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A Decade of CHL Import Draft Talent

 

Every year Canadian Hockey League teams have the opportunity to enhance their rosters through the Import Draft process selecting up to two players from outside North America.

While the transition period can vary as Import players adapt to the CHL style of play and a new community, many of these selections can turn into stars and true difference makers for clubs across the Western Hockey League, Ontario Hockey League, and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

Here’s a look back at a collection of the most notable picks made in the early stages of the last decade of drafts covering every spot from one to 20 across the span of 2010-19.

1. Andrei Svechnikov (Barrie Colts) 2017

Svechnikov went from being chosen first overall in the 2017 CHL Import Draft to second overall in the 2018 NHL Draft and hasn’t looked back since. The Russian’s undeniable talent produced 72 points including 40 goals in just 44 games for the Colts during his Rookie of the Year campaign in the OHL before making the jump straight to the Carolina Hurricanes where he’s delivered 98 points including some of the league’s most jaw dropping goals in 150 career NHL games to date.

Honourable mention: Olli Maatta (London Knights) 2011

The Finnish defenceman helped the Knights win back-to-back OHL titles in 2012 and 2013 before making the jump to the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins where the first round pick was part of the club’s back-to-back Stanley Cup wins in 2016 and 2017.

The North Bay Battalion will select first overall in the 2020 CHL Import Draft.

2. Leon Draisaitl (Prince Albert Raiders) 2012

Before winning the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL’s top scorer, Draisaitl was piling up the points in the WHL. The German forward went from 58 in 64 games as a Raiders rookie to an explosive 105-point campaign in 2013-14 that led to his third overall selection by the Edmonton Oilers. He returned midway through the 2014-15 season to lead the Kelowna Rockets to a WHL championship and one goal shy of a Memorial Cup title despite earning tournament MVP honours in Quebec.

Honourable mention: Nail Yakupov (Sarnia Sting) 2010

Yakupov scored 170 points in 107 games over two OHL seasons in Sarnia earning CHL Rookie of the Year honours and then the league’s Top Draft Prospect award a month before the Oilers made him the first CHL Import Draft player to go first overall in the NHL Draft.

The Acadie-Bathurst Titan will select second overall in the 2020 CHL Import Draft.

3. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (Sudbury Wolves) 2018

Luukkonen was the first goaltender chosen in the Import Draft since 2013 and would earn both OHL Goaltender of the Year and Player of the Year honours in a season that also included a World Junior gold medal for Finland. The Buffalo Sabres second round pick in 2017 remains a top prospect within the organization splitting time this season between the AHL’s Rochester Americans and the ECHL’s Cincinnati Cyclones.

Honourable mention: Ivan Chekhovich (Baie-Comeau Drakkar) 2016

Chekhovich played three seasons for the Drakkar up until last year when his 105 points in 66 games was good enough for third overall in the QMJHL. The San Jose Sharks prospect just completed his first pro season with the AHL’s Barracuda.

The Swift Current Broncos will select third overall in the 2020 CHL Import Draft.

4. Michal Teply (Winnipeg ICE) 2019

One year ago a fourth round NHL Draft pick turned into the fourth overall CHL Import Draft pick. The Czech Republic born Chicago Blackhawks prospect joined the ICE for their first season in Winnipeg and led all WHL rookies in scoring with 63 points including 29 goals in 53 games.

Honourable mention: Alexei Toropchenko (Guelph Storm) 2017

Toropchenko followed a similar path being chosen in the fourth round of the 2017 NHL Draft by the St. Louis Blues before his selection by the Storm. He played two seasons in Guelph helping win an OHL title last season scoring 13 goals in 24 playoff games.

The Niagara IceDogs will select fourth overall in the 2020 CHL Import Draft.

5. Andre Burakovsky (Erie Otters) 2013

Burakovsky was part of the first Otters team that would go on to establish a CHL record of four straight seasons of 50 or more wins. The Swedish forward, who had been chosen in the first round of the 2013 NHL Draft by the Washington Capitals, produced 87 points in 57 OHL games then embarked on a pro career that already includes 190 points in 386 games plus a Stanley Cup ring.

Honourable mention: Jakub Zboril (Saint John Sea Dogs) 2014

Zboril was a member of the Sea Dogs defence corps for three seasons ending with a QMJHL championship in 2017. The first round pick of the Boston Bruins in the 2015 NHL Draft made his NHL debut during the 2018-19 season.

The Halifax Mooseheads will select fifth overall in the 2020 CHL Import Draft.

6. Nico Hischier (Halifax Mooseheads) 2016

Hischier won CHL Rookie of the Year honours with 86 points in 57 games for the Mooseheads then became just the second European CHL player to be chosen first overall in the NHL Draft. The Swiss native has 135 points in 209 career NHL games with the New Jersey Devils since 2017.

