Major junior’s annual draft for Europeans has been completed and a number of NHL draft selections were involved. But which ones are ready to come over and which ones were shots in the dark by CHL teams?
The CHL’s Import Draft was held today, giving every major junior team on the continent a chance to pick up some prime European talent. Franchises are allowed to play two Euros on their roster, but no goaltenders. Teams that have a European player taken in the first round of the NHL can select a third player’s rights as well, in case the first-rounder ends up leaving.
With that out of the way, let’s look at how things went down. Consider this a non-comprehensive list, as I am cobbling together commitments or denials as I receive them from various sources in the industry.
With the first pick overall, Acadie-Bathurst of the Quebec League selected Vladimir Kuznetsov, a big, powerful left winger who is eligible for the 2016 NHL draft and does not appear to be related to Washington’s Evgeny Kuznetsov. Vladimir, who has already posed for photos in a Titan jersey and hat, will be coming over.
At No. 3, the Sudbury Wolves landed Dmitry Sokolov, a highly-touted 2016 prospect who is already on NHL radars. Sokolov has dazzling stick skills and a lethal shot and is expected to report to the OHL squad.
The first NHL draft pick that I could get confirmation on was Finnish defenseman Vili Saarijarvi, taken by OHL Flint with pick No. 9. Saarijarvi actually played for USHL Green Bay this season before the Detroit Red Wings tabbed him in the third round. A small but incredibly skilled offensive blueliner who was great at the world under-18s, he is expected to report, as will 6-foot-2 defenseman Juuso Valimaki, taken by WHL Tri-City. An all-around threat that logged a lot of minutes at the under-18 level in Finland, Valimaki’s late birthday means he won’t be eligible for the NHL draft until 2017.
Two other top-10 import picks, Mikhail Sergachev (OHL Windsor) and Dmitry Zhukenov (QMJHL Chicoutimi) will also be coming over. Zhukenov was a Vancouver Canucks fourth-rounder over the weekend, while Sergachev is eligible in 2016.
One name to keep an eye on is Alexander Nylander. The younger brother of Toronto Maple Leafs pick William Nylander was taken by OHL Mississauga. The Steelheads took a flyer on William last year and he never reported. Will Alex be any different?
Sticking with Toronto, it was reported before the Import Draft that Maple Leafs third-rounder Martins Dzierkals of Latvia would most likely be coming to North America and now the talented left winger has a team: Rouyn-Noranda of the ‘Q’ got his rights.
One player in the “unlikely to report” camp is Swedish defenseman Oliver Kylington. Selected by the Calgary Flames over the weekend, Kylington’s rights were snapped up by the powerhouse Brandon Wheat Kings of the WHL. But Kylington has a two-year contract with AIK back in Sweden and right now the plan is for him to stay home, where he will play against men in the Allsvenskan, Sweden’s second-best circuit.
This pick could be called a calculated risk for Brandon GM Kelly McCrimmon, since Kylington’s situation could change in the future, but there are a lot of moving parts that would have to click for that to happen.
Other players expected to come over:
Vitaly Abramov, Gatineau (2016 draft)
Markus Niemelainen, Saginaw (2016)
Otto Somppi, Halifax (2016)
Artyom Minulin, Swift Current (2017)
Nikolay Knyzhov, Regina (2016)
Makar Tokarev, Sault Ste. Marie (2016)
Other NHL draft picks and prominent names selected:
Radovan Bondra, Vancouver (Chicago Blackhawks)
Patrik Laine, Sarnia (2016)
Jonne Tammela, Peterborough (Tampa Bay Lightning)
David Kase, Niagara (Philadelphia Flyers)
Alexander Dergachev, Shawinigan (Los Angeles)
Gustav Olhaver, Seattle (Colorado Avalanche)
Julius Nattinen, Barrie (Anaheim Ducks)
Michael Spacek, Red Deer (Winnipeg Jets)
Erik Cernak, Erie (Los Angeles Kings)
Karlis Cukste, Rouyn-Noranda (San Jose Sharks)
Daniel Bernhardt, London (NY Rangers)
Robin Kovacs, North Bay (NY Rangers)