2020 CHL Import Draft

Talented pool of Europeans led by Russians and Czechs
Steve Kournianos and Ross Martin  |  6/30/2020 |  Nashville  |  

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NASHVILLE (The Draft Analyst) — The Canadian Hockey League held its annual import draft on Tuesday with the rights of 66 European prospects being distributed among Canada’s three major junior circuits. Although rosters are limited to only two imports per team and there is no guarantee that every player taken will ditch Europe for North American development leagues, teams in Tuesday’s draft looked mostly towards the Russian and Czech prospect pools in an attempt to bolster their rosters. Sniper Matvei Petrov from Omskie Yastreby in Russia’s MHL junior league was selected first overall by the OHL’s North Bay Battalion, followed by goalie Jan Bednar to Acadie-Bathurst of the QMJHL and big-bodied defenseman Oliver Fatul to the WHL’s Swift Current Broncos.

In total, 66 prospects were drafted over two rounds while about half of all CHL teams had to pass the option to pick since they already had the maximum number of European imports, or something else. The Russians led the way with 15 picks, followed by 13 from the Czech Republic, nine from Slovakia and eight apiece from Finland and Belarus. Sweden on the other hand was represented by only a handful of prospects. When it comes to Swedes playing in the CHL, most teams understand how difficult it is to pry those kids away from the Superelit and a shot at a legit SHL job. Nonetheless, LW Fabian Lysell (2021 Draft) was drafted 25th overall by the WHL’s Vancouver Giants; swift LHD Viktor Persson (2020 Draft) went 48th to Kamloops; and Detroit Red Wings’ 2019 draftee LW Albin Grewe was selected 65th by the OHL’s Saginaw Spirit.

Top Picks

1. Matvei Petrov, LW (North Bay, OHL)

Petrov is a soft-mitted dual threat from the flanks who spent half his 2020 season with Krylia Sovetov in the MHL in addition to starring for Russia at multiple under-17 events. A right shot who played mostly at left wing, Petrov is an offense-first sniper who has a lethal shot-release combination but also keen vision and the confidence to go tape-to-tape across the seam. He is both confident and competent at handling the puck, although he spends a significant amount of time away from board battles and always looks to slip into openings for a quick shot at the net. He is an average skater in multiple areas but does have strong balance and can be agile in tight spaces when looking to buy an extra second or two to bring his elite shot into the mix. Petrov’s game is similar to current North Bay scorer Brandon Coe in that that can serve as either playmaker or sniper but also is missing the intensity and physicality component.

2. Jan Bednar, G (Acadie-Bathurst, QMJHL)

The trend of Czech goalies to cross over into North American junior leagues continues to pick up steam as the Titan now own the import rights of one of the top netminding prospects for the 2020 NHL Draft. Bednar saw times in both of the Czech Republic’s top adult-age leagues this season and produced several impressive outings for Karlovy Vary in the elite Extraliga. He also played for the Czechs at several under-18 tournaments this year and shared duties with current CHL import Nick Malik (Sault Ste Marie, OHL), albeit with mixed results. Bednar spends a lot of time on his pads. Still, he limits the amount of net space in either the vertical or horizontal angle, and in his butterfly crouch Bednar uses small lateral shuffles rather than an explosive push. He executes textbook glove saves regardless of whether or not shooting lanes were clogged, and Bednar’s glove is quick up or down while using a European-style upright position to lure shooters into attempts at the lower half that he gobbles up anyway. Bednar usually plays close to the crease and will challenge shooters no more than half a foot outside the blue paint. In shootouts and breakaway attempts, Bednar times his retreat speed with the quickness of the oncoming shooter and is well disciplined with his stick positioning.

3. Oliver Fatul, RHD (Swift Current, WHL)

The Broncos took righty defender Kasper Puutio with the first pick in last year’s import draft, only to trade him midseason to Everett. In Fatul, they’re getting a similar player in both mobility and one-on-one play as Puutio, although Fatul at 6-foot-4 has the advantage in reach and overall length. He was a mainstay for the Slovakian under-18 programs in four tournaments this year but has been all over the map in terms of league affiliations — Fatul since 2018-19 has already played junior hockey in Sweden, Finland, and in Slovakia, and if he reports, Canadian major junior. He’s a meat-and-potatoes defender who won’t impress you with any specific puck skill and his creativity and playmaking is very limited. Tappara used him on their bottom pairing and on the penalty kill but he usually was on the bench for power plays and critical offensive-zone starts. Fatul’s skating, however, specifically moving backwards or laterally to interdict zone-entry attempts, is the strongest aspect of his game.

