Monday, July 10, 2023

2023 CHL Import Draft Review

On July 5th, the Canadian Hockey League held its annual Import Draft. It is here, CHL teams get the opportunity to add import talent to their roster. There are two rounds of the draft, and a team can pass on their pick at any time.

Just to remind you, CHL clubs are permitted to carry only two import players on their team or protected list every year. However, if a CHL team has an Import who was an NHL first round pick they receive the opportunity to add another player to their protected list to cover should that first round import make the pro level. There are other scenarios which can allow you to carry the rights of three (such as having an OA Import, having an Import on their protected list who didn't show the year prior, having a player signed to an NHL contract on your list, etc). It is a pretty complicated process.
With the continued banning of Russian/Belarussian players from the draft, the talent pool available is obviously not quite as large as it once was. However, there are still impact players. When we look at last year's selections, several could join the league this upcoming season such as Kasper Halttunen or Eduard Sale. For more information on last year's crop, check out last year's review (found here). Given that many teams won't know what to expect from so many of their players, predicting how imports succeed next year seems very difficult. 

Let's check out the data on the last five Import Drafts.

In 2018
24 of 27 players selected came to the OHL (88%)
20 of 27 players selected lasted the entire OHL season with their clubs (74%)
10 of 27 (open for debate) had a significant impact on their OHL teams (37%) 

In 2019
22 of 28 players selected came to the OHL (79%)
20 of 28 players selected lasted the entire OHL season with their clubs (71%)
10 of 28 (open for debate) had a significant impact on their OHL teams (36%)
In 2020
14 of 23 players selected came to the OHL (61%)
11 of 23 players selected lasted the entire OHL season with their clubs (48%)
7 of 23 (open for debate) had a significant impact on their OHL teams (30%)
In 2021
17 of 27 players selected came to the OHL (63%)
16 of 27 players selected lasted the entire OHL season with their clubs (59%)
8 of 27 (open for debate) had a significant impact on their OHL teams (30%)

In 2022
13 of 24 players selected came to the OHL (54%)
9 of 24 players selected lasted the entire OHL season with their clubs (38%)
6 of 24 (open for debate) had a significant impact on their OHL teams (25%)
As you can see, the number of import players that actually come over is declining rapidly. This trend was started because of the pandemic, but it has continued post pandemic. Part of it is the aforementioned ban on Russian/Belarussian players. Part of it is the fact that the USHL and NCAA is stealing a considerable amount of the CHL's thunder attracting top end European talent (especially netminders). And part of it is just the fact that European leagues have restructured their models to make sure younger players are being developed properly and afforded ice time. Will these numbers ever go back up to the 80+ percent that we used to see?  

Of course this article wouldn't have been possible without the help of these experts:
Steven Graves (@German_Spitfire)
Czech Prospects (@CZprospects)
Matej Deraj (@MatoDeraj)
McKeen's Hockey (@mckeenshockey)
Here are the reports:

1. Erie Otters - Martin Misiak - Center/Wing
The Saginaw Spirit's misfortune is the Erie Otters gain. The Spirit were not able to hold on to Misiak's rights last year and he re-entered the Import Draft this year allowing Erie to take him first. On one hand, you might have expected Erie to take an '05 or '06 who better fit their timeline, however on the other hand, Misiak is a potential impact forward coming off a USHL championship with Youngstown. The addition of Misiak probably moves Carey Terrance to the wing, giving Erie a one/two punch of Misiak and Fimis down the middle. They have to be hoping that Misiak can reconnect with former national team teammate Ondrej Molnar to bring out the best in his game too. The Chicago Blackhawks second round is a lock to report.
Scouting Report:
Misiak projects as a versatile middle six forward thanks to his strength on and off the puck, his strong skating, and his solid two-way awareness. Playing both at center and the wing, Misiak competes hard at both ends and will use his size to help win battles along the wall. With a powerful stride, he can be effective on the counterattack and he is middle of the ice focused, always looking to get the puck and himself to the net front. More of a playmaker than a goal scorer, Misiak’s decision making and confidence with the puck grew significantly later in the USHL season as he developed chemistry with fellow draft eligible forward William Whitelaw. All in all, Misiak’s safe floor will make him intriguing to NHL teams. His strong play down the stretch suggests that there is further room for growth in his power game and play driving ability. Does he have the vision or creativity to be a top of the line-up player? Likely not, but with his versatility, he should find a role at the pro level. - McKeen's Draft Guide 2023

4. Niagara IceDogs - Urban Podrekar - Defense
The IceDogs need players, plain and simple. A Slovenian defender, Podrekar spent a lot of time in the AlpsHL last year, a mid-tier pro league in Central Europe that OHL fans might remember as the preferred destination of OHL players during the covid shutdown. What are the Dogs going to get from Podrekar? That remains to be seen, but he almost assuredly will report. 
Scouting Report:
- pretty hard finding a lot of information about Podrekar, so how about hearing from him on his game?

