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Photo Credit: Candice Ward/Calgary Hitmen

Hitmen draft twice at 2020 CHL Import Draft

The Calgary Hitmen selected twice at the 2020 CHL Import Draft. The annual event is taking place at an odd time; typically the Import Draft is the week after the NHL’s entry draft and allows major junior teams to lure European NHL prospects to North America for development opportunities.

This is the first time since the import draft’s inception in 1992 that it has taken place prior to the NHL Draft.

The Hitmen were able to draft twice because they have two import slots available due to the expected graduation of Egor Zamula to the pro ranks and their trade of Jonas Peterek to Kelowna at the trade deadline. Their two selections in 2020’s event? Peterek, who was released by Kelowna on Friday, and 17-year-old Belarusian defenseman Alexei Garapuchik.

The Hitmen previously traded Peterek to Kelowna for a fifth round bantam draft pick in 2021. He wasn’t getting a ton of playing time at the time but given the team’s familiarity with him and the expected departure of a lot of veteran forwards – Mark Kastelic and Kyle Olson have aged out of junior, while four forwards (Orca Wiesblatt, Josh Prokop, Riley Stotts and Carson Focht) are eligible to go pro in 2020-21 – it seems like there will be a larger spot for Peterek than there was previously. He had 16 points in 32 games with Calgary and 15 points in 23 games with Kelowna.

Garapuchik is very much a depth add, as he provides the Hitmen potentially with another lanky body on their blueline. He’s somewhat in the mold of former Hitmen defender Vladislav Yeryomenko, in that he’s a defenseman from Belarus who seemed very raw when he came over in the Import Draft but rapidly developed. The Hitmen will have a very lean defensive group next season, so there’s a big opportunity for Garapuchik.

It was a weird Import Draft, even by Import Draft standards, with virtually no established NHL players drafted:

Your WHL selections:

WHL Team Selections Country NHL Draft Status
Brandon D Yaroslav Busygin Russia 2021 eligible
Edmonton RW Janis Svanenbergs Latvia 2020 eligible (76th Euro skater)
Kamloops D Viktor Persson Sweden 2020 eligible (44th Euro skater)
Kelowna D Michael Krutil Czech Republic 2020 eligible (27th Euro skater)
Lethbridge RW Nikita Chibrikov Russia 2021 eligible
Medicine Hat F Oskari Kuntonen Finland 2020 eligible
Moose Jaw LW Martin Rysavy Czech Republic 2021 eligible
Prince Albert F Uladzislau Shyla Belarus 2021 eligible
Prince George C Jonni Karkkainen Finland 2021 eligible
Red Deer RW Tomas Chlubna Czech Republic 2020 eligible (52nd Euro skater)
Regina D Stanislav Svozil Czech Republic 2021 eligible
Saskatoon C Brad Lambert Finland 2022 eligible
Seattle D Samuel Knazko Slovakia 2020 eligible (42nd Euro skater)
Spokane D David Jiricek Czech Republic 2022 eligible
Swift Current D Oliver Fatul
F Vladislav Demidovich
2020 eligible (70th Euro skater)
2020 eligible
Tri-City G Tomas Suchanek
D Andrej Golian
Czech Republic
2021 eligible
2020 eligible
Vancouver LW Fabian Lysell
D Marko Stacha
2021 eligible
2020 eligible
Victoria C Marcus Almquist Denmark 2021 eligible
Winnipeg C Henri Nikkanen
G Eugen Rabcan
2019 4th rounder (WPG)
2020 eligible

A lot of potential late round NHL Draft picks here, but nobody really exciting. Heck, only a handful of high-end 2020 prospects were selected by any teams: Daniil Gushchin (61st on Bob McKenzie’s ranking) to Niagara, John-Jason Peterka (23rd on Bob McKenzie’s ranking) to London and Kasper Simontaival (78th on Bob McKenzie’s ranking) to Ottawa.

CHL teams each have two import slots available and the Import Draft is how they get international player rights. However, these imports still need to (a) sign and (b) report, and with the unclear situation regarding the timing of the North American leagues for the next little while it’ll be interesting to see which of these selections show up here and which keep playing in their home European leagues.