The Tri-City Americans brought their total number of players selected in the NHL Draft to four when forwards Morgan Geekie and Kyle Olson were taken Saturday morning.
Geekie went in the third round (67th overall) to the Carolina Hurricanes, while Olson went in the fourth round (122nd overall) to the Anaheim Ducks.
“These are special kids,” Tri-City general manager Bob Tory said. “I’m so excited for them to have these opportunities. Hopefully the Tri-City fans realize the talent we have and come out and support and embrace the team.”
The last time the Americans had more than two players taken in one year in the draft was 2004 when Logan Stephenson (2nd round, Phoenix), Clayton Stoner (3rd, Minnesota), Aaron Boogaard (6th, Minnesota) and Matt Schneider (7th, Calgary) were selected.
Geekie, from Strathclair, Manitoba, opted to stay home with his family instead of joining Rasmussen and Välimäki in Chicago. Besides, he had a baseball game Saturday afternoon, and the Oak River Dodgers were expecting him to play in the infield.
“You don’t really believe it when you see your name on the screen,” said Geekie, who was passed over in the draft last year. “It’s an experience I will never forget. I’m an older guy, I was thrilled to go when I did.”
Carolina is a good fit, Geekie said. But then again, any team would be a good fit.
“When it comes to the draft, I don’t think there is a preference,” he said. “No guy would turn down an opportunity from any team.”
Geekie said he watched Friday’s draft on TV, and was excited to see both of his teammates taken in the first round.
“I’m excited for those two,” he said. “They deserve the opportunity they got. They are special people. Any organization should be excited to have them.”
Geekie still was waiting to hear when and where the Hurricanes’ rookie camp will be.
“Hopefully I will get a call soon and get some details,” he said. “When camp starts, I’m gone. My (baseball) coach understands.”
Fans watching the Anaheim Ducks’ Twitter account weren’t quite sure who they were getting when the team first tweeted about Olson.
Tri-City was listed as a team from the USHL on one tweet, while on another, Olson was listed as 6-foot-2 — which in real life would be great for the 5-11 forward from Calgary. Both tweets were quickly fixed.
“This is awesome,” Olson said. “It’s really exciting for me and my family. It’s a great place to play and awesome to be drafted there.”
Going in the fourth was just about where Olson expected.
“I was projected to go right around there,” he said. “But it didn’t matter where — I was just proud to go.”
Olson leaves Tuesday for rookie camp. He is a little familiar with Anaheim as he and his family went on vacation to California last summer and took in an Angels game, and went to Disneyland and Six Flags Magic Mountain.
Tri-City defenseman Dylan Coghlan and forwards Brett Leason and Isaac Johnson did not get drafted, but NHL rookie camps are in their immediate future.
Coghlan is headed to the Las Vegas Golden Knights camp, while Johnson will join Rasmussen in Detroit. Americans overage forward Jordan Topping was invited to the Ottawa Senators camp.
“I was really hoping Dylan would get selected,” Tory said of his defenseman who had 15 goals and 38 assists last season.
The day after
After a whirlwind day Friday, Välimäki got to sit back Saturday and take in Day 2 of the draft.
“This is something special,” Välimäki said. “When I was young, it was my dream. For many years, it has been my goal. I have worked hard for this. It’s been great to share this moment with my family. I’m still feeling great.”
Välimäki watched as his teammate and best friend Rasmussen went ninth overall. He was antsy after that waiting for his name to be called.
“I was so relieved and happy,” he said. “So many emotions. There really aren’t words.”
Välimäki will go to the Flames rookie camp July 2. Until then, he will tag along with Rasmussen and his family to Surrey, British Columbia, for a week.
“I haven’t been there,” he said. “It will be fun.”