7. Soo Greyhounds - Arttu Karki - Defense
With the selection of Karki, a player that I've been told is very serious about coming over, one has to think that the dreams of Julian Lutz or Noel Nordh coming to the OHL are all but squashed. Regardless, Karki is a strong offensive defender with the tools to become a quality two-way under the right development. Adding another high end player to this blueline is a great decision by management. The top four of Kudryavtsev, Gibson, Virgillio, and Karki could be very solid net year. A Vegas 3rd round selection this year, Karki should be a lock to come over.
Scouting Report:
He's a rangy, fluid defenseman who can also move the puck well. His physical development took a big step last season compared to the one before it and spikes in points and overall on-ice impact followed. Does a great job consistently staying in motion, easily shifting his weight and changing directions, and usually only needs to use a few of his long steps to get where he wants to go in the play. He is very elusive at the offensive blueline for a big man, using his feet and hands to open up lanes. Usually elects to pass first, but his wrist shot, and slap shot are also legitimate weapons, and he has finally started to trust them more. There are still times where he defers to his teammates for play-driving and sits back a little too much overall, and some improvement there would go a long way. It's almost scary to think of what he could look like if he ever finds a mean streak and gets more pep in his step. Despite being a little older for this class his game is still growing quickly, and with no end in sight for his developmental runway it doesn't look like it's going to slow down any time soon. - McKeen's Draft Guide 2023

10. Kingston Frontenacs - Emil Pieniniemi - Defense
Definitely a strong decision by Kingston to use this selection on a defender. Definitely the weakest component of the roster on paper, Pieniniemi was a recent third round selection of the Pittsburgh Penguins. The 6'2 blueliner is intelligent and mobile. He's not likely to be a massive offensive presence, but he should be able to log some big minutes for Kingston should he come over. He did sign an extension with Karpat in December of last year, so it remains to be seen whether he does, in fact, report. But Kingston will be recruiting hard (similar to how they'll also be pushing for Gavin McCarthy).
Scouting Report:
Pieniniemi is one of those “jack of all trades” defenders who is solid enough at everything but does not have a true standout quality. For a 6-foot-2 defender, he does move quite well, and his strong mobility is the key to his success as a composed two-way player. He plays a generally mistake free game and is solid in coverage with good defensive zone awareness. However, without high end skill or physicality, what’s the upside? Is this a player with a true NHL projection? We feel comfortable with selecting him in this range, but not earlier. A potential bottom pairing defender who could provide solid depth at some point. - McKeen's Draft Guide 2023

13. Oshawa Generals - Rasmus Kumpulainen - Center
All of your Finns belong to us! The run on top end Finnish prospects from the 2023 NHL draft continued with the selection of big center Kumpulainen. The idea behind this selection is to give Oshawa a great one/two punch down the middle with Cal Ritchie and Kumpulainen, who's kind of a similar player. With this pick and the selection of Svozil in the second round, the writing is on the wall to bid adieu to Kimo Gruber, who failed to live up to the high expectations placed on him coming into the year. A second round selection of the Minnesota Wild, I would expect Kumpulainen to report without a guaranteed spot in the Pelicans Liiga team.
Scouting Report:
A large, rangy center who plays with some artistic flair, Kumpulainen’s star has been rising steadily this winter. Strong on his edges and a master at entering the offensive zone against similarly aged peers, Kumpulainen likes to establish the play and get things set up. Great posture and effortless strides make this seem like kids play and he has a knack for slowing down the game to fit his schedule. Interestingly, his powerplay spot on the right face-off circle benefits from such play-inducing puck control, but also because he’s shown a knack for taking accurate one-timers. Some strong showings for the national team throughout the winter led to a showcasing at the U18 Worlds, where his five points and +5 in five games didn’t quite reflect how he, at times, played for the Leijonat. What we saw was a player with a quick release who was noticeable in his economic movement in a number of situations, coming out of corners with pucks, and placing considerable emphasis on backchecking while maintaining his assignments in the defensive zone, time and again ready to get his big body involved. A number of opposition plays ended with Kumpulainen pinning a puck-carrier against the boards or him poke-checking the puck away and furthering it to his teammates. Had he learned from the situations back home that had garnered him that team-worse -9 rating? At the end of the day, players his size who can masterfully weave on their edges and glide around the ice with the puck so effortlessly will always leave suitors with visions of grandeur. - McKeen's Draft Guide 2023