4. Daniil Gushchin, RW (Niagara, OHL)

Gushchin has spent the last two years terrorizing opposing defenses while playing for the USHL’s Muskegon Lumberjacks and is expected to be picked in one of the first three rounds of this year’s NHL Draft. He has starred for Russia at several high-profile international tournaments such as the under-18 Ivan Hlinka and winning gold at last year’s under-20 World Jr. “A” Challenge. Gushchin plays like he’s shot out of a cannon and his impressive puck skills such as stickhandling and finishing should help a Niagara offense which finished 19th out of 20 in goals scored and is losing top scorers Ivan Lodnia and Oliver Castleman.

5. Atillio Biasca, C/W (Halifax, QMJHL)

A tough two-way center who also plays wing, Biasca was a nice compliment to Zug’s top-line pivot and leading scorer Dario Allenspach and scored some clutch goals later in the season. He’s a strong skater with excellent balance and deceptive pull-away speed who comes across as more of a finisher than a set-up man, but Biasca also gets busy on the forecheck and throws his weight around to force defenders into rushed breakout passes. He owns a nasty shot and can snipe it off balance, plus he contributes on the penalty kill and power play. Halifax has made it a habit of drafting Swiss League imports (Nico Hischier, Nikolaj Ehlers, Timo Meier), and Biasca looks like he’s one of  Switzerland’s better 2021 NHL draft prospects.

6. Martin Rysavy, LW (Moose Jaw, WHL)

A powerful winger who plays with physicality and enthusiasm, Rysavy was the captain for the Czech Republic’s under-17 team at the World U17 Hockey Challenge and received a regular shift for Vitkovice’s junior team in the DHL Cup. He was later given a promotion to Prerov in the adult-age Chance Liga and scored a huge goal late in their playoff game against Vsetin. Rysavy is a very good skater for his size and is quick to the puck, and he also hustles all over the ice to use his upper-body strength by finishing his checks. He’s a left shot but can play on either wing and he can wire it with a quick release.

7. Alex Geci, C (Sarnia, OHL)

A strong center with good size, soft hands, and a deadly wrist shot, Geci was one of the better 2003-born forwards in Slovakia’s Extraliga Juniors but moved on to Finland to play for the Junior B team for Luuko Rauma. He can be classified as a two-way type for the way he battles hard in the defensive end and kills penalties, but Geci also is a dangerous shooter with a lightning-quick release who can score from just about anywhere in the offensive zone. He is a good skater albeit not an explosive one, although Geci more than makes up for it with his high compete level and motor.

8. Alexei Prokopenko, C (Gatineau, QMJHL)

A skilled center with good size who didn’t take long to earn a top-line slot alongside MHL scoring machine (and Devils’ draft pick) Arseni Gritsyuk. Prokopenko is a low-maintenance pivot with excellent vision and can make the right decisions passing the puck off the rush. He’s an average skater with a hunched style and wide base, but Prokopenko anticipates very well and is open ice frequently.

9. Tomáš Suchánek, G (Tri-City, WHL)

A member of Frýdek-Místek’s three-headed monster in goal, Suchanek is a jittery butterfly netminder who was a key component for his teams at both the club and under-17 international level. Eligible for the 2021 NHL Draft, Suchanek relies almost exclusively on his quickness and anticipation, which are both advanced for his age group. Although he isn’t an active puck handler and stays deep in his crease, Suchanek keeps his feet moving inside the blue paint and tracks puck travel accordingly while keeping squared to the puck. He doesn’t seem partial to either the RVH or the VH since he spends most of the time on his feet.

Other Notables

14. Wiljami Marjala, LW (Quebec, QMJHL)

A sturdy goal-scoring winger with an excellent shot and low center of gravity, Marjala was caught in Karpat’s forward logjam as they contended for a Nuorten SM-Liiga title. Although the club was defense-centric and required their attackers to play within a tight system, Marjala was able to distinguish himself in spurts as he split the season between Karpat’s under-18 and under-20 programs. He also represented Finland at multiple U17 events and was one of the leading scorers. He’s an average skater but his balance and rapid directional changes into the middle of the ice can buy him time to bring his impressive shot-release to bear.

15. Stanislav Svozil, LHD (Regina, WHL)

Svozil is the best Czech defense prospect in quite some time and is expected to be the first defenseman from the Czech Republic to get drafted in the first round since Jakub Zboril in 2015. He spent all of 2019-20 with Brno in the elite Extraliga while shuffling between the second and third pairing, and being used extensively on the penalty kill. Svozil is an excellent skater and an absolute vacuum cleaner in the neutral zone. He holds his line but what makes him stand out are the timely reads he makes multiple times per period; sometimes in one shift alone. Svozil’s stats may not look gaudy (2 goals and 3 assists in 41 games) but keep in mind that he began the season as a 16-year-old defenseman in a physical and defense-centric European elite league.

