The CHL Import Draft is one of the most intriguing events of the prospect season. Major junior teams from all three circuits get the chance to nab a franchise player (like an Andrei Svechnikov or Filip Zadina), but they can also strike out completely if the European kid they select doesn’t come over. Last year for example, WHL Prince Albert took German Dominik Bokk, only to watch him head over to Sweden to play for Vaxjo instead. At the draft combine, Bokk said he would have come over if an OHL team had taken him.
And that’s the tricky thing: some junior markets can make better pitches than others, which is why pre-scouting of imports is so key – you only get two, so you need to make them count.
The Import Draft runs two rounds and teams can pass if they already know previous imports are coming back. Order was based on standings, with all three leagues rotating. Also, after a silly ban for a couple years, goalies were allowed to be drafted once again and some pretty prominent NHL prospects were taken this year.
Some pretty big names were taken Thursday, so let’s look at how things went down and which notable players are still question marks.
Maxim Cajkovic, RW, Saint John (QMJHL)
The first overall pick, Cajkovic is a deadly offensive player who staked out his name at the world under-18s with a huge performance for Slovakia. He’s up for the 2019 draft and will come over to play for the Sea Dogs.
Vladimir Alistrov, LW, Edmonton (WHL)
Second overall, Alistrov is fast, skilled and 6-foot-2. The Belarus national will come over to the Oil Kings, who could use his offensive flourishes. Alistrov is up for the 2019 draft.
Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, G, Sudbury (OHL)
Here’s where it gets interesting. Luukkonen is still signed by HPK back in Finland and I can’t confirm if he’ll come to Sudbury. The Wolves took him third overall and it would be a big misstep if they went so high on a player they won’t get. Luukkonen is a Buffalo Sabres prospect with great size and a good butterfly technique.
Valentin Nussbaumer, C, Shawinigan (QMJHL)
A dynamic center who looked very promising on some very average Swiss national teams, Nussbaumer will be coming to the Cataractes, where he’ll get a chance to show off for the 2019 draft.
Jan Jenik, RW, Flint (OHL)
Selected 65th overall by the Arizona Coyotes last weekend, Jenik is speedy and crafty with nice hands. He’d be a great addition on Ty Dellandrea’s wing in Flint if they can convince him to come. Sounds like a decision is still being made there, from what I’ve heard.
Liam Kirk, LW, Peterborough (OHL)
The British national said at the draft combine that he would come over and indeed, I’ve confirmed that he’s still coming. Peterborough is a nice landing spot for the raw but skilled Arizona Coyotes draft pick.
Petr Cajka, C, Erie (OHL)
A 2019 draft prospect with smarts and a two-way game, Cajka will be joining the Otters.
Martin Lang, LW, Kamloops (WHL)
Another 2019 draft prospect from the Czech Republic, Lang is a shooter who loves to make moves on the rush. He will be coming to Kamloops.
Ivan Prosvetov, G, Saginaw (OHL)
I don’t have any insider info either way on Prosvetov, but since he’s already been playing in North America for years (NAHL then USHL), I can’t see why the Arizona Coyotes pick wouldn’t go to Saginaw.
Oleg Zaitsev, C, Red Deer (WHL)
A swift skater and great playmaker, the Russian 2019 draft prospect will report to the Rebels.
Akira Schmid, G, Lethbridge (WHL)
The big Swiss netminder was taken by the New Jersey Devils last weekend and now he’ll be joining the Hurricanes, where he can get some great reps before a likely world junior appearance.
Yaroslav Likhachyov, RW, Gatineau (QMJHL)
Very skilled Russian kid is up for the 2019 draft and he will be joining the Olympiques.
Filip Reisnecker, LW, Mississauga (OHL)
Thanks to a late birthday, Reisnecker isn’t eligible for the NHL draft until 2020, which means a lot of development time in Sauga for the German. He put up gaudy numbers back home.
Erik Brannstrom, D, Jiri Patera, G, Brandon (WHL)
I’m grouping the two Wheat Kings picks together because both also happen to be draft picks of the Vegas Golden Knights. There’s a direct connection thanks to Brandon owner/Vegas assistant GM Kelly McCrimmon, so these selections don’t seem coincidental. Brannstrom is a game-changing offensive defenseman while Patera has nice size in the crease.
Axel Andersson, D, Kitchener (OHL)
According to Kitchener beat writer Josh Brown, there is a “strong chance” Andersson comes over to the Rangers. Andersson is a mobile, new-school defenseman who was taken in the second round by the Boston Bruins last weekend.
Nikita Sedov, D, Regina (WHL)
The Russian has actually been playing in Colorado the past two years, but now he’s heading to Regina, where the 2019 draft prospect’s offensive skills will help out on the blueline.
Matej Pekar, C, Barrie (OHL)
Here’s a fun one. Pekar is committed to NCAA Miami (Ohio), but Brad Schlossman is reporting that the Czech national might have to miss the first semester, so this could open the door for the Colts. Pekar is a Buffalo Sabres draft pick with a great motor and puck-hounding skills. Whoever wins gets a good one.