16. Mississauga Steelheads - Jakub Fibigr - Defense
It was very smart of the Steelheads to target a defender at this year's Import Draft as it is clearly the team's weakness heading into the year. Fibigr is considered to be one of the top defenders in a strong 2006 born Czech defense class. NHL Draft eligible this year, the team will look to convince him to come over to join an already loaded young group that will have a TON of eyeballs on them this season.
Scouting Report:
Fibigr is a strong two-way defender. Skating is very much a strength of his currently. He has great mobility. He also has a great shot from the point that gives him powerplay quarterback potential. - Czech Prospects

19. Brantford Bulldogs - Adam Jiricek - Defense
The optimist in me says, "man I love this pick and I hope Jiricek comes over." The younger brother of Columbus' prospect (and former 6th overall pick) David Jiricek, Adam is a potential top ten pick in 2024. He was a standout at the most recent U18's despite being an underager and has already debuted in the Czech men's league. But the pessimist in me says, "there's no chance that he comes over." The reality is that David was drafted into the CHL and did not come, electing to stay in Czechia. Adam is all but guaranteed to receive top ice time for HC Plzen. That does not bode well for Hamilton's chances. Though I do respect the home run swing.
Scouting Report:
Adam plays a very similar game to his brother David. He offers a ton of skill from the blueline and his point shot is a major weapon. He can play with tempo thanks to strong skating ability. He loves to play aggressively and jump up or pinch. His defensive game does need some work, not unlike his brother in his draft year. - Czech Prospects

22. Sudbury Wolves - Jakub Vondras - Goaltender
The goaltending position was an absolute nightmare for the Wolves last year, as they tried out a few OA's to help solidify the role. So opting to select Vondras, a recent Carolina Hurricanes draft pick, makes a ton of sense. A 2004 born player, Vondras would likely only be a one year player, but if he performs well, it would be the difference between Sudbury having home ice in round one or being more of a pretender. 
Scouting Report: 
Vondras has solid size at 6'4. He's quite athletic for a larger netminder. Quick reflexes. Quick pads. His play tracking has improved a lot to become a strength. - Czech Prospects

25. Kitchener Rangers - Tomas Pobezal - Center
Pobezal found his way into the limelight this year after playing for Slovakia at the U18's as an underager. With a mid September birth date, he's actually not NHL draft eligible until 2025. There is a lot of hope that Pobezal can grow into the next lottery pick for the Slovaks. Would he entertain the idea of playing in the OHL? I'd say this year is pretty unlikely. He has signed with HK Nitra of the Slovak men's league and the expectation is that he, at least, starts the year in Slovakia. After that? Who knows. But this is a shrewd pick by the Rangers in what is likely to be a rebuild year. If Pobezal doesn't come until next big deal.
Scouting Report:
Skilled offensive forward with great hands and a slick shot. He´s a bit undersized (5´10”) and needs to gain more weight to be more competitive along the boards, but plays bigger than his size and has an edge to his game. One of the oldest players eligible for the 2025 NHL Entry Draft, but definitely displays first-round talent, at least for now. He led the Slovak U18 National Team in scoring for two straight years. He didn´t show very much at the last U18 World Championship, but it was mainly due to him recovering from a serious injury. He´s not very likely to join the Kitchener Rangers now, since he´s expected to play for HK Nitra in Slovak top tier league, the same team Šimon Nemec, Adam Sýkora and Juraj Pekarčík got drafted from. - Matej Deraj

28. Owen Sound Attack - Martin Matejicek - Defense
Nolan Seed and Teddy Sawyer won't return to Owen Sound this year and that leaves some ice time to be had on the back-end. Thus the use of an import pick on Matejicek to go with now OHL veteran Servac Petrovsky. Matejicek was a fixture on the Czech U18 team this player, playing a key role at the Hlinka/Gretzky and U18's. He was not drafted, but he was ranked by NHL Central Scouting.
Scouting Report:
Kind of a defense first defender who is smart, but also hard to play against. He plays a physically aggressive game. Matejicek can move the puck efficiently too. - Czech Prospects

