MONTREAL -- Brian Lawton made history Wednesday as the first U.S.-born player chosen No. 1 in the NHL entry draft. What Lawton has to make next is a big decision.
'He's got plenty of time,' said Minnesota North Stars general manager Lou Nanne, who took Lawton with the top pick.
'I think the best thing would be for him to go to the Olympic camp and then come to ours. It's fine with us, if he wants to come with us or go to the Olympic team and join us in February.'
Nanne said he could 'work something out' with the U.S. Olympic team to allow Lawton to attend the North Stars camp if the classy, 17-year-old center choses the national team.
Lawton was among a record-five U.S. players taken in the first round -- a sign that U.S. hockey programs have reached maturity.
Nanne, who acquired the first pick in a trade with Pittsburgh, said the chance to draft Lawton or Detroit native Pat LaFontaine had nearly all the league general managers making offers at the four-day NHL meetings preceeding the draft.
He said only an offer of two first-round choices by the New York Islanders came close to tempting him.
'We were looking for a forward line or a lot of draft choices,' said Nanne. 'We wanted a lopsided deal. You don't make even deals when you're picking No. 1.'
Nanne said he would use the same tactic with Lawton he used with left wing Brian Bellows -- Minnesota's No. 2 pick overall in 1982.
'We'll bring him along slowly. We'll use four lines all year and not use him too much at the beginning of the year. That should take the pressure off him and let him play,' Nanne said.
Nanne said he opened a place for Lawton on the North Stars by trading center Mike Eaves to Calgary on Monday but added he wasn't looking to fill a hole on his roster by drafting a center.
'We just picked the best player available,' he said.'The only other one was a defenseman, (Frantisek) Musil, but we didn't know if we could get him out (of Czechoslovakia). He might have been the best player in the draft. He played on the Czech national team at 18.'
Lawton, who scored 85 goals and 86 assists in two seasons at Mount St. Charles Academy in Woonsocket, R.I., said he wasn't surprised to go to the North Stars.
'I had talked to Mr. Nanne and he had given me an indication he would take me if there wasn't a trade,' said Lawton. 'It will be tough but it's probably better to get drafted by a strong team. A weaker team might be looking for a franchise player and that would have been a lot tougher on me.'
Lawton said the North Stars had 'left it totally up to' him whether to play pro hockey right away or join the team after the Olympics.
'At this time, I haven't really decided what I'll do,' Lawton said, adding it was 'a thrill' to be the first American No. 1 pick.
Bobby Carpenter, drafted third overall by Washington in 1981, was the previous highest U.S.-born draft pick.
Pat LaFontaine, who tore up the Quebec junior league with 103 goals and 132 assists last season, was passed up by Hartford and fell to the New York Islanders, third overall, spoiling an expected one-two punch by U.S. players at the draft.
Hartford chose center Sylvain Turgeon from the Hull Olympiques of the Quebec league.