It’s one of the strangest days on the calendar, but every year there are big names that are chosen by major junior’s three leagues. Which players are coming over and who do you need to know with NHL affiliations or high draft aspirations? We’ve got you covered.
The CHL Import Draft establishes major junior rights for European players and it’s never a dull process. Because the kids picked are under no pressure to come over here, it’s never just a matter of Best Player Available. And since junior teams all have different rebuilding/contending cycles, sometimes BPA is irrelevant anyway. Some have already been drafted by NHL teams; other younger picks are hoping to boost their stock for upcoming drafts. Each CHL franchise gets two picks, but some pass because they are already set with their quota of two imports. With another draft in the books, let’s take a look at some of the most important names that were called today.
1. Klim Kostin, C – Kootenay Ice (WHL): The very first pick in the Import Draft, Kostin is a top 2017 NHL prospect who has performed very well internationally for Russia. A big, strapping kid with skill and power, Kostin could be a huge pick-up for the rebuilding Ice.
2. Eeli Tolvanen, LW – Oshawa Generals (OHL): This one will be interesting. Tolvanen played in the USHL this season and recently committed to Boston College, so there will be a bit of a war for his services. An ultra-skilled winger, Tolvanen is a top 2017 NHL prospect with excellent playmaking ability and a quick release.
3. Filip Hronek, D – Saginaw Spirit (OHL): The first NHL-drafted player selected, Hronek is a Detroit Red Wings prospect with great smarts and skill. The Red Wings want him in the CHL and Saginaw is in-state, as a bonus. He’ll join a blueline that already boasts Oilers pick Markus Niemelainen and Maple Leafs selection Keaton Middleton.
4. Nico Hischier, LW – Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL): Halifax has been great with import picks (Timo Meier, Nikolaj Ehlers, Jakub Voracek) and Hischier could be another gem. A top-rated Swiss skater for the 2017 NHL draft, Hischier brings a lot of offensive skill to the table.
5. German Rubtsov, C – Chicoutimi Sagueneens (QMJHL): According to his draft combine interviews, Rubtsov was in the process of getting out of his KHL contract and wanted to come over to North America. If the Sags land the Philadelphia Flyers first-rounder, they’ll get a big, smart two-way center.
6. Tom Hedberg, D – Barrie Colts (OHL): A modern offensive defenseman in the Oliver Ekman-Larsson/Erik Karlsson mould, Hedberg is a 2017 NHL draft prospect who was also apparently considered by Mississauga. Now the Colts have the right-shot blueliner in their stable.
7. Vasily Glotov, C – Cape Breton Screaming Eagles (QMJHL): A smaller player with a lot of skill, Glotov is quick and agile with great edgework. The Buffalo Sabres grabbed him in the seventh round on the weekend and now Cape Breton is trying to get him to the ‘Q.’ I think they have a good shot.
8. Filip Ahl, LW – Regina Pats (WHL): A powerful winger with nice hands, Ahl was drafted by the Ottawa Senators in 2015, so his stay in junior will be brief. But apparently he is interested in coming over, so the Pats will have a new weapon up front.
9. Janne Kuokkanen, C – London Knights (OHL): Selected by the Carolina Hurricanes on the weekend, Kuokkanen is a talented goal-scorer with a quick release who can do damage on the power play. The Knights rarely strike out in the Import Draft, so don’t be surprised to see him united with fellow Finn Olli Juolevi.
10. Eetu Tuulola, RW – Everett Silvertips (WHL): Taken by the Calgary Flames on the weekend, Tuulola is a big winger who competes well but still needs to round out his game and his skating. Junior would be a great place to do so, if he chooses to go that route. Tuulola won gold with Finland at the world under-18s.
Other notables: Kristian Vesalainen was selected by OHL Flint and Urho Vaakanainen by OHL Windsor, but their agent told me neither is coming over this year. Both are high-end 2017 prospects who have good set-ups back in Europe. OHL Mississauga took L.A. Kings selection Jacob Moverare, but with the Steelheads recently trading for Red Wings pick Vili Saarijarvi, something’s gotta give. You can only have two imports on your roster and Mississauga also has Alex Nylander (Buffalo, eighth overall) right now. Another interesting name is Lias Andersson, a skilled 2017 prospect taken by OHL Kitchener. I can’t confirm if the Rangers have a beat on him or if they gambled with the pick; these things can be pretty fluid.