31. Peterborough Petes - Rio Kaiser - Defense
A massive German defender (6'7) playing in Austria (at the Red Bull Academy), Kaiser is one of the youngest players selected this year. With an October, 2006 birth date, he's not NHL draft eligible until 2025. It's pretty clear the direction that Peterborough wants to take this year with this selection as Kaiser will be joining a defense group that already has the 6'5 Konnor Smith and 6'3 Samuel Mayer. I suppose the hope is that Kaiser can come in and be a solid #4-5 option on a Petes team that is likely headed for a rebuild. 
Scouting Report:
This selection puzzled me a bit, not that I don’t think highly of Kaiser, but more so that when most imports are selected, they’re expected to have an immediate impact. Kaiser is a project, and the best word to describe him would be RAW - he’s a late birthday that has so much growth still left to do with his game, and that’s going to take time - I’m not sure how patient the Petes will him and I’m afraid they’ll see lack of production from this big, German kid and hit the reset button come the next import draft. So if I think this, why did the Petes select him? Well simple, his profile is crazy as a 16 year old, he is 6’7” & 210lbs; when he steps on the ice, he looks like a man amongst boys. Now, although he’s a big guy, Kaiser hasn’t fully learned how to utilize his size to his advantage, he often times shies away from contact and gets out muscled in front by weaker competition. Offensively, he has a bomb from the point, he can rip the puck from the blueline, and this often causes panic in front of the net and leads to second chance opportunities for his team. His decision making leaves some to be desired however, and he tends to throw away pucks when pressured at the blueline. That being said, he does have upside, if he can grasp the speed of the North American game quick and use his size to his advantage, he could very well look like an excellent selection down the line. - Steven Graves

34. Guelph Storm - Vilmer Alriksson - Wing
A fourth round selection by the Vancouver Canucks this year, Alriksson wasn't really on our radar at McKeen's Hockey. He's an absolutely massive young man at 6'6, 215lbs, but his offensive production in the J20 wasn't exactly eye popping. The Scott Walker and Todd Harvey connection in Vancouver probably means that Alriksson will be coming over. The question will be...can Alriksson be more of an impact player than Valentin Zhugin, who Guelph gave up the rights to in order to select Alriksson? 
Scouting Report:
- I read through a lot of reports on Alriksson following his selection by the Canucks and the consensus seems to be that Alriksson is intriguing because he's actually a strong skater for a guy his size. There's a need to use his size more to his advantage and a need to improve his puck skill in order to be more consistently involved offensively. Here's a terrific article about Alriksson with some scouting tidbits.

37. Flint Firebirds - Markas Samenas - Wing
It seems that Simon Slavicek will be back in Flint this year, which I actually think is a good thing given how well he started to play later in the year and into the playoffs. He could be an impact player this year. So with their other Import spot, Flint opted to take a player out of the QMJHL who was released. Samenas played for Acadie-Bathurst last season and the big bodied winger (6'5, 215lbs) largely struggled to be anything more than a depth piece. We'll see how he fits in the Firebirds lineup.
Scouting Report:
Here's a link to Flint's press release on the selection which has some quotes on the player.

40. Saginaw Spirit - Valentin Zhugin - Wing
The Spirit stayed close to home by selection former Guelph Storm winger Valentin Zhugin. I've seen some criticism of the selection online, but I actually really like this for Saginaw. His run and gun style of play fits Saginaw a lot better than it did Guelph. There's no denying his skill level. If he can bulk up and become a little stronger on the puck this offseason, he could really help Saginaw in their Memorial Cup season. Now...will he be as much of an impact player as Misiak who they had to let go of? Doubtful.
Scouting Report:
From a production standpoint, Zhugin does not deserve to be drafted. This is especially true when you factor in that he's a late born 2004 playing in his second OHL season. Yet, I find myself ranking him fairly high still because his offensive upside is pretty significant. When you are talking about drafting players late, you want to highlight and find guys who can be difference makers if everything goes according to plan...even if that's unlikely. Zhugin oozes skill and he is an electric skater. He blends the two well too, making him a difficult cover when he gets time and space to skate with the puck. The problem is the application of said speed and skill. For one, he lacks the strength to consistently play through traffic and can be easily angled off to or kept to the perimeter. For two, his decision making with the puck leaves a lot to be desired. He, quite frankly, skates himself into trouble way too often. This is why the production does not match the skill. If he is able to add strength and become more middle of the ice focused, do we see him show more poise and patience knowing that he can fight through checks or take contact to make a play? It's a risky gamble, but the upside may be worth the risk for an NHL team. - Brock Otten, 2023 NHL Draft Rankings

