Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Hawks Draft 2 in CHL Import Draft

This morning the Portland Winterhawks drafted two European born Center-men, in hopes to bolster depth at that position. The CHL import draft is held annually and the 60 teams take turns, based on overall record selecting foreign born players. The catch is that often the teams are taking fliers on players, hoping that they report, while not actually having received confirmation yet.

Per CHL rules, you are only allowed two import players on your roster and due to the departure of Anton Cederholm and Oliver Bjorkstrand to the professional ranks, Portland had two openings.

Center was a position of need as Portland will likely lose #1 and #2 Centers Nic Petan and Chase De Leo to the professional ranks and so they decided to draft two Centers to help try to fill this huge void.

With the 50th overall pick, Portland selected Latvian born, 1996 born Center: Rodrigo Abols. He split time with HK Riga of the Maritime Hockey League and Dinamo Riga of Russia's professional league: the KHL. With HK Riga he notched 38 points and 61 Penalty Minutes in just 35 games. Then with Latvian based Dinamo Riga, he scored 5 points in 14 games. He also played for Latvia at the World Juniors 1A tournament, scoring 4 points in 5 games and helping his national squad to the Silver medal.

In these videos, Abols shows both great hands and good hockey sense. Another reason to be excited about him is the fact that after moving up to playing with grown men in the KHL, he was still able to produce offensively. The flip side of that is that he is already playing in a pro league and would he want to go overseas to play. One has to think that Portland Coach and G.M. Jamie Kompon and Assistant G.M. Matt Bardsley would only have used this pick on him if they knew he wants to come over. He has been passed over in two straight NHL drafts and maybe he believes that playing in the WHL with a bunch of other drafted players, will help him get noticed. He is tall at 6'3", but needs to fill out his frame a little more with his weight being listed at only 179 lbs.

If Abols does report to Portland, he will likely miss time in early December to play for Latvia again at the World Junior 1A Championship.

Then with the 110th pick, Portland selected Swedish born Center-man Carl Ericson. Like Abols, Ericson tore up a lower level league, before earning a try at the highest league in his country; the SHL. Ericson had 42 points and 48 penalty minutes with Leksand J20, before moving up to Leksand of the SHL, where he failed to score in 11 games.

Ericson is much smaller then Abols as he is just 5'9" and 163 lbs, but Portland has had a lot of recent success with under-sized Centers, so should not be phased by this.

Ericson is also 1996 born and so has also been passed over at the NHL draft two times, likely because of his size. He last played for Sweden at the International level at the U-16s, in 2011/12 and so is not a threat to miss time, should he report to Portland.

Overall, Portland addressed a need with two older players, who, if they come over, will be hungry to impress scouts on a bigger stage.

With Portland's recent history of having 4 of the last 6 import draft selections, move on to pro careers, there is not much fault to be found in the international scouting and so I would expect both of these players to make a positive impact on this year's team.

Jacob Cederholm
Other Notes:
-The Vancouver Giants (Radovan Bondra-Chicago), Seattle Thunderbirds (Gustav Olhaver-Colorado), Red Deer Rebels (Michael Spacek-Winnipeg) and Brandon Wheat Kings (Oliver Kylington-Calgary), all drafted import players, who were just drafted in last week's NHL draft.

-Anton Cederholm's younger brother: Jacob was not drafted in the import draft, yet is expected to be a first round pick in the 2016 NHL draft, per "Hockey Prospects". It could be that Portland has their eye on him next year, but did not draft him for another reason.

-Also ranked on that list were several players whose rights are held by U.S. Division teams. Auston Matthews (Projected 1st), along with Tyson Jost (20th), whose rights are held by Everett and Dante Fabbro (11th), whose rights are held by Seattle, have all yet to sign Educational Contracts.

-Kieffer Bellows is listed 12th on that list and his WHL rights are owned by Portland. He is already an NCAA commit and is unlikely to report to Portland (though we can dream can't we). The 2014/15 USHL rookie of the year would immediately be one of the Hawk's most skilled players, were Kompon and co. able to convince him to go the WHL route.

-Kale Clague (Brandon), Sam Steel (Regina), Brett Howden (Moose Jaw), Tyler Benson (Vancouver), Evan Sarthou (Tri City) and Jake Bean (Calgary) are also listed and will be some of the most scouted players in the WHL in the 2015/16 season.