16. Artyom Grushnikov, LHD (Hamilton, OHL)

If you like safe, steady defensemen, Grushnikov is the player for you. Despite his youth and talent, he is a fairly polished defender- gap control, positioning, body and stick positions, and passing decisions all appear to be advanced well beyond his years. As such, it is no surprise that he has, throughout his young career, constantly played with older players, both in his junior league and internationally. What can be frustrating is that Grushnikov has the ability to be a little more involved offensively, as he has great skating ability (more in terms of edges/mobility than raw speed) and underrated hands. If he can get more comfortable with that aspect of the game, Grushnikov may be a true top pairing defender in the NHL. If not, I still like him as a defensive-minded partner for an offensive-leaning defender on a second pairing.

21. Samuel Knazko, LHD (Seattle, WHL)

A swift offensive defenseman who was one of the better teenage rearguards in Finland’s competitive Nuorten SM-Liiga, Knazko can tailor his game to fit any situation in any zone. Although he’s more productive and impactful on the opposing side of the red line, Knazko was a top-four fixture for TPS and even saw time on the top pairing late in the season. Knazko is a strong skater in multiple areas. He can breakout with his wheels or hard stretch passes; control the pace and flow of a possession while manning the point on the power play; and step up with timely reads to break up plays in the neutral zone. Knazko can be both elusive and cerebral during chip-and-chase retrievals, with a series of jukes and directional changes to create time and space. There also is a physical element to his game that should help make a potential transition to North American junior hockey seamless. Knazko is expected to be drafted in the middle rounds of the 2020 NHL Draft,

48. Nikita Chibrikov, LW (Lethbridge, WHL)

Chibrikov played last season with Dinamo Moskva, but will be joining SKA-1946 this season. And, again, like Lauzin, Chibrikov brings an exciting skillset to the 2021 draft- and it is all predicated on his skating ability. Chibrikov is quick, fast, agile, and strong on his blades, making him a threat whenever he is on the ice. At the moment, he profiles more as a set-up man, where he can dazzle with his creativity, but there may be some underlying goal-scoring ability that hasn’t quite developed yet. Despite his size, he is aggressive on the forecheck, and doesn’t shy away from contact. All-in-all, Chibrikov clearly has NHL-level talent; it is just a question on if his size will prevent him from becoming an impact player. Reports however indicate that he is not ready to play for the Hurricanes just yet.

55. J.J. Peterka, LW (London, OHL)

You have to hand it to Dale Hunter and the London Knights for always finding a way to get their man, even if they haven’t received an official commitment. Peterka, who can go as high as the top 15 in this year’s NHL Draft, is an explosive and dynamic scoring machine who impressed in stretches in Germany’s elite DEL and put on a show at the under-20 world junior championship. Of course, Hunter coached Team Canada against Peterka and his German squad at that tournament, but it’s a safe bet that he knew plenty about him well beforehand. The Knights are the gold standard when it comes to recruiting coveted players to play for their program, and it’s safe to say that Peterka is the most talented forward out of the entire 2020 CHL import crop. The chances are high that he’ll be wearing green and white whenever the 2020-21 season starts.

56. Viktor Persson, LHD (Kamloops, WHL)

Although it’s incredibly rare for a top Swedish junior prospect to leave the Superelit or SHL for Canadian major junior, let alone for the Western Hockey League. But Kamloops deserves credit for taking a shot at a top-pairing defender and power-play quarterback like Persson, who is a hard-shooting two-way type with excellent speed and contributes in the defensive end by playing physical and holding his line. Playing mostly for Brynas J20, Persson tied for fourth in defense scoring during the Superelit’s Top-10 play by recording 14 points (5 goals, 9 assists) in 16 games; a significant increase in production compared to conference play (4 assists in 10 games). Although his skating style is slightly upright, Persson can motor with the best of them. He is an effortless skater in every direction and his ideal size makes him difficult to knock off the puck. Breaking out on his own is something Persson does regularly, but he also is a precision passer from either backhand or forehand and can deliver the puck onto the tape while moving at a high rate of speed.