43. Sarnia Sting - Roman Kukumberg - Wing
The Sting are searching for another high end import to pair with Sandis Vilmanis next year and they are hoping Kukumberg can be that guy. He was drafted by the Chicoutimi Saguenéens of the QMJHL in last year's Import Draft, but did not come over for his NHL draft year. That may have been a mistake as Kukumberg ended up not getting a ton of ice time back home and ultimately went undrafted. Perhaps he can be persuaded to come to the OHL to help him get back on the draft radar. 
Scouting Report:
Competitive two-way winger who likes to play hard. Strong along the boards, solid skater and a great forechecker. He didn´t show much offense in the recent season, but he mainly played with men and had a limited ice time. Went undrafted in the recent NHL Entry Draft, but might gain some attention as an overager if he has a successful season. Kukumberg definitely has some bottom-six potential. His situation is less clear, since his current team (Slovan Bratislava) would like to keep him in Slovakia, but Kukumberg might be tempted by having more ice-time and offensive responsibilities in the OHL. - Matej Deraj

46. London Knights - Daniil Ustinkov - Defense
I was really hoping that someone would take Ustinkov because I've really enjoyed watching him Internationally. That said, with London selecting him, I'm a little bit disappointed because it would appear that the writing is on the wall for him to come over in the future and not next season. London's defensive group is pretty stacked right now and the team is hopeful that Kasper Halttunen joins Ruslan Gazizov up front. Of course, if Ustinkov is interested in coming over this year, I'm sure London would make room for him by dealing defensive depth and dealing Gazizov. I believe that he would be worth it. What happens here will be something to monitor closer to the start of the season.
Scouting Report:
Ustinkov is a strange surname for a Swiss born player but he has lived in the country since the age of 5, so his entire development as a hockey player has been at the hands of the Swiss Ice Hockey Federation. Truth be told, Ustinkov is one of my favourite 2024 NHL Draft prospects at the moment, and is a potential first round selection for the upcoming draft. Ustinkov is just such an exiting player to watch create offence from the blueline - he is so poised and precise with the puck on his stick, always thinking a step ahead on what he wants to do next. This confidence paired with his creativity when handling the puck has my eyes glued to him whenever he is carrying the puck. His defensive game leaves a bit to be desired, he does have trouble boxing out players in front of his net, and he is too quick to commit to simple fakes by the opposition. That being said, he is quite the physical player, he doesn’t shy away from contact, and in many cases - welcomes it! He’s not a devastating physical player by any means but he picks his spots well and he is quite effective at spectating his man from puck. Now unfortunately for London fans, it looks like Ustinkov has committed to playing for Zurich in the top Men's league in Switzerland this upcoming season, however if things go sour with that relationship, I don’t think Ustinkov will hesitate coming to North America and joining the Knights. - Steven Graves

49. Barrie Colts - Michael Brandsegg-Nygård - Center
Barrie has opened up a whole host of options for themselves with this selection. It seems all but assured that NHL first round pick (and 2022 Import selection) Eduard Sale will be suiting up for them. But they've used this pick on another potential first round pick (in 2024), have also used their second round import pick and still have the option of keeping Artur Cholach as an OA. Nygard is a late born 2005 who already got in some action at the men's level with Mora (in the Allsvenskan) and will be likely hoping to do so full time this season. The Norwegian forward also helped Norway qualify for this year's main group of the WJC's. He could be a special player but it does seem more likely that this pick was made with next season in mind. However, never say never.
Scouting Report:
Nygård is the most hyped Norwegian prospect, probably ever. He and fellow import draft selection Stian Solberg headline what is poised to be the best draft class in Norway’s history. Both players have potential to be first rounders come draft day - A feat that would be huge for the nation of Norway who’s highest NHL draft pick was Marius Holtet, who went 42nd overall in 2002. There are 3 defining attributes to Nygård, and those are his IQ at both ends of the rink, his motor, and his shot. Nygård is an extremely intelligent forward, he reads and reacts to plays at a high level, always positioning himself well to create chances in the offensive zone, or nullify it in the defensive end. His shot is excellent, if he is able to get time and space within 10 feet of the goal mouth, he’s going to make the other team pay more often than not. Nygård is good at picking spots from in tight and isn’t afraid of getting his nose dirty. Then there is his motor, watching him, you’ll never see him give up on a play, he always has his feet moving trying to do whatever he can to help out. If Barrie is able to get Nygård over, that would be a massive get as he should come in and produce right away. He should spend the majority of the season playing against men with Mora IK, in the Swedish second division, however just like with Eduard Sale, things can change in a year's time. - Steven Graves

