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Three UConn men’s hockey players picked in 2020 NHL Draft

The draft is another indication of rising talent levels in the Husky program.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

Three UConn men’s hockey players were selected in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft on Wednesday, tying a program record for the most picks in a single draft.

Yan Kuznetsov was the first Husky off the board after the Calgary Flames took him in the second round with the 50th pick overall, making him the third second-round pick and the fourth-highest selection in UConn’s program history.

Last season, Kuznetsov was the youngest freshman in college hockey and didn’t turn 18 until after the season ended. The 6-foot-4 Russian still amassed 11 points (two goals, nine assists) in 34 games and is only expected to get better as he gains experience.

“It’s a dream come true. It was amazing (to be drafted),” Kuznetsov told The Big Show on SportsNet Canada. “They were the team I was hoping to be drafted by and it turned out just amazing.”

In the radio spot, Kuznetsov said Calgary interviewed him more than any other team. The process involved a basic questionnaire about his background, a psychology evaluation and a few other check-ins.

80 picks later, the New Jersey Devils took Artem Shlaine in the fifth round, 130th overall. The incoming freshman forward was the final addition to the Huskies’ roster after he flipped his commitment from BU to UConn.

Though a Russian native, Shlaine came to the United States during high school. After spending one year in Florida, he attended Shattuck St. Mary’s in Minnesota, a prep hockey powerhouse.

He’s expected to be one of the best freshman in the country this upcoming season as a creative player with a high hockey IQ that can make “anything can happen when the puck is on his stick,” according to Neutral Zone.

UConn’s final pick of the day was Nick Capone, who went to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the sixth round, 157th overall. Another freshman for the Huskies, Capone is the biggest in-state commit in UConn’s history. He’s a native of East Haven and played at the Salisbury School in Salisbury, Connecticut.

Capone is a bruiser up top and drew comparisons to former Boston Bruins great Cam Neely as a “throwback power forward” by UConn head coach Mike Cavanaugh.

“He’s a really physical player that can shoot the puck well and also make plays,” the Husky head coach told The UConn Blog back in November.

NHL Network ran a short feature on Capone after he was drafted, which highlighted the gravity of Capone’s commitment to UConn as well as his toughness and physicality:

Though sophomore defenseman Jake Flynn was considered a fringe draft prospect, the day came and went without him hearing his name called.

Unlike the MLB, NBA or NFL drafts, most players do not immediately join their new teams. Instead, organizations hold a drafted player’s rights for three years and can sign the player to a contract anytime before then.

This is the third time that three UConn players have been taken in one draft, joining 2016 (Tage Thompson, Philip Nyberg, Joseph Masonius) and 2019 (Vladislav Firstov, Matej Blumel, Carter Berger). Overall, 18 Huskies have been selected in the NHL Draft.