While the CHL Import Draft is always considered to be a bit of a crap shoot, there is no denying that the 2008 edition of the draft was particularily unique. With only two of the top five selections suiting up in the CHL last season, the draft was full of notables lining the draft list sporatically. One of the reasons that this tends to happen is due to the nature of the import draft. Many teams target specific players and work out deals with them before hand, so that where they pick becomes less of a factor as they will still be able to get their guy.
With the 2009 CHL Import Draft recently completed on June 30th, early indications already show that there is going to be a significantly different trend with this draft. At this point it appears that each of the first five selections in the draft will be making their CHL debuts with their respective CHL clubs for the 2009/2010 season, while several other high profile players have also committed to play in the CHL only a month after the draft. Today we’ll look at some of the players who could be impact players in the league as early as this season.
1st OVR – F Stanislav Galiev
Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
After some initial concerns that Galiev would remain with the Indiana Ice of the USHL where he played last season, the Sea Dogs recently announced that they had come to terms with their top pick. Galiev, rated 13th in TSR’s Preliminary 2010 Rankings, is a dynamic offensive talent that should instantly be able to step onto the top line in Saint John. A big season from Galiev could vault the Moscow native into the Top 10 of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, and there will no shortage of scouts following his progress this season.
2nd OVR – F Nino Niederreiter
Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
Niederreiter is a player who has been pretty highly regarded by a lot of scouts and early indications show that he would likely slide into the Top 30 for the 2010 NHL Entry Draft at this point. Niederreiter had a solid season with the Davos U20 team, and was a pretty strong contributor at the recent U18′s averaging a point per game as an underager. Either way, Niederreiter will be a very nice addition to an up and coming Portland squad.
3rd OVR – F Gabriel Landeskog
Plymouth Whalers: Traded to Kitchener (OHL)
Landeskog’s story has been one of the most interesting cases to follow since the Import Draft. After Plymouth traded up to select the 16 year old Swede, Landeksog recently had his rights traded to the Kitchener Rangers in a fairly major transaction that saw several high picks going to the Whalers in return. Landeskog is a late 1992 birthday which means that he will not be eligible until the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, but there are already high hopes that this physical two way forward could be a Top 5 pick in 2011.
7th OVR – F Kirill Kabanov
Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL)
Arguably the most talented player in the draft, Kabanov’s case is a curious one as there continues to be rumblings back on forth as to where the highly touted Russian will spend his 2009/2010 season. After playing with Spartak last season, Kabanov has reached an agreement to move to KHL powerhouse Salavat. However there continue to be signs that Kabanov is actually intent on heading overseas to suit up for the Wildcats. It appears that things might become more clear after the conclusion of the Ivan Hlinka U18 tournament, but it will a very interesting storyline to follow.
9th OVR – G Robin Lehner
Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL)
Lehner is the first NHL drafted player on the list after being selected 46th overall by the Ottawa Senators in this summer’s NHL Entry Draft. Lehner is a big goalie who put up respectable numbers with Frolunda last season and will now spend time on a very young Greyhounds club. Since he will likely see a lot of quality shots this season, it will be very important for him to show some mental toughness and prove that he is able to battle through some adversity that he will almost assuredly face.
12th OVR – F Alexander Burmistrov
Barrie Colts (OHL)
Burmistrov is the most recent player to announce that he will be coming over to play in the CHL next season after agreeing to terms with the Barrie Colts. A late 91 birthdate, the undersized forward will be eligible for the 2010 NHL Draft and there is reason to believe that he could work his way into the first round. Burmistrov is extremely talented and will get a great chance to succeed with a team that should be one of the better teams in the OHL this year. While he may not be more talented then guys like Vladimir Tarasenko and Evgeni Kuznetsov, the combination of a strong season and already being in North America could give Burmistrov the upper hand on his fellow countrymen in the draft.
14th OVR – F Toni Rajala
Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)
One of the most highly touted internet phenomenoms in recent memory, Toni Rajala went from being perceived as a Top 5 pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft to plummeting all the way to the fourth round where the Edmonton Oilers were happy to pick him up with the 101st pick in the draft. Rajala will come to Brandon fresh off a very impressive U18 performance where he racked up 19 points in a mere 6 games. This season will definitely be an interesting for Rajala as he joins up with a very talented Brandon team that is set to host the Memorial Cup in 2010. Playing in a very physical league should challenge Rajala’s durability and it will be interesting to see how the talented forward progresses during the season.
Suffice to say, it is certainly going to be interesting to see how the new dose of European flavour takes shape in the CHL this year. Many are often quick to jump to the conclusion that the CHL will automatically ruin European players, and while that trend did have some support as early as a few years ago, recent indications show that many European players have thrived in the CHL since the NHL lockout season, where the CHL also adapted the same rule changes. Nevertheless, with so many draft eligible players making appearances in the league this season, it will be an interesting year following the plight of many of these young players.All logos are the property of their respective team/league. These logos are used soley for factual purposes, and TSR in no way claims these logos to be their own. All rights remain with the owners of the logos.