52. Windsor Spitfires - Josef Eichler - Defense
The Tomas Hebek selection definitely didn't work out for Windsor last season. So...why not go back to the same well this year? Eichler is a late born 2005 who played for the Czechs at both the Hlinka and U18's, although in more of a depth role. Of course, Windsor could have just kept Sobolev around, but they already have an OA crunch heading into next year, so this makes more sense. Truthfully, Eichler sounds a lot like Sobolev anyway.
Scouting Report:
Very physical defender, much more than his size would suggest (6'0). Eichler can make a solid first pass and has offensive potential. - Czech Prospects

55. North Bay Battalion - Ihnat Pazii - Center
Really interesting selection by North Bay. Pazii is a smaller Ukranian forward who has been playing in the U.S. the last few years. He played in Chicago last year, but with the Anaheim Jr. Ducks the year prior. For what it's worth, Pazii outscored WHL'er Camerin Cardona that year, and Cardona is a fairly well regarded young American player with Tri-City. There were reports that he would look towards the NCAA route and was recently drafted into the USHL, but he's already signed with North Bay. So there you go!
Scouting Report:
- Not much out there on Pazii, but here's an article with some quotes from Adam Dennis on the young forward, who is not draft eligible until 2025 (thanks to a late birthday).

57. Ottawa 67's - Tuomas Uronen - Wing
With news that Vinzenz Rohrer would be heading to Switzerland to play pro, the 67's suddenly had a huge hole to fill on their roster and they're hoping that Uronen, a Vegas 6th round pick in 2023, can do just that. Uronen did sign a pro extension with HIFK recently (in May), so that may complicate his transfer. However, I'm sure Vegas would love to see him in Ottawa, on a competitive team that could give him significant top six ice time. 
Scouting Report:
Uronen entered the year with a lot of promise as a potential high selection in the draft, however in our opinion he just failed to build on a strong Hlinka/Gretzky Cup performance in the summer. He flashes high end skill and finishing ability in transition, but he is too often a passenger kept to the perimeter. - McKeen's Draft Guide 2023

73. Oshawa Generals - David Svozil - Defense
This was a great target by the Generals. Svozil already moved away for hockey last season, transferring to Finland (in the Ilves program) from Czechia. Additionally, his older brother Stanislav, achieved great success coming to the WHL. David may not be quite the hyped prospect that Stanislav was at the same age, but he did play for Czechia at the U17's and is considered a possible NHL draft candidate this season. The hope is that Svozil can grow to be an integral part of the defense moving forward along with other youngsters Danford and Marrelli.
Scouting Report:
Svozil has good size and a solid frame for his age, already bigger than Stanislav. He is a smooth skater with good offensive skills and that gives him great offensive upside. Svozil also flashes a physical game and could become a quality two-way type. - Czech Prospects

76. Mississauga Steelheads - Tomas Galvas - Defense
As mentioned, the blueline is a real weak spot for the Steelheads currently so why not use both Import spots on defenders, especially ones with the potential to be impact players. Tomas is the much younger brother of former Chicago Blackhawks prospect (now UFA) Jakub Galvas. I believe he is less likely to show up compared to Fibigr because he has already played pro in the Czech men's league. That said, perhaps convincing them to come over together could work.
Scouting Report:
Really smart defender. Hockey IQ is one of his best traits. Strong decision maker at both ends. Galvas is a really strong skater and he has good hands too, allowing him to make an impact in transition. Despite being undersized, he shows an ability to play in tight spaces, excelling in traffic. - Czech Prospects

79. Brantford Bulldogs - Dominik Badinka - Defense
The strategy by Brantford here is quite bold. Their first pick was Adam Jiricek, the top defender in this Czech class. Their second pick, Badinka, may just be the second best Czech defender for the draft this year. He's not an '06, but a late born 2005. He played in Finland this past season, which IMO, means he could be persuaded to come to the OHL after already displacing himself this past season. He is much more likely to come than Jiricek.
Scouting Report:
Very mobile defender with offensive upside. Makes an excellent first pass. Has a high IQ, especially with the puck, making him a solid playmaker. He can quarterback the powerplay, taking control from the point or the half wall. - Czech Prospects

85. Kitchener Rangers - Aron Kiviharju - Defense
You have to shoot your shot. The Rangers had a chance to make a few extra picks given the unclarity surrounding their import situation and they used this one on potential top five pick in 2024, Aron Kiviharju. The smooth skating Finnish defender is ultra talented as a puck mover and has already been an impact player on the World's stage. However, there would appear to be no chance that he comes over after already playing for HIFK in Liiga.
Scouting Report:
- I've seen Kiviharju a fair amount, so I could easily write a report on him, but my friend and fellow bald podcaster, Tony Ferrari, has already done that. I thought I'd share that here.