90. Marko Stacha, LHD (Vancouver, WHL)

A swift offensive-minded defender with an active stick who has been a bottom-pairing defender in Slovakia’s elite Tipsport Liga, Stacha was solid for the Slovaks at the Ivan Hlinka where he displayed a quick first step and timely step-ups. Stacha can play physical when necessary and will use his upper-body strength to knock on-rushing puck carriers off balance or to shove them hard into the boards. He is, however, a puck rusher by nature and will look to join the rush or activate well below the faceoff dots to keep plays alive. Stacha delivers a crisp first pass and can use his footwork to fool aggressive forecheckers, but he still is learning the ropes on how to position himself properly and defend odd-man rushes.

Results

OA DRAFTED BY NAME HT WT DOB DRAFT POS TM LGE NAT
1 North Bay Petrov, Matvei 6’1 163 3/12/03 2021 RW Krylia Sovetov MHL RUS
2 Acadie-Bathurst Bednar, Jan 6’4 196 8/26/02 2020 G Karlovy Vary Extraliga CZE
3 Swift Current Fatul, Oliver 6’4 179 8/16/02 2020 RHD Tappara  Jr. NSM-Liiga SVK
4 Niagara Gushchin, Danil 5’8 165 2/6/02 2020 LW Muskegon USHL RUS
5 Halifax Biasca, Atillio 5’11 185 3/18/03 2021 LW Zug EV Jr. Elite Jr. A SUI
6 Moose Jaw Rysavy, Martin 6’2 202 3/6/03 2021 LW Vitkovice Jr. DHL Cup CZE
7 Sarnia Geci, Alex 6’1 168 8/23/03 2021 C Slovan  Jr. Extraliga Jrs. SVK
8 Gatineau Prokopenko, Alexei 5’11 166 1/29/03 2021 C Omskie Yastreby MHL RUS
9 Tri-City Suchanek, Tomas 6’1 160 4/30/03 2021 G Ocelari Trinec Jr. DHL Cup CZE
10 Prince George Karkkainen, Jonni 6’1 181 4/1/03 2021 C HIFK Jrs. NSM-Liiga FIN
11 Québec Marjala, Viljami 6’0 155 1/29/03 2021 LW Karpat Jrs. NSM-Liiga FIN
12 Regina Svozil, Stanislav 6’0 167 1/17/03 2021 LHD Brno Jrs. DHL Cup CZE
13 Hamilton Grushnikov, Artyom 6’2 185 3/20/03 2021 LHD Krasnaya Armiya MHL RUS
14 Red Deer Chlubna, Tomas 6’3 183 7/6/02 2020 RW Dukla Jihlava DHL Cup CZE
15 Mississauga Larsen, Kasper 6’6 231 9/23/02 2021 LHD Rodovre Metal Ligaen DEN
16 Shawinigan Canonica, Lorenzo 5’11 163 9/3/03 2021 C Lugano Jr. Elite Jr. A SUI
17 Seattle Knazko, Samuel 6’1 191 8/7/02 2020 LHD TPS Turku Jr. NSM-Liiga SVK
18 Erie Kolosov, Alexei 6’0 165 1/4/02 2020 G Belarus U20 Extraliga B BLR
19 Saint John Svechkov, Fyodor 6’0 179 4/5/03 2021 LW Ladya Togliatti MHL RUS
20 Kelowna Krutil, Michael 6’3 202 6/3/02 2020 RHD Sparta Praha Jr. DHL Cup CZE
21 Barrie Vrhel, Stanislav 6’2 178 12/20/02 2021 C Peliitat Mestis CZE
22 Victoria Almquist, Marcus 5’7 154 9/13/03 2021 RW HV71 J20 Superelit DEN
23 Owen Sound Delemont, Noah 5’9 163 2/7/02 2020 LHD Acadie-Bathurst QMJHL SUI
24 Rouyn-Noranda Klimovich, Danila 5’11 163 9/1/03 2021 F Belarus U17 Vysshaya Liga BLR
25 Vancouver Lysell, Fabian 5’10 176 1/19/03 2021 LW Frolunda J20 Superelit SWE
26 Sudbury Tuomaala, Samu 5’10 181 1/8/03 2021 RW Karpat Jrs. NSM-Liiga FIN
27 Saskatoon Lambert, Brad 5’11 172 12/19/03 2022 C HIFK Jrs. NSM-Liiga FIN
28 Charlottetown Brabenec, Jakub 6’0 154 9/11/03 2021 LW Brno Jrs. DHL Cup CZE
