CHICAGO — Cody Glass has been to Las Vegas once before. He was 10 years old, playing for a team called the Junior Steelers in a summer tournament at a community rink. He walked The Strip, looked at the lights, felt the heat and thought it was nothing like at home in Winnipeg.
“I didn’t really see that as a hockey place when I went there,” Glass said.
Well, it’s a hockey place now, and Glass became a huge part of it at United Center on Friday when the expansion Vegas Golden Knights selected him with the No. 6 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft presented by adidas.
Glass, 18, a center from Portland of the Western Hockey League, will be remembered forever as the first pick in franchise history. If all goes well, he’ll be one of the attractions on The Strip, entertaining the crowd at T-Mobile Arena.
“I think there’s a lot of pressure to it, but then again, I know what I can do on the ice,” Glass said. “They believe in me. I’m just going to prove them right.”
The Golden Knights were thrilled. Not only did they get Glass, they took Nick Suzuki, 17, a center from Owen Sound of the Ontario Hockey League, at No. 13 and Erik Brannstrom, 17, a defenseman from HV 71 in the Sweden Hockey League, at No. 15. They acquired the No. 13 pick from the Winnipeg Jets and the No. 15 pick from the New York Islanders during the NHL Expansion Draft on Wednesday.
Glass was in their top five. General manager George McPhee said they felt there was a drop-off after him, and they worked out a trade to move up to get him, if necessary, that would have involved a second-round pick. But they didn’t have to make the trade because the Vancouver Canucks took center Elias Pettersson of Timra of Sweden’s second division at No. 5, and so they still have three second-round picks. Rounds 2-7 are here Saturday (10 a.m. ET; NHLN, SN).
“We’re really happy with that,” McPhee said.
Suzuki was in their top 10. McPhee said Brannstrom would have gone later in the draft had the Golden Knights not taken him, “but you take the guys you want.”
The Golden Knights wanted skill, and all three players have it.
Glass (6-foot-2, 177 pounds) patterns himself after Jets center Mark Scheifele, the No. 7 pick of the 2011 draft, because of his unselfish, two-way game. He ranked seventh in the WHL with 94 points (32 goals, 62 assists last season).
Suzuki (5-11, 183) was fifth in the OHL with 96 points (45 goals, 51 assists). Brannstrom (5-9, 179) reminds the Golden Knights of Nashville Predators defenseman Ryan Ellis (5-10, 180), the No. 11 pick of the 2009 draft.
“It’s nice to get two centers and an elite mobile defenseman,” McPhee said. “It’s hard to get that kind of talent anywhere else than in the draft.”
But the Golden Knights wanted something else too.
“We are going to select talented people, but they also have be high-, high-character because that’s the only way you can win a championship,” McPhee said. “You see what [Sidney] Crosby has done for Pittsburgh. He’s an exceptional player. But he is a high-character human being. So all three of these kids have real high character.”
All three watched the 2017 NHL Awards and NHL Expansion Draft on Wednesday, when the Golden Knights selected players like goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury from the Pittsburgh Penguins and forward James Neal from the Nashville Predators. Glass was home on his sofa in Winnipeg.
“I was really looking forward to seeing how they would pick their team,” he said. “I thought they picked really well, and I thought they were going to have a really good team.”
Suzuki was home on his sofa in London, Ontario. When the Golden Knights acquired the No. 13 and No. 15 picks, he started thinking he might go to Vegas.
“So I was definitely thinking about the guys on the team,” he said.
Brannstrom was at a hotel in Chicago.
“It feels amazing to go to Vegas,” he said. “I’m really excited to get things started.”
Unlike their teammate, Suzuki and Brannstrom have never been to Las Vegas. All they know is what they have seen on screen.
“I’ve seen some movies,” Brannstrom said.
But don’t expect them to celebrate so hard they wake up with a tiger in the bathroom. Don’t expect them to be scared of the challenge either.
“I don’t think it’s daunting,” Suzuki said. “I think it’s really exciting. If the three of us can do something special there, it’s going to be amazing.”