94. Guelph Storm - Damian Slavik - Goaltender
There weren't many goaltenders taken this year, but the Storm did opt for Slavik, a big Slovak netminder who served as a backup on the U18 team this year. Guelph is facing a bit of an OA crunch heading into the year so if they can get Slavik to commit, it could allow the Storm to move Patrick Leaver to another team searching for a starter. 
Scouting Report:
Tall goalie with a solid size (6´4”), but still a bit slim. He´s quick enough, yet he´s not the fastest goalie in the world and doesn´t have the explosiveness and athleticism of smaller goalies. He´s calm and poised in the net and has a good glove. He displays solid potential. Slávik was the #3 goalie on the Slovak U18 team that lost the bronze medal game at the recent World Championships of said age category. He played well in the second men´s division with the U18 team and juniors’ levels. The goalie situation in Guelph seems less clear, but I can see Slávik jumping to the OHL. - Matej Deraj

109. Barrie Colts - Endo Meier - Wing
As mentioned, Barrie has a ton of options in regards to their import slots this season. Meier does seem like the most likely player to join Eduard Sale with the Colts. A talented offensive forward, Meier was solid for Switzerland at the most recent U18's, but due to a lack of high end physical tools, he went unselected in the NHL draft. The hope is that Meier can come in and offset some graduations up front (Vierling, Cardwell, McDonnell) by claiming a spot in the top six...or at the very least the top nine.
Scouting Report:
Passed over in the 2023 NHL Draft, Meier is an odd player. When you watch him play, he doesn’t stand out because he doesn’t have a flashy skillset, he’s not very fast, isn’t physical, his shot is average, and yet no matter where he has played he has produced offence at a respectable rate. This can be attributed to how smart of a player he is, it is truly the one attribute of his game that I would say is above average. He is so good at putting himself in spots to make something happen in the offensive zone; it’s almost subtle with how good he is at being in the right spots at the right time. Meier was actually the leading scorer for the Swiss at the most recent U18’s where he recorded 6 points in 5 games. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in Barrie this upcoming season, but I don’t know how well he’ll get acclimated to the North American game. - Steven Graves

115. North Bay Battalion - Alex Cajkovic - Defense
The younger brother of former Tampa Bay Lightning third round selection Maxim, Alex is one of the few players to officially sign in the OHL already. A 2005 born defender, Cajkovic played in Sweden the last two years after a few years in Austria prior to that. Truthfully, his stats in the J18 league weren't mind blowing and he certainly wasn't on the NHL draft radar. Typically strong 17-18 year old players play up in the J20 in Sweden. Cajkovic was also not part of the Slovak Hlinka/Gretzky or U18 teams. Expectations are probably best kept relatively low here.
Scouting Report:
Čajkovič is a two-way defenseman who likes to join the attack. He´s a solid skater and doesn´t mind playing a bit more physical. He wasn´t part of the Slovak U18 National Team at the recent tournaments, but has some international experience. He spent the last two years in the Swedish U18 league. His older brother is Max Čajkovič, a former first overall CHL Import Draft pick (2018), who was recently traded with Pat Maroon to Minnesota. Alex Čajkovič was quickly signed by the North Bay Battalion, so he´s expected to join the team and spend the next season in the OHL. - Matej Deraj

117. Ottawa 67's - Kimi Korbler - Wing 
Thanks to Pavel Mintyukov and Vinzenz Rohrer moving on, the 67's had two picks in the draft to make this year. With the first pick they took Uronen, someone who should make an immediate impact in their top six. In Korbler, the 67's are taking more of a long term project. With a late October 2006 birthday, Korbler isn't NHL draft eligible until 2025. However, he is one of the more highly regarded Swiss players in the age group and should be a key player on the Swiss Hlinka/Gretzky Cup team. The hope is that he would come over and play in the bottom six next year and then progress to the point where he could be a top six player in the future.
Scouting Report:
Kimi is one of many promising players among the 2006 born age group from Switzerland. He is a late birthday so this means he isn’t draft eligible until the 2025 NHL Draft. Now the first thing you’ll notice about Körbler is how fast he is; he is great at using his speed to catch defenders flat footed so he can attack to the outside then cut to the net. He is fearless when doing this and doesn’t shy away from contact. He is deadly in transition because of his speed and could be a very good penalty killer because of it. When the game slows down, however, he tends to get lost on the ice - he isn’t the smartest player, so his decision making can be bad when he has any sort of pressure. Turnovers can be an issue. I don’t know if he’ll be an offensive force if he comes to the CHL, but he reminds me of former Ottawa 67’s import selection Vinzenz Rohrer (at the same age) so maybe the 67’s are quite good at developing these kinds of talents. - Steven Graves

