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PITTSBURGH – Defenceman Dylan Blujus of the Brampton Battalion was chosen by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the second round of the National Hockey League Draft on Saturday.
A Buffalo native who turned 18 on Jan. 22, Blujus was taken with the 40th overall selection, far ahead of his final ranking by the NHL’s central scouting department, which projected him 71st among North American-based skaters.
“It was great,” said Blujus, who was in attendance at the Consol Energy Center. “I sat down for 10 minutes and heard my name. I figured I might have to wait a little longer.
“You never really know what will happen with the draft; you can go higher than your ranking or lower. For me, it worked out really well. I’m really happy to be a member of the Lightning organization.”
Blujus, six-foot-three and 193 pounds, said he had a number of discussions with Tampa Bay personnel during the Ontario Hockey League season and a chat at the recent NHL fitness combine, held at Toronto.
“I talked to them at the combine and had a great talk with them during the season. They sounded really interested, and the Lightning was one of the teams on my radar.”
After his selection, Blujus had a chance to talk to Steve Yzerman, Lightning vice-president and general manager.
“He told me they were glad to have me and they were looking to get some right-shot defencemen,” said Blujus. “That looked like a hole they were looking to fill.”
The Lightning sought depth in its own end with its first three picks. In addition to selecting Blujus, Tampa Bay used its two first-round picks on blueliner Slater Koekkoek of the Peterborough Petes and Russian goaltender Andrey Vasilevski.
“Tampa Bay has lots of great forwards, and it looked like they’re trying to build up the back end,” noted Blujus, who was among eight Lightning draftees.
A third-round pick in the 2010 OHL Priority Selection, Blujus contributed four goals and 22 assists for 26 points in 67 games as a rookie in 2010-11 and added seven goals and 27 assists for 34 points in 66 games last season.
“Two years ago I didn’t really know what I was going to do, but I made the decision to come to the Battalion and everything has really worked out. I couldn’t have made a better choice.”
Blujus is the third member of the Troops to be chosen by Tampa Bay since Battalion players became eligible to be drafted after the club’s inaugural season in 1998-99. Left winger Adam Henrich was a second-round pick in 2002, and right winger Kyle DeCoste was tabbed in the fifth round in 2008.
Blujus was one of 211 players chosen over the seven-round process, which opened with first-round selections Friday night. A total of 48 OHL players were drafted. The London Knights, reigning OHL champions, led all Canadian Hockey League teams with six players selected, while the Owen Sound Attack had five players picked.
Two of the first three picks landed OHL players, with right winger Nail Yakupov of the Sarnia Sting going first overall to the Edmonton Oilers and teammate Alexander Galchenyuk, a centre, tabbed third by the Montreal Canadiens.
NHL teams used 11 of 30 first-round picks on OHLers. Yakupov’s selection marks the fifth time in the last six years that an OHL player has gone No. 1.