fan while a youth player in northern California. The minute his name was called, he became a die-hard Wild fan.
"It's funny how that changes in instant," the Broomfield High School graduate said. "Even my younger brother has a new favorite."
Kivihalme, a 5-foot-11, 161-pounder, is named after NHL star Teemu Selanne.
The 2014 commit has dual citizenship with Finland and the USA, competed at the 2012 Under-18 Ivan Hlinka tournament for the Americans. He led Burnsville, coached by his father Janne, who played at Division III Wisconsin-Superior, to a Minnesota high school section final. He recorded 73 points (53 assists) in 77 high school games in three years.
"I see him more as a two-way defenseman, and I hope that's what he can be," Predators North American amateur scout David Westby said. "He has decent size, skates really well and has terrific hockey sense. He's a son of a coach. He knows how to play the game. He makes good puck decisions, first passes, skating out of trouble if needed, and can carry or jump into the play. He can run the power play. He has a good shot from the point. He defends very well. His gaps are good. He eliminates and takes away space. We think he has a big upside. We're excited about him. "
The high school senior said he will play for the Fargo Force of the USHL next season before signing with CC.
Olofsson will be among five draft picks on CC's roster next season, joining fellow freshman Jaccob Slavin (Carolina 2012), sophomore Hunter Fejes (Phoenix 2012), and juniors Aaron Harstad (Winnipeg 2011) and Peter Stoykewych (Winnipeg, then Atlanta 2010) in that distinction. All except Fejes, who played left wing for the Tigers last season, are defensemen.
The top pick who ever played for CC was St. Louis wing Jaden Schwartz who was the 14th pick in 2010. Former Tiger and Winnipeg defenseman Mark Stuart went 21st in 2003 to Boston.
Incoming Western Michigan forward Mike McCarron was the first college player picked (Montreal, No. 25) and was the only one in the first round.
National Collegiate Hockey Conference programs had 20 current, incoming players or commits selected, led by six picks for North Dakota and three for Denver. CC, Minnesota-Duluth, Nebraska-Omaha, St. Cloud State and Western Michigan had two apiece and Miami one.
In all, 63 players with current of future ties to 29 of the 59 Division I programs were selected. Former college hockey players made up 30 percent of the NHL in 2012-13, including 12 members of the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks.