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Sarnia selected Czech star Pavel Zacha 1st overall at the 2014 CHL Import Draft. (OHL Images)

Sarnia selected Czech star Pavel Zacha 1st overall at the 2014 CHL Import Draft. (OHL Images)

The 2015 NHL Entry Draft is in the books and development camps are underway across the league, leaving team personnel to access players’ readiness and development paths over the next few years. Most 2015 drafted prospects will return to their junior or development leagues to work on improving their games and maturing into their bodies but it is a crucial time for decisions to be made on a lot of the selected Euro skaters.

Just a few short days from wrapping the draft up in Sunrise, Florida, the Canadian Hockey League’s 24th annual Import Draft is slated to take place at 11 am Tuesday, June 30th as sixty teams from the Atlantic to the Pacific restock their import roster spots. The two-round draft will take place online with the order of selection rotating through each of the CHL’s three leagues using an inverse order of final regular season standings within each league from the 2014-15 season.  The QMJHL’s Acadie-Bathurst Titan hold the number one pick, followed by the WHL’s Saskatoon Blades at number two, and the OHL’s Sudbury Wolves who will select third overall.  Each team in the CHL is permitted to dress and play a maximum of two import players each season who are selected annually through the CHL Import Draft.

A total of 14 players were selected at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft who were acquired through the CHL Import Draft. Sarnia Sting forward Pavel Zacha, selected 1st overall at the 2014 Import Draft, was taken by the New Jersey Devils 6th overall. Ivan Provorov of the Brandon Wheat Kings donned a Philadelphia Flyers jersey when the 7th selection came due. Hailfax’s Timo Meier is the latest San Jose Sharks prospect after being selected 9th overall and the Detroit Red Wings scooped up Cape Breton’s import forward Evgeny Svechnikov 19th overall.

At the 2014 CHL import Draft, a total of 71 skaters were selected from 12 different countries led by 25 Russians.

Let’s take a look at some potential targets for the 2015 CHL Import Draft.

 

The 98s…

Dmitri Sokolov, F, Russia – After a coming out party at the 2014 World U17 Championships in Sarnia this past fall, Sokolov established himself as a top import target showcasing a heavy shot and some silky playmaking abilities. He’s not the smoothest or swiftest skater around but his other tools make him a potential top pick. 2016 NHL Draft eligible

Vitali Abramov, F, Russia –Strong possession player who’s capable of dictating the pace of play under pressure. Abramov is a good skater who uses changes in gears to keep defenders uneasy. 2016 NHL Draft eligible

Alexander Nylander, brother of Leafs prospect William Nylander, is eligible for the Import Draft but is a long shot to play in the CHL.

Alexander Nylander, brother of Leafs prospect William Nylander, is eligible for the Import Draft but is a long shot to play in the CHL.

Alexander Nylander, RW/LW, Sweden – Younger brother of Maple Leafs prospect William Nylander, Alexander Nylander plays the game in a similar mold showcasing high-end skill and dazzling puck handling ability. He’s a top prospect for the 2016 NHL Draft and although him coming to North American would be exciting, he already has pro experience and will likely return to play in Sweden.  2016 NHL Draft eligible

Tarmo Reunanen, D, Finland – Poised defender with elite level vision, Reumanen projects as a defender who can kick-start the rush with clean crisp no-look passes. He shows good mobility but there’s some cleaning up to do in that department. It’s his puck handling ability, strong vision and puck distribution skills that make him a top target. 2016 NHL Draft eligible

William Fallstrom, C/LW, Sweden – High character player who oozes leadership qualities, Fallström showed clutch scoring abilities at the U17s snapping home four goals to lead his team. He combines strong hockey sense and a hearty work ethic to go along with above-average skill. Projects very well to the North American game.