Honourable mention: Nikolaj Ehlers (Halifax Mooseheads) 2013

Another Mooseheads star and former CHL Rookie of the Year, Ehlers produced an impressive 205 points over 114 games in Halifax. The Danish forward was a first round pick of the Winnipeg Jets in 2014 and has 257 points in 369 career NHL games over five seasons with the club.

The Moose Jaw Warriors will select sixth overall in the 2020 CHL Import Draft.

7. Sven Baertschi (Portland Winterhawks) 2010

Baertschi developed into a first round NHL Draft pick in 2011 following an 85-point WHL rookie campaign over 66 contests then returned to record 94 points in 19 fewer games for the Winterhawks. The Swiss native played parts of four seasons with Calgary Flames organization before joining the Vancouver Canucks for the last six.

Honourable mention: Rihards Bukarts (Brandon Wheat Kings) 2013

The Latvian born Bukarts had a productive three seasons in the WHL played primarily in Brandon but finishing in Portland with a total of 190 points in 192 career games.

The Sarnia Sting will select seventh overall in the 2020 CHL Import Draft.

8. Dmitry Zavgorodniy (Rimouski Oceanic) 2017

Over the last three seasons in Rimouski, Zavgorodniy has scored 178 points including 83 goals and 95 assists in 169 games making him one of the few 2000-born players across the league to average more than a point-per-game in his career. The Flames prospect also scored to clinch the 2018 CIBC Canada Russia Series for his country against his QMJHL counterparts.

Honourable mention: Nicklas Jensen (Oshawa Generals) 2010

The Danish forward scored 58 points in back-to-back seasons for the Generals before and after he was a first round pick of the Canucks in the 2011 NHL Draft.

The Gatineau Olympiques will select eighth overall in the 2020 CHL Import Draft.

9. Nikita Zadorov (London Knights) 2012

Zadorov helped the Knights win their second straight OHL title and developed into a first round NHL Draft pick in the process. He returned from the Buffalo Sabres to nearly a point-per-game pace in the second half of 2013-14 before making the full-time jump to the NHL where has been a member of the Colorado Avalanche blue line the past five seasons.

Honourable mention: Vili Saarijarvi (Flint Firebirds) 2015

The third round Detroit Red Wings pick stayed in Michigan when he joined the Firebirds in 2015 and scored 43 points in 59 games from the point. He scored another 31 points in 34 games the following season for the Mississauga Steelheads who won the OHL’s Eastern Conference title.

The Tri-City Americans will select ninth overall in the 2020 CHL Import Draft.

10. Aleksi Heponiemi (Swift Current Broncos) 2016

Heponiemi scored 204 points in 129 career games for the Broncos helping them hoist the Ed Chynoweth Cup in 2018 while earning CHL Sportsman of the Year honours. The Finnish forward was a second round pick of the Florida Panthers in 2017 and played this season for the AHL’s Springfield Thunderbirds.

Honourable mention: Jan Kostalek (Rimouski Oceanic) 2012

Kostalek was a fixture on the Oceanic blue line for three seasons producing a career-high 43 points over 57 games in 2014-15 helping Rimouski win a QMJHL title.

The Soo Greyhounds will select 10th overall in the 2020 CHL Import Draft.

11. Filip Zadina (Halifax Mooseheads) 2017

Zadina made the most of his single QMJHL season scoring 44 goals with 38 assists for 82 points in 57 games for the Mooseheads. He would be chosen sixth overall by the Red Wings in the 2018 NHL Draft and has split the past two seasons in the NHL and with the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins.

Honourable mention: Sven Andrighetto (Rouyn-Noranda Huskies) 2011

Andrighetto scored 172 points including back-to-back seasons of more than 30 goals playing 115 career games with the Huskies developing into a third round pick by the Montreal Canadiens in 2013.

The Baie-Comeau Drakkar will select 11th overall in the 2020 CHL Import Draft.

12. Timo Meier (Halifax Mooseheads) 2013

Meier played parts of three seasons in Halifax before joining the Huskies for their 2016 QMJHL championship run recording 211 career points in 179 games. The Sharks first round pick in 2015 has played the last four seasons in San Jose where he already has 157 points in 263 career games.

Honourable mention: Alexander Nylander (Mississauga Steelheads) 2015

Nylander was named CHL Rookie of the Year after scoring 75 points in 57 games for the Steelheads where he developed into a first round pick by Buffalo in the 2016 NHL Draft.

The Prince George Cougars will select 12th overall in the 2020 CHL Import Draft.

13. Vitalii Abramov (Gatineau Olympiques) 2015

Abramov eclipsed the 300 career point plateau with 301 over 185 games highlighted by QMJHL Top Scorer and Player of the Year awards in 2017 for the Olympiques. He finished his major junior tenure with the Victoriaville Tigres in 2018 and scored his first career NHL goal with the Ottawa Senators this season.

Honourable mention: Pavel Novak (Kelowna Rockets) 2019

58 points in 55 games this season for the Rockets was an impressive debut for Novak who will hear his name called in the 2020 NHL Draft where he’s the 85th ranked skater on Central Scouting’s list.

