VANCOUVER — Lassi Thomson thought he’d have to come back to Rogers Arena on Saturday morning.
As it turns out, he’ll instead get the chance to explore Vancouver.
The Ottawa Senators selected the Finnish defenceman with the 19th pick in the NHL draft on Friday as the club in the midst of a major rebuild added to its blue line.
"I’m excited," Thomson said. "We’ll see what happens the next couple years. Now it’s only hard work and try to show my best and keep going."
The six-foot, 186-pound defenceman had 17 goals and 24 assists in 63 games with Western Hockey League’s Kelowna Rockets in 2018-19, his first season playing in North America.
Ottawa acquired the pick in the deal that sent Matt Duchene to the Columbus Blue Jackets prior to February’s trade deadline.
Told by a reporter he’s the first Finn ever taken by the club in the first round, Thomson responded with a smile: "I didn’t know that."
He spoke with Ottawa general manager Pierre Dorion at the league’s annual combine, but didn’t get a sense one way or another he’d be heading to the nation’s capital.
"It was a pretty similar interview (like) everyone else," Thomson said. "I can’t expect that."
The Senators finished last in the 31-team NHL this season, but Colorado owned their original first-round selection following the initial Duchene trade that saw Ottawa acquire the talented centre from the Avalanche in November 2017.
As a result, Colorado had the best odds of winning the draft lottery back in April, but slipped to fourth behind the New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers and Chicago Blackhawks. The Avalanche took defenceman Bowen Byram at No. 4.
Ottawa — which could have surrendered the fourth pick in last June’s draft to the Avalanche as part of the terms of the first Duchene trade — held onto the selection and took winger Brady Tkachuk.
The Senators are in the middle of a rebuild that saw the roster gutted last season. Captain and star defenceman Erik Karlsson was traded to the San Jose Sharks, while Duchene, as well as wingers Mark Stone and Ryan Dzingel, were also sent packing in separate deals.
Ottawa fired head coach Guy Boucher late in the schedule, replacing him with Marc Crawford on an interim basis before hiring former Toronto Maple Leafs assistant D.J. Smith last month as the 14th bench boss in franchise history.
The club already had a solid group of young players in its stable heading into Friday, including Tkachuk, defencemen Thomas Chabot and Max Lajoie, centres Colin White and Logan Brown, and wingers Drake Batherson and Alex Formenton.
The Senators also hold the 32nd, 44th, 83rd, 94th, 125th and 187th picks in the draft, with rounds two through seven scheduled for Saturday.
Ottawa currently owns 12 selections in the 2020 draft, including two first-rounders and three second-rounders, to go along with nine picks in 2021.