With no European players on the Red Deer Rebels roster, owner/president Brent Sutter will attempt to alleviate that shortage during the Canadian Hockey League import draft on Tuesday.
Sutter confirