WHL blog: Breaking down the CHL import draft

Swedish defenceman Oliver Kylington was selected by the Brandon Wheat Kings in the CHL import draft.

With the NHL Draft now in the rearview mirror, the CHL was back in action on Tuesday with its annual import draft. Each CHL team is allowed to carry two European imports on its roster and while it’s nearly impossible to predict the success of these players, they can turn into game changers.

For the WHL clubs, 28 players were selected Tuesday with all but one team making at least one selection. Scouting these players is difficult for the WHL teams as most don’t employ European scouts. They have to rely on sometimes grainy video, other coaches and limited viewings during international tournaments. After that, it’s somewhat of a roll of the dice whether these players will adapt to being far away from home and playing in smaller rinks with more physical players than they are used to.

Here are some of the more notable selections from Tuesday’s draft:

Brandon Wheat Kings take Kylington

Brandon general manager Kelly McCrimmon made a big splash with the last WHL pick of the first round Tuesday by taking Swedish defenceman Oliver Kylington. The Wheat Kings have an already packed roster and the prospect of adding a player such as Kylington, who was just drafted by the Calgary Flames with the 60th pick of the NHL Draft, was too good to pass up.

There is some question as to whether or not current Wheat King Ivan Provorov will be back in Brandon as there is a chance he could stick in the NHL with the Philadelphia Flyers. If that is the case, Kylington would be a great replacement. If Provorov is back, you could be looking at a pretty fierce defensive pairing this season.

The only sticking point? Will, or can, Kylington play in Brandon?

Shortly after the draft there were indications that Kylington is still under contract with AIK in Sweden, where he played last season. Can he get out of that deal? What about the AHL or ECHL? Since Kylington was drafted out of Europe he could be eligible for both of those North American leagues as well.

Obviously there is still a lot to play out with this situation but when you have a team as stacked as McCrimmon does, you can afford to take these kinds of gambles.

Vancouver, Red Deer and Seattle take NHL-drafted players

The Vancouver Giants used the No. 8 pick in the import draft to select Slovakian winger Radovan Bondra. Listed at 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds, Bondra is a big player who also caught the eye of the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks, who selected him in the fifth round of this past weekend’s NHL Draft. Bondra played in the Slovak Extraliga last year as well as appearing in the World Junior Championships.

The Seattle Thunderbirds followed suit with the 44th pick by nabbing 18-year-old Swedish forward Gustav Olhaver. Another big forward, Olhaver was selected in the seventh round of the NHL Draft by the Colorado Avalanche. The Thunderbirds won’t have to worry about whether or not Olhaver will come to Seattle or not as he seems ready to take his game to North America.

In preparation for their Memorial Cup hosting duties, the Red Deer Rebels took a big swing and selected Winnipeg Jets fourth-round pick Michael Spacek with the 47th pick in the import draft. Spacek would be a huge addition to the Rebels as they stock up for this coming season. He has experience in big moments as he represented the Czech Republic at this past winter’s World Junior Championships. He’s another player whose availability may be in question, however.

Saskatoon looks to the future

The Blades were the first WHL team to select on Tuesday and they went with Libor Hajek from the Czech Republic. The 6-foot-2 defenceman comes with a lot of anticipation as he is expected to be a high pick in the 2016 NHL Draft. Saskatoon has hit pay dirt in the import draft before as they selected Nikita Scherbak two seasons ago and he went on to become a first-round NHL pick with the Montreal Canadiens.

Royals go with the one you know

The Victoria Royals and Vancouver Giants play each other quite a bit during the season. So when Victoria selected former Giant Vladimir Bobylyov with the 38th pick in the import draft, you would assume they had him well scouted. Bobylyov has good size but in 52 games with Vancouver last year only mustered three goals and nine points.