The Kingston Frontenacs will select 13th overall in the 2020 CHL Import Draft.

14. Juuso Valimaki (Tri-City Americans) 2015

Valimaki patrolled the Americans blue line for three seasons where he totaled 138 points in 159 games. The Flames chose the Finnish defender in the first round of the 2017 NHL Draft and introduced him to 24 games one season ago, however an ACL injury suffered while training kept him off the ice in 2019-20.

Honourable mention: Filip Hronek (Saginaw Spirit) 2016

Another Detroit pick who stayed in Michigan following his NHL Draft selection, Hronek was a second rounder when he joined the Spirit and scored 61 points in 59 games from the back end and is now a full-time Red Wing.

The Quebec Remparts will select 14th overall in the 2020 CHL Import Draft.

15. Ivan Prosvetov (Saginaw Spirit) 2018

Prosvetov backstopped the Spirit to an OHL West Division crown in 2019 and was a Third Team All-Star. The fourth round pick of the Arizona Coyotes in 2018 had an impressive rookie season with the AHL’s Tucson Roadrunners with 14 wins and a 2.88 goals-against-average in 27 games.

Honourable mention: Anton Zlobin (Shawinigan Cataractes) 2010

Zlobin played three QMJHL seasons finishing with a 91-point campaign for the Val-d’Or Foreurs in 2013 one season after scoring the overtime goal to win the Memorial Cup title for the Cataractes.

The Regina Pats will select 15th overall in the 2020 CHL Import Draft.

16. Nikita Okhotyuk (Ottawa 67’s) 2017

Okhotyuk played three seasons for the 67’s and was a key member of the team’s defensive unit that helped bring back-to-back regular season OHL titles to the nation’s capital. He was chosen by the Devils in the second round of the 2019 NHL Draft.

Honourable mention: Vaclav Karabacek (Gatineau Olympiques) 2013

Karabacek played three QMJHL seasons and brought his best in the beginning with 47 points in 65 games for the Olympiques which led to a second round selection by the Sabres in 2014.

The Hamilton Bulldogs will select 16th overall in the 2020 CHL Import Draft.

17. Axel Blomqvist (Lethbridge Hurricanes) 2012

Blomqvist played for three different WHL teams in three seasons including Lethbridge, the Victoria Royals, and Moose Jaw Warriors. The Swedish forward was productive at every stop accumulating 148 points over 185 career games.

Honourable mention: Markus Niemelainen (Saginaw Spirit) 2015

The towering Niemelainen played two seasons for the Spirit on defence and was a third round pick of the Oilers in 2016 and just signed a two-year entry-level contract with the team after three years playing pro in his native Finland.

The Val-d’Or Foreurs will select 17th overall in the 2020 CHL Import Draft.

18. Marco Rossi (Ottawa 67’s) 2018

Rossi became just the third player selected in the Import Draft to win the CHL Top Scorer Award when he tallied 120 points in 56 games for the 67’s this season to go along with OHL Player of the Year honours. The Austrian is now expected to be a top-10 pick in the upcoming 2020 NHL Draft.

Honourable mention: Petrus Palmu (Owen Sound Attack) 2014

Palmu produced 189 points in 176 career games for the Attack in three seasons which earned himself a sixth round selection by the Vancouver Canucks in 2017 a month before his 20th birthday.

The Red Deer Rebels will select 18th overall in the 2020 CHL Import Draft.

19. Kristians Pelss (Edmonton Oil Kings) 2010

Pelss played two seasons for the Oil Kings with 83 points in 126 games helping the club win the 2012 WHL championship. The Latvian sadly passed away in a 2013 summer accident following his first pro season in the Oilers system but would remain a motivating figure during Edmonton’s 2014 Memorial Cup campaign.

Honourable mention: Jacob Moverare (Mississauga Steelheads) 2016

Moverare was a fourth round pick of the Los Angeles Kings in 2016 when he joined the Steelheads blue line for two seasons registering 53 points in 95 games.

The Mississauga Steelheads will select 19th overall in the 2020 CHL Import Draft.

20. Vladislav Namestnikov (London Knights) 2010

Namestnikov was a point-per-game player as a Knights rookie and developed into a first round NHL Draft pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2011. The Russian scored 71 points in 63 games in London’s 2012 championship season before embarking on a pro career that includes 425 NHL games to date.

Honourable mention: Jan Mysak (Hamilton Bulldogs) 2019

Mysak has only played in 22 career OHL games but in that time he’s scored 15 goals with 25 points for the Bulldogs and should be chosen in the opening two round of the 2020 NHL Draft.

The Shawinigan Cataractes will select 20th overall in the 2020 CHL Import Draft.

The 2020 CHL Import Draft takes place on Tuesday June 30 commencing at 11:00 am ET with the full order of selection and live results available at chl.ca/draft.

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