29 Calgary Peterek, Jonas 6’2 176 2/19/01 2019 C/LW Kelowna WHL CZE
30 Oshawa Mudrak, David 6’1 187 2/13/01 2019 RHD TPS Turku Jrs. NSM-Liiga SVK
31 Brandon Busygin, Yaroslav 6’3 169 2/14/03 2021 LHD Russkie Vityaz MHL RUS
32 Windsor Sobolev, Daniil 6’0 198 3/3/03 2021 RHD Spartak MHL RUS
33 Rimouski Lazarev, Alexander 6’0 159 10/21/03 2022 F Omskie Yastreby MHL RUS
34 Winnipeg Nikkanen, Henri 6’4 200 4/28/01 2019 C Jukurit SM-Liiga FIN
35 Peterborough Zanetti, Brian 6’2 172 3/15/03 2021 LHD Lugano Jrs. Elite Jr. A SUI
36 Cape Breton Nizovkin, Mikhail 5’10 163 1/5/03 2021 F Russkie Vityaz MHL RUS
37 Prince Albert Shyla, Uladzislau 5’9 147 3/14/03 2021 F Belarus U18 Extraliga B BLR
38 Flint Kuzmin, Dmitry 5’10 154 4/3/03 2021 LHD Belarus U18 Extraliga B BLR
39 Chicoutimi Kaslik, Matej 5’11 158 8/5/02 2020 C Malmo J20 Superelit SVK
40 Lethbridge Chibrikov, Nikita 5’10 167 2/16/03 2021 RW MHK Dynamo MHL RUS
41 Kitchener Cajan, Pavel 6’2 174 10/13/02 2021 G Liberec Jrs. DHL Cup CZE
42 Moncton Barbashev, Maxim 5’10 154 12/18/03 2022 F Atlanty MHL RUS
43 Medicine Hat Kuntonen, Oskari 6’1 180 9/15/02 2020 F Pelicans Jrs. NSM-Liiga FIN
44 Saginaw Mintyukov, Pavel 6’1 174 11/25/03 2022 LHD MHK Dynamo MHL RUS
45 Sherbrooke Grishin, Pavel 6’3 190 6/23/03 2021 RHD Krasnaya Armiya MHL RUS
46 Spokane Jiricek, David 6’3 170 11/28/03 2022 RHD Plzen Jrs. DHL Cup CZE
47 London Peterka, John Jason 5’11 192 1/14/02 2020 LW Munchen DEL GER
48 Kamloops Persson, Viktor 6’2 192 11/7/01 2020 LHD Brynas J20 Superelit SWE
49 Ottawa Gaidamak, Vsevolod 6’0 187 4/9/03 2021 C Spartak MHL RUS
50 Edmonton Svanenbergs, Janis 6’3 190 7/17/01 2019 RW HC Riga Jrs. MHL LAT
51 Swift Current Demidovich, Vlad 6’2 163 5/23/02 2020 F Belarus U18 Extraliga B BLR
52 Tri-City Golian, Andrej 6’3 170 3/7/01 2019 LHD Detva HC Extraliga SVK
53 Québec Siivonen, Aapo 6’0 159 10/31/02 2021 LHD Lukko Rauma Jrs. NSM-Liiga FIN
54 Erie Kulakov, Artyom 6’2 174 2/14/03 2021 LHD Spartak MHL RUS
55 Saint John Hampl, Jan 6’3 209 6/10/02 2020 LHD Liberec Jrs. DHL Cup CZE
56 Barrie Palchik, Alexander 5’11 165 9/27/02 2021 RW Belarus U20 Extraliga B BLR
57 Vancouver Stacha, Marko 6’0 192 3/21/02 2020 LHD Trencin Extraliga SVK
58 Sudbury Jendek, Dominik 6’0 176 4/25/01 2019 LW Slovan Bratislava Extraliga SVK
59 Charlottetown Mensik, Matous 6’2 194 7/19/03 2021 C Karpat Jrs. NSM-Liiga CZE
60 Calgary Garapuchik, Alexei 6’2 189 4/15/03 2021 LHD Belarus U17 Vysshaya Liga BLR
61 Winnipeg Rabcan, Eugen 6’2 183 6/28/01 2019 G Spisska Nova Ves 1. Liga SVK
62 Peterborough Ziemins, Kaspars 6’1 165 3/11/02 2020 F HS Riga MHL LAT
63 Chicoutimi Kuznetsov, Sergei 6’3 191 5/14/02 2020 F Belarus U20 Extraliga B BLR
64 Moncton Usnik, Val 6’0 176 2/6/01 2019 G Slovenia U20 Slovenia SLO
65 Saginaw Grewe, Albin 5’11 190 3/22/01 2019 LW Djurgardens J20 Superelit SWE
66 Ottawa Simontaival, Kasper 5’9 177 1/11/02 2020 RW Tappara SM-Liiga FIN
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