Keith DotsonComment

Breaking Down the CHL Import Draft

Keith DotsonComment
Breaking Down the CHL Import Draft

Earlier today the CHL held its annual Import Draft. For those unfamiliar with how the CHL Import Draft works, the Firebirds have a good explanation on their website.

The Ontario Hockey League (OHL), known as the premiere development league for the NHL, is one of three major junior ice hockey leagues based in Canada and the United States that constitute the Canadian Hockey League (CHL). Each year, every team in the CHL has the option to choose up to two players from outside North America to add to its roster. Picks are chosen in reverse order of the team’s standings in the CHL. The import draft is seen as a way to raise the level of competition in the CHL, as well as to broaden its fan base while retaining high North American content.

The two-round draft takes 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 previous season. CHL teams are allowed to keep two Import players on the roster. If the club expects to keep these two players for the upcoming season, they can pass in the Import Draft.
— Flint Firebirds Website

The Picks

Vili Saarijarvi - D

Coming into the Import Draft with two open spots to replace the ones filled by Yannick Rathgeb and Victor Crus Rydburg. With the ninth pick the Firebirds selected Finnish defenseman, Vili Saarijarvi. 

Vili spent last season defending the blue line in the USHL with the Green Bay Gamblers and put up 23 points in a total of 57 games. This past weekend he was selected in the third round of the NHL Entry Draft by the Detroit Red Wings. 

We’re very, very excited to have been able to draft him in our import draft today, I had an opportunity to go to the U18 world championship and watch Vili play and he had a great tournament.
— Terry Christensen - Flint Firebirds General Manager

There is some question if he will report to the OHL. Vili already has a commitment in the Finnish Elite League. On top of that, having been drafted by the Red Wings before playing in the OHL nullifies the NHL-CHL agreement. That means he does not have to wait until he is twenty to play in the AHL. 

If the Red Wings want to have Saarijarvi play in North America, they can send him directly to the Grand Rapids Griffins. This happened a few years back with Tomas Tatar when the Plymouth Whalers had his rights.

Very much a wait and see situation, but current expectations are for Vili Saarijarvi to not play in the OHL this season.

Matyas Kantner - LW

In the second round of the draft the Firebirds selected a left winger who was a point-per-game player in the Czech U18 League he was playing in last season. 

We were looking for a player that could add offense to our lineup before the draft and we ended up being really fortunate to have the opportunity to select Kantner. Last year, he scored over a point a game for his team and we think that will translate into offensive output here in Flint.
— Terry Christensen - Flint Firebirds General Manager

Expect the 6'2" left winger to show up on the roster this fall for the Firebirds. 

Markus Niemelainen - D

Saginaw came into the Import Draft with only one spot open and they used their 18th overall pick to select a 6'4" defenseman from Finland.

Markus would be used to add some depth the Saginaw's blue line and is expected to report to training camp. 

Saginaw passed on their second round pick. 

Last season was not the best for the Erie Otters in terms of the Import Draft. Their first pick, Anton Karlsson, stayed in Sweden instead of coming to Erie, and their second pick, Igor Vladykovsky, reported to the club, but failed to make the team in training camp. 

The Otters chose to retain Karlsson's rights while using both picks today. 

Erik Cernak - D

Erie drafted a massive 6'4" defenseman from Slovakia that should be interesting to watch on the blue line. It has been said that he has great reach and plays a very physical game, but needs to improve his skating ability. 

Cernak was drafted by the L.A. Kings in the second round last weekend in Sunrise, Florida. With no commitments for next season, expect there to be a chance that Erik Cernak arrives at training camp with the Otters. 

Jakob Mayenschein - C

With their next pick the Otters selected the left handed German center Jakob Mayenschein. He played with Germany’s under-18 team each of the last two world junior championships, recording three goals and five points in the 12 games played.