Thursday, June 30, 2011

2011 CHL Import Draft: Thoughts & Notes

Well, the 2011 CHL Import Draft has come and gone and I will say with confidence that my main prediction came true: aside from Maatta, Grigorenko, and perhaps Soberg, my ranked players either went all over the map or were passed over entirely.

If you're ready for a long read, check out my thoughts regarding all of (what I consider to be) the significant picks in this year's import draft.

I've also created a commitment tracker, which tabs who is actually coming over to North America to play in the CHL. This will be updated regularly.

  • London taking Finnish defenceman Olli Maatta with the #1 pick in the draft makes perfect sense. After trading away Reid McNeill in a package for this pick the Knights really only had Canadiens' 2010 first round pick Jarred Tinordi and Penguins' 2011 second round pick Scott Harrington. The rest of the team's blueline corps has combined for a measly total of 224 career OHL games - including playoff action.
  • Quebec loves their Russian talent, and if Grigorenko comes over to play in the QMJHL I strongly believe he will be a top 5 pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.
  • Much to my surprise, the Calgary Hitmen took Victor Rask with the #3 overall pick. My thought at the time: "they better damn-well make sure they sign him." While it's still early, the chances are looking pretty slim now.
  • Adding hulking Slovakian blueliner Peter Ceresnak, the New York Rangers' 2011 sixth round pick, to the lineup would be a huge move for making the Petes' lineup. Place Ceresnak (6'4", 203 lbs) into a top 4 with Slater Koekkoek (6'2", 183 lbs.; '12-eligible), Connor Boland (6'2", 180 lbs.; '13-eligible), and Steven Trojanovic (6'1", 195 lbs.). Add in Clark Seymour (6'4", 197 lbs.), Scott Coghlin (6'0, 170 lbs.; '12-eligible), and overager Barron Smith (6'5", 210 lbs.) and you have yourself what could be the OHL's most-improved blueline. It's amazing what time and a little injection of talent can do for a team in dire need of a turnaround.
  • I swore Ceresnak's rights were taken in last year's draft, hence the omission from my rankings: if I knew he was available he would definitely be in, at the very least, my top 10.
  • I don't know anything about #5 pick Petr Sidlik. It looks like he played the majority of the '10-'11 season in the Czech second-level men's league and represented the Czech Republic at the U18 tournament. Victoriaville traded up to take Sidlik so, for their sake, let's hope we'll be hearing all about him in the future.
  • Steffen Soberg gets the perfect chance to prove himself after getting drafted #6 to Swift Current of the WHL. Last season the Broncos rode overage goaltender Mark Friesen, playing him in 66 of the team's 72 games.
  • I didn't know a thing about Yegor Malenkikh until reading this. The key points of this article: Malenkikh is a big defender who can do everything well and wants to play in North America. If Yegor does decide to play for the Hounds, he should provide some very good depth for an up-and-coming blueline that already possesses Ryan Sproul (Detroit's 2011 second round pick), Gianluca Curcuruto (a top prospect for the 2012 NHL Entry Draft), and Darnell Nurse (the #3 overall selection in the 2011 OHL Priority Selection).
  • At #8 the Gatineau Olympiques took Tomas Hyka - another Czech player I can't seem to dig anything up on but the obvious. Hyka, a '92-born winger, put up almost a point per game with Mlada Boleslav's U20 team and earned 13 games worth of time with their Extraliga team. Hyka also represented the Czech Republic at the U18 tournament.
  • Awesome name alert: Rouyn-Noranda selected Swiss forward Sven Andrighetto with the pick the Huskies acquired in the deal which saw Quebec end up with Grigorenko. Andrighetto put up a solid 23 points in 36 games for the Swiss second-division's Zurich GCK Lions and then proceeded to score 5 points, including 3 goals, for Switzerland at this year's U18 championships.
  • At #12, Lethbridge scooped up big Swedish defender Albin Blomqvist who is reported to have agreed upon joining the Hurricanes for the '11-'12 season.
  • In an interesting move, the Belleville Bulls used the #13 selection on Daniil Zharkov, a big Russian forward that made the move from Russia's junior league to the USHL. Zharkov's point totals were not very impressive, to say the least, in either league so I'm curious to see what he's got on the ice for the Bulls.
  • Columbus's 2011 sixth round pick Lucas Sedlak gets taken at #14 by Chicoutimi. Neither Sedlak's size nor his numbers from Czech U20 league play impress me, yet he was assistant captain for the Czech Republic's U18 team and registered 5 points in 5 games.
  • Jonas Knutsen, the second of four Norwegians drafted on the day, was selected by the Prince Albert Raiders at #15. These prospects from the lesser-known hockey markets, such as Norway, always intrigue me, and Knutsen's 43 points in 32 games of Swedish U18 hockey make him one to watch.
  • Interesting to see Mississauga draft a '13-eligible Russian with their pick. I figured they would've drafted a guy to keep with the momentum from last season: perhaps they're unofficially in rebuild mode now?