Saturday, July 1, 2023

2023 NHL Entry Draft Results

The 2023 NHL Entry Draft commenced recently and, just like last year, 35 OHL players had their names called by NHL clubs. This has been right in line with the 30 or so taken the last few years.

Below you can find the results for OHL players, as well as my draft ranking before the draft (for comparison's sake).

Some general thoughts on how the draft played out: 

- Highest players to go unselected from my rankings included Ondrej Molnar, Matthew Soto, Charlie Robertson, and Donovan McCoy

- The OHL's crop of "re-entry" guys certainly didn't go even close to how I had them ranked. The focus was on size and more size there with the likes of Xhekak, Roobroeck, Julien, etc off the board first. Granted, I had mentioned that I didn't like the crop of OA players available from the OHL this year and that I didn't see many getting selected. While it doesn't line up with my rankings, I'm not all that surprised at how it ended up going.

- Lots of people are talking about the Leafs picking Easton Cowan in round one. I had mentioned on twitter how I believed he was going quite early. Lots of Leafs fans are hilariously talking about how the pick was bad because they could have gotten him later. I can assure you that would not have been the case. Lots of teams were circling Cowan as a top 50 prospect this year after his terrific playoff performance. 

- The top 12 OHL players taken this year were my top 12 OHL players ranked. The order wasn't the exact same, but it's definitely interesting to see that. 

My RankPlayer NamePOOHL TeamNHL TeamRDPick
1Colby BarlowWOwen SoundWPJ118
2Cal RitchieCOshawaCOL1
3Nick LardisWHamiltonCHI367
4Quentin Musty
5Oliver Bonk
6Carson Rehkopf
7Carey TerranceFErieANA2
8Coulson PitreWFlintANA3
9Beau AkeyDBarrieEDM256
10Tristan BertucciDFlintDAL261
11Andrew GibsonDSSMDET2
12Easton CowanWLondon
13Hunter Brzustewicz   DKitchenerVAN375
14Luca PinelliFOttawaCBJ4114
15Cam AllenDGuelphWSH5136
16Quinton BurnsDKingstonSTL374
17Denver BarkeyF
18Matthew ManiaDSudburyLAK5150
19Ondrej Molnar

20Ethan MiedemaWWindsorBUF4109
21Joey WillisCSaginawNSH4111
22Alex PharandFSudburyCHI499
23Ethan HayCFlintTBL7211
24Brad GardinerCOttawa
25Angus MacDonellFMississaugaDAL6189
26Matthew SotoWKingston

27Cooper FosterC
28Charlie RobertsonGNorth Bay

29Cole BrownWHamiltonNJ6164
30Donovan McCoyDPeterborough

31Owen OutwaterF

32Alex AssadourianCNiagara

33Matthew MayichDOttawaSTL6170
34Valentin ZhuginWGuelph

35Nathaniel DayGFlintEDM6184
36Bronson RideDNiagara

37Konnor SmithDPeterboroughANA497
38Anthony RomaniFNorth Bay    

39Zach BowenGLondon

40Lucas MooreDHamilton

41Calem MangoneW

42James PetrovskiDOwen Sound

43Alexis DaviaultDErie

44Luke McNamaraCSaginaw

45Matt AndonovskiDKitchenerOTT5140
46Marco MignosaWSSM

47Adam Zidlicky

48Declan WaddickFNiagara

49Joey CostanzoG

50Blake SmithD

1Rodwin DionicioDWindsorANA5129
2Brady StonehouseW

3Spencer Sova

4Beau JelsmaWBarrie

5Braeden BowmanW

6Kocha DelicC

7Djibril ToureDSudbury

8Oliver PeerCWindsor

9Connor PunnettDBarrie

10Dylan RoobroeckCOshawaNYR6178

N/AFlorian XhekajW
HamiltonMTL4    101      
N/A     Patrick Thomas  W  Hamilton           WSH     4     104

N/A     Jacob Julien       W  London             WPJ      5    146