Linus Weissbach, LW/RW, Sweden – Proved to be a strong support player for Team Sweden at the U17s showcasing elusive attacking abilities, using jukes and jives. Weissbach owns blazing speed that he uses to attack on the outside. 2016 NHL Draft eligible

Markus Niemelainen, D, Finland – Combines impressive size and strength with above-average mobility on the blueline. Niemelainen showed flashes similar to a young Rasmus Ristolainen at the U17s. He doesn’t make many errors and his ability to make opposing attackers work for ice is a testament to his defensive capacity.  2016 NHL Draft eligible

 Jacob Cederholm, D, Sweden – Brother to Vancouver Canucks prospect  Anton Cedarholm, Jacob is also a defensive stalwart for Sweden. He’s a pillar on the backend  using his strength and wingspan to shutdown opposing top attackers.  With his plus mobility and attention to defensive details, he could be a high target at the draft. 2016 NHL Draft eligible

Otto Somppi, F, Finland – A strong international competitor in his early career, Somppi  understands the support game extremely well, finding teammates in prime scoring areas and working off of the cycle. He’s a tireless worker in all three zones and shows some crafty misdirection in his attacking game. He’s an impact player. 2016 NHL Draft eligible

Jesper Bratt, F, Sweden – The Swedish sparkplug competes at only 5-foot-8 but his enthusiastic puck pursuit is overwhelming for opposing defenders. He’s a slashing style of skater who bolts in and out of traffic retrieving pucks but also displays good one-on-one abilities as well. 2016 NHL Draft eligible

Mikhail Mesheryakov, F, Russia – An absolute buzzsaw forward who hunts down pucks like it was his only goal in life, Mersheryakov utilizes sharp cuts and stop-ups on the attack to elude pressure. He’s the type of player who thrives in the possession game never conceding the puck. 2016 NHL Draft eligible

Janne Kuokkanen, C, Finland – Quick footed Finn pivot who drove the offensive attack for his nation at the U17s. Capable of holding onto the puck under pressure, Kuokkanen shows an ability to wait for soft spots to open and teammates to arrive. His competitive approach will certainly draw suitors. 2016 NHL Draft eligible

Maxim Bain, LW/C, Russia – Clutch skater Maxim Bain really impressed as the U17 games became more important, adapting from his skill game to a puck-hungry-dog-on-fresh-meat  when Russia desperately needed a goal. He’s not very big but he irritated his opposition with an unrelenting warrior-like battle mentality. His hard working game is flanked with some notable offensively skilled abilities as well. 2016 NHL Draft eligible

Mikhail Sergachev, D, Russia – A defensive pillar for Russia, Sergachev is a defensively sound, minute-munching blue liner who identifies his options quickly on the breakout and transitions the puck up ice efficiently. 2016 NHL Draft eligible

Patrik Laine, RW, Finland – a 6-foot-4 power winger with Top 10 NHL Draft potential, Laine has been on the radar for quite some time. After a cameo appearance in Finland’s top professional league, it’s very doubtful he comes to the CHL but it’s a situation worth watching because he’d be one of the best.

Jesse Puljujarvi, RW, Finland – A potential top 2016 NHL Draft pick, Puljujarvi has it all – size, strength, smarts and skills but also has options in his native land and is expected to star for Karpat.

 

Other Potential '98s to Watch:

Lias Andersson, C/LW, Sweden*

Nikita Baikov, RW, Russia

Matous Belohorsky, LW, Czech Republic

Gleb Bondaruk, F, Russia

Samuel Duggan, C/LW, Great Britain

Tobias Eder, RW, Germany

Carl Grundstrom, LW, Sweden*

Robert Havlat, RW, Czech Republic

Artem Ivanyuzhernkov, LW, Russia

Nikita Ivanov, F, Russia

Juha Jaaska, LW, Finland

Matyas Kantner, LW, Czech Republic

Vladislav Kara, C, Russia

Artur Kayumov, LW/RW, Russia

Paavo Kilponen, F, Finland

Oula Kuure, F, Finland

Vladimir Kuznetskov, LW, Russia

Linus Lindstrom, C, Sweden*

Otto Mäkinen, LW, Finland

Pete Niemi, LF, Finland*

Markus Nurmi, RF, Finland*

Emil Oksanen, RW, Finland*

Alexei Polodyan, F, Russia

Nikita O. Popugayev, F, Russia*

German Rubtkov, LW, Russia*

Mikhail Shabanov, F, Russia*

Artturi Toivola, C, Finland

Tim Wahlgren, C, Sweden*

 

Dmitri Alexeyev, D, Russia

Alexander Andersson, D, Sweden*

Vojtech Budik, D, Czech Republic

Hugo Danielsson, D, Sweden

Lukas Durkech, D, Slovakia

Oliver Felixson, D, Finland

Libor Hajek, D, Czech Republic

Olli Juolevi, D, Finland

Jakub Lacka, F, Slovakia

Nikita Makeyev, D, Russia

Alfons Malmström, D, Sweden

Jacob Moverare, D, Sweden

Linus Nässén, D, Sweden

Daniil Veryayev, D, Russia

Yegor Zaitsev, D, Russia

*Indicates players who competed in the U17 WHC

 