  • The Shawinigan Cataractes, host of 2012 Memorial Cup, used their import selection on big Latvian defender Nikita Kolesnikovs, a 6'4" blueliner that can apparently hit and shoot the puck hard.
  • Another interesting, yet very predictable, move: the Edmonton Oil Kings use their import selection on Martin Gernat, a pick of the Oilers in the fifth round of the 2011 NHL Draft. Gernat should prove more useful than Marek Hrbas for the up-and-coming Oil Kings, and now the Oilers get to watch him progress on a bus fare.
  • Goaltender Johan Mattsson, picked by Chicago in the 7th round of this year's draft, was selected by the Sudbury Wolves and is apparently very excited to play for them in the fall.
  • With their second pick on the day, Quebec took another dynamic '94-born forward. This time the Remparts went with Nick Sorensen, a Dane playing in Rögle's system in Sweden. If Quebec can convince him to play QMJHL hockey instead of in Sweden's U20 league, they have themselves a prospect that could end up being a first round selection in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. After already scoring at a point per game pace in the U20 league as a 16 year old, I won't be surprised if Sorensen is a Rempart in October.
  • Another Russian taken from an unusual source, Val-d'Or used their import pick on 6'2" forward Vladislav Shalimov of the NAHL's Detroit Falcons.
  • Another pick for Prince Albert, another prospect from a smaller hockey market: the Raiders selected Kristaps Bazevics out of Lidingö's U18 team in Sweden.
  • Kamloops went with Tim Bozon out of Lugano's system in Switzerland. Bozon, an American-born player from France, moved to Switzerland early in his hockey career and has since progressed to score at more than a point per game pace in Switzerland's U20 league. Internationally, Bozon represents France and he led his U18 team in points at the Div. 1 U18 championships this year.
  • Erie must have been in touch with Brian Burke and his staff before this pick, which was used on Leafs' 2010 third round pick Sondre Olden. I love this move for Olden, will have the opportunity to not only prove himself as a legitimate prospect in the Leafs' system while possibly forming chemistry with one of the Leafs' best prospects in Greg McKegg, the Otters' captain.
  • Moncton selected '92-born Swedish forward Sebastian Dyk, who has confirmed that he will suit up for the Wildcats this upcoming season.
  • Brandon used their pick on high-scoring-but-pint-sized Swiss forward Alessio Bertaggia. The CHL has him listed at 5'8", 165 lbs. but buddy can score: this season he racked up 37 points in 20 games in Switzerland's U20 league.
  • David Elsner to the OHL makes a lot of sense, but Sault Ste. Marie must really think they have a shot at something this year - or else they're trying to fill a hole. Elsner is a very solid forward prospect (taken by Nashville in the seventh round of the 2010 draft) but as a '92 he will only be eligible for one season without taking up both an import slot and an overage slot.
  • I can't see Jonathan Iilahti leaving Finland to go play in the WHL for Vancouver, but as a sixth round pick of the Canucks in 2010 it could be a great chance for them to see what they're in for down the road.
  • Michael Schumacher, a 6'3" Swedish forward and 2011 seventh round draft pick (by Los Angeles), was selected by OHL Champion Owen Sound.
  • In a very surprising yet amazing move, Kelowna used their import selection on the USHL's Latvian star forward Zemgus Girgensons. I won't use this space to go over my opinion of Girgensons as I've already done so here and here, but this is a fantastic move and I hope to see Girgensons in a Rockets uniform even though he's committed to the University of Vermont for the '12-'13 season.
  • In another interesting move, rather than adding another Russian into the mix, Sarnia decided to select Chicago's 2010 second round pick Ludvig Rensfeldt. I really can't see Rensfeldt leaving Brynäs after getting promoted to the Elitserien last season, but Sarnia could hit a major home run if contract talks or whatever are stalled between Ludvig and his Swedish club.

    EDIT: I stand corrected - apparently Rensfeldt will make the move to the CHL (thanks Sav!). I would imagine Sarnia's going to try Ludvig with top 2012 NHL Draft prospects Nail Yakupov and Alex Galchenyuk, so prepare for that home run I mentioned above!
  • One of my highly ranked players lasted until the 60th pick: Marko Dano was selected by Prince George and should fit in quite nicely with fellow Slovakian Martin Marincin, who also comes from Trencin's system.
  • Even though most teams would have had their import slots used up, I was a little bit surprised to see that only 3 of 60 picks were used in the second round.
  • Contract issues aside, I can't believe nobody drafted Nikita Kucherov! Kucherov's offensive upside is through the roof and the fact he is NHL-drafted gives Tampa Bay some extra leverage if trying to pull him to North America - then again he would probably transition directly to the AHL if that were to happen.

1 comment:

  1. "I really can't see Rensfeldt leaving Brynäs after getting promoted to the Elitserien last season,"

    Rensfeldt is quoted in the Afton Bladet as saying he's probably going to the CHL and that Chicago agrees with the move.