The Red Deer Rebels targeted help up front with their selection in the 2017 CHL Import Draft on Wednesday.
Red Deer took 19-year-old centre Kristian Reichel with the 27th selection, the son of former NHLer Robert Reichel.
“He was a player we had confirmation leading into the import draft that we knew he would come and that he’d be excited about the opportunity to play in Red Deer,” Rebels assistant GM and director of player personnel Shaun Sutter said.
“We were targeting a forward, specifically a centre to play within our top two lines and we were only going to pick a player who could step in a fit that criteria.”
Sutter added that while the Rebels have a number of players who can play centre they wanted a player who fit more naturally into the position.
“We don’t have a lot of natural centremen. We have some players who played centre, but we really targeted centre icemen and that’s where Kristian fit in,” he said.
Along with those factors, Sutter cited a a few others, including the family’s familiarity with North America, the player’s age and his international experience. Robert, played 13 season in the NHL including six with the Calgary Flames from 1990-1997. He also had stints with the New York Islanders, Phoenix Coyotes and Toronto Maple Leafs.
Kristian, a six-foot, 167-pound centre iceman spent the majority of last season with HC Litvinov in the Czech Extraliga. He played in 41 games scoring two goals and six assists for eight points.
He also suited up for Czech Republic with Rebels’ Michael Spacek and Adam Musil at the 2017 World Junior Hockey Championships. He didn’t record a point in eight games at the tournament, playing more of a checking role.
Playing for the Czech Republic at the 2016 World Junior A Challenge, Reichel had three goals and two assists in five games. His team lost in the bronze medal game 7-4 to Russia at that tournament.
“We weren’t interested in waiting a couple years for a player. We wanted a player who could step in and play right away. We thought his international resume was longer than a lot of players that were available,” Sutter added.
“We knew from talking to people we trust that he is a good kid. He’s a guy that has something to prove that he can be a good player in our league.”
Sutter also noted the 19-year-old will definitely be here for the Rebels Training Camp from Aug. 23-30 and thinks it’s “highly likely” Reichel will be at an NHL Camp this fall.
“That’s a positive. Any time you can draft a player that will be playing in the world juniors and will be attending a NHL camp, that’s usually a good sign,” Sutter said.
Reichel was the only selection for the Rebels in the Import Draft.