The 96s…

Alexander Lambacher, RW, Italy

Frank Gymer, C, Finland

Daniel Muzito Bagenda, LW, Sweden

Kirill Piilipenko, RW, Russia

Calvin Thurkauf, C, Switzerland

Lukas Vopelka, C, Czech Republic

Lucas Ekestahl Jonsson, D, Sweden

Nikko Mikkola, D, Finland

 

The 97s…

Denis Alexeyev, C, Russia

Rasmus Asplund, C/LW, Sweden

Jonathan Dahlén, C/LW, Sweden

Einar Emanuelsson, RW, Sweden

Fabian Haberstich, LW, Switzerland

Timo Haussener, C, Switzerland

Roger Karrer, D, Switzerland

Auguste Impose, LW, Switzerland

Julian Napravnik, LW, Germany

Damien Riat, C, Switzerland

Lukas Ziak, F, Slovakia

Kristaps Zile, D, Latvia

 

The 2015 NHL Draftees…

Many of the following international names, particularly the top drafted prospects, will remain in their native leagues to compete professionally against men in the top divisions. A number of the following players remain under contract with their Euro clubs.

Mikko Rantanen, RW – Colorado Avalanche, 10th overall

Denis Gurianov, RW/LW – Dallas Stars, 12th overall

Joel Eriksson Ek, C – Minnesota Wild, 20th overall

Jacob Larsson, D – Anaheim Ducks, 27th overall

Gabriel Carlsson, D – Columbus Blue Jackets, 29th overall

Since the above players were drafted in the first round, CHL teams could temporarily carry three imports on their roster under their 2015-16 fates were decided.

Sebastian Aho, LW – Carolina Hurricanes, 35th overall

Erik Cernak, D Los Angeles Kings, 43rd overall

Roope Hintz, LW – Dallas Stars, 49th overall

Jonas Siegenthaler, D – Washington Capitals, 52nd overall

Kevin Stenlund, C – Columbus Blue Jackets, 58th overall

Julius Nattinen, C – Anaheim Ducks, 60th overall

Oliver Kylington, D – Calgary Flames, 61st overall

 

3rd Round and Onwards...

Robin Kovancs, LW – Rangers

Martin Dzierkals, LW – Maple Leafs

Vili Saarijarvi, D – Red Wings

Alexander Dergachev, C – Kings

Sergei Zborovsky, D – Rangers

Jens Looke, RW – Coyotes

Lukas Vejdemo, C – Canadiens

Aleksi Saarela, C/LW – Rangers

Jesper Lindgren, D – Maple Leafs

Andrei Mironov, D – Avalanche

Denis Malgin, C – Panthers

Mikhail Vorobyov , C – Flyers

Michael Spacek, C – Jets

Filip Ahl, LW – Senators

Dmitri Zhukenov, C – Canucks

Jonne Tammela, RW – Lightning

Daniel Bernhardt, LW – Rangers

Niko Mikkola, D – Blues

David Kase, C – Flyers

Karlis Cukste, D – Sharks

Kirill Kaprizov, LW – Wild

Dominik Simon, C – Penguins

Christian Jaros, D – Senators

Veeti Vanio, D – Blue Jackets

Rudolfs Balcers, LW – Sharks

Radovan Bondra, LW – Blackhawks

Vladislav Gavrikov, D – Blue Jackets

Sergei Boikov, D – Avalanche

Andong Song, D/F – Islanders

Lukas Jasek, RW – Canucks

Joni Tuulola, D – Blackhawks

Markus Nutivaara, D – Blue Jackets

Gustav Olhaver, C/LW – Avalanche

Nikita Pavlychev, C – Penguins

Sami Niku, D – Jets

Petter Hansson, D – Islanders

Ziyat Paigin, D - Oilers

John Dahlstrom, LW - Blackhawks

 

This slew of names is not an exhaustive list but rather a list of players who’ve been impressive in viewings or have been mentioned around the rinks as notable players of their age group. The CHL Import Draft always unveils players that the North American circuit has never heard of so expect the unexpected.

Follow the draft on the Canadian Hockey League’s website

 

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