Boston University, Columbus Blue Jackets, Edmonton Oilers, Seth Jones, Tampa Bay Lightning, Winnipeg Jets
Almost a year ago, the National Hockey League celebrated a draft that was both deep in talent – Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel – and diversity.
With the 2016 draft rapidly approaching, we look back in this post and the next at the players of color who were selected in the 2015 NHL Draft in Sunrise, Fla., and how they performed in the 2015-16 season.
After a slow start to his freshman season, Boston University forward Jordan Greenway showed why the Minnesota Wild took him in the second round with the 50th overall pick in the draft.
He scored just two points in the first two months of the season for the Terriers. But the Canton, N.Y., native finished the season with 5 goals and 20 assists in 38 games. He performed well enough to be named Hockey East Rookie of the Week Feb. 5 and Feb. 15, and a Hockey East Top Performer four times – Nov. 30, Dec. 7, Jan. 25, Feb. 22.
“He showed signs of coming on” around Thanksgiving, BU Head Coach Dave Quinn told College Hockey News in March. “He’s had a huge impact on a lot of our games. He’s a great athlete, very fluid and coordinated for a guy who is 6-5 (230) pounds, has really good skills. He has a playmaker’s mentality.”
Quinn told The Boston Globe in March that Greenway is “a freak athlete.”
“I joke all the time, if he was a football player, he would be a five-star tight end at Alabama or Notre Dame.”
But Greenway, 19, told the paper that the gridiron was the furthest thing on his mind, especially since he attended Shattuck St. Mary’s – a Minnesota prep school hockey factory attended by NHL stars like Sidney Crosby, Kyle Okposo, Jonathan Toews, and Nathan MacKinnon.
“I was a rink rat,” he told the newspaper. “I liked being at the rink so much, and using a stick and puck instead of a ball.”
Greenway will likely be at the First Niagara Center, home of the Buffalo Sabres, for the June 24-25 draft to watch his younger brother, defenseman James Greenway, get picked. He’s ranked 121st among 2016 North American draft prospects by NHL Central Scouting.
At 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds – the 18-year-old Greenway is a member of USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program. He notched 5 goals and 20 assists in 64 games for a team that played against U.S. college, international, and United States Hockey League teams in 2015-16.
Swedish defenseman Oliver Kylington’s family was visiting him in California, where he was playing for the American Hockey League’s Stockton Heat, in April when he got a called up by he Calgary Flames, the team that drafted him in the second round with the 60th overall pick.
“Are you coming?” Kylington asked his father, according to The Calgary Herald. “And he was, like, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’m going to make it to the game.'”
The 18-year-old Kylington played one game for the injury-riddled Flames and managed one shot on goal against the Wild. In Stockton, he appeared in 47 games, scoring 5 goals and 7 assists.
“I think it’s the first step to a big journey,” Kylington told The Calgary Herald after the call-up. “Right now, I don’t care where I got picked. I’m just thankful that Calgary picked me and that I’m here right now.”
Seattle Thunderbirds right wing Keegan Kolesar was chosen by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the third round with 69th pick. After the Jackets training camp, Kolesar returned to his Western Hockey League major junior team.
Too bad for opposing teams in the major junior league. Kolesar, 19, notched 30 goals and 31 assists in 64 games regular season games for Seattle this season and is proving to be a force in the WHL playoffs. In December, he signed a three-year entry level contract with the Blue Jackets.
“He’s big, fast, and strong,” Thunderbirds Head Coach Steve Konowalchuk told The Seattle Times of the 6-foot-1 and 220-pound Kolesar. “He can skate, he has the physical tools to be a force and the skill to score goals.”
Like Jordan Greenway, left wing Erik Foley went from sunny Florida’s 2015 draft to chilly New England for hockey. A former forward for the United States Hockey League’s Cedar Rapids RoughRiders, Foley was taken by the Winnipeg Jets in the third round with the 78th overall pick.
The 18-year-old played for Providence College, where he tallied 7 goals and 12 assists for the Friars. Foley won the team’s Rev. Herman Schneider, O.P., Award as the team’s most valuable freshman.
Mathieu Joseph was all smiles at the 2015 draft. Not only was he taken by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the fourth round with the 120th pick, he was chosen by a team in a warm-weather state where he could work on his golf game.
But the links had to wait in 2015-16 as Joseph reported back to the St. John Sea Dogs, of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League for more seasoning. There, the 19-year-old right wing resumed his torrid scoring ways, potting 33 goals and 40 assists in 58 games regular season games.
“He’s got a good combo of size and speed,” Sea Dogs Head Coach Danny Flynn told TampaBayLightning.com in February. “He’s a dangerous forward.”
Unfortunately, Joseph’s 2015-16 post season ended prematurely in April when he suffered a serious cut to the calf muscle on his left leg, a wound that required surgery. He’ll miss two to three months because of the injury, Ice Dog officials said.
Defenseman Caleb Jones, the Edmonton Oilers’ 2015 fourth-round pick, is following in the skates of his older brother – Blue Jackets D-man Seth Jones – and is rapidly making a name for himself in the process.
Like his big brother, the younger Jones is doing his major junior hockey apprenticeship with the WHL Portland Winterhawks. And he’s becoming a force in the WHL, just like his brother was before he was chosen fourth overall in the 2013 draft by the Nashville Predators.
Born in Texas, Caleb Jones tallied 10 goals and 45 assists in 72 regular season games for Portland, was fifth overall in scoring among WHL rookies and 10th overall among the league’s defensemen in 2015-16.
Jones, the son of retired National Basketball Association player Popeye Jones, signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Oilers in early April and appeared in three games with the Bakersfield Condors, Edmonton’s American Hockey League farm team.
“In his first season in Portland, Caleb had the ability to impact the game by using his skating ability to lead the rush as well as defend against the rush,” Winterhawks Assistant General Manager Matt Bardsley said. “He has a great passion for the game and we are happy to see that he was rewarded with a contract from the Oilers organization.
To be continued