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Thunderbirds products Smilanic, Peterson, Holm see NHL dreams get closer at 2020 draft


A trio of former Colorado Thunderbirds AAA standouts became NHL property this week at the 2020 NHL Draft, which was held virtually Tuesday and Wednesday due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Elizabeth native Ty Smilanic was selected by the Florida Panthers in the third round (74th overall), while fellow forward and USA Hockey’s NTDP teammate Dylan Peterson went to the St. Louis Blues in the third round (86th overall) and defenseman Ole Bjorgvik-Holm was chosen by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the fifth round (145th overall).

Smilanic, now a freshman at Quinnipiac University after originally committing to the University of Denver, Smilanic had seven goals and 15 assists for 22 points in 34 games last season, in addition to a goal and four assists for five points in seven games against International competition.

“I’ve heard people say the draft is nerve-wracking, and I kind of took that for granted,” Smilanic said. “Going through it myself, I think they kind of understated that. It’s more than nerve-wracking, especially for me but also my family. Once I heard my name called by Florida, I was excited.”

Once thought to be a potential first-round pick, Smilanic said a bout with mononucleosis, a high ankle sprain and a broken finger last season most likely saw his stock fall.

 “I think my injuries played a big part in me slipping so much,” Smilanic said. “Pick after pick, you see someone else go and it was hard to see. But I’m looking forward to the (NCAA) season and proving to all those people who doubted me and see where I can go from there.”

According to, “Smilanic is a complete talent who can be relied on in all situations. He anticipates passes and can cut them off using his long reach. In defensive zone battles, Smilanic uses his frame efficiently to outmuscle competition and dig pucks out of scrums.”

Smilanic is also Quinnipiac’s highest-drafted player in team history.

“That’s a cool feeling,” Smilanic said. “It’s a great group of guys right now. I look at my phone and I think every single one of my teammates texted and congratulated me. The culture they have here at Quinnipiac is unbelievable. To be the highest-drafted player from Quinnipiac is cool, but it also shows their movement (as a school). Quinnipiac has always been a great college for hockey.”

Peterson was born in Northern California, and also lived in Taiwan, Calgary, Colorado, and Ottawa before going to the NTDP.

“Peterson does a pretty good job of setting up shop at the net front, and he’s a lot to handle from that position,” said “Once he’s established the offensive zone, he recognizes good outlets and finds teammates nicely. Like many players this size, Peterson is still coming to terms with the immense advantages afforded him by his massive frame.”

Last season, Peterson tallied 12 goals and 36 points in 64 games for Team USA.

He’ll skate for Boston University in 2020-21.

Bjorgvik-Holm played last season for the OHL’s Mississauga Steelheads and compiled two goals and 17 assists for 19 points in 57 games.

He was the only Norwegian player to be selected in the 2020 NHL Draft and just the 22nd all-time (seventh since 2010).

“It’s a dream come true and I couldn’t be more excited to be a part of the Columbus Blue Jackets organization,” Bjorgvik-Holm said. “I want to thank my parents, teammates and coaches for helping me get to this point and I’m excited for what the future holds.”

“Ole has really shown the growth in his on-ice performance since he arrived in Mississauga,” added Steelheads coach-GM James Richmond. “He’s a big, nasty defenseman that will be a solid NHLer one day.”

Also taken in the draft were two current DU players and one future Pioneer.

Florida selected defenseman Michael Benning in the fourth round (95th overall) and then forward Carter Savoie was chosen five spots later by the Edmonton Oilers.

Both players skated for the AJHL’s Sherwood Park Crusaders in 2019-20 and both hail from St. Albert, Alberta.

Benning posted 12 goals and 75 points over 54 games and was tabbed the AJHL and CJHL top defenseman. Savoie rang up an AJHL-best 53 goals and 99 points in 54 games. Both were named to the AJHL North All-Star Team last season.

Forward Wyatt Schingoethe was drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the seventh round (195th overall) but isn’t expected to begin his DU career until the 2021-22 season. The Algonquin, Ill., native is set to play his third season in 2020-21 with the USHL’s Waterloo Black Hawks. Last season, he collected 17 goals and 38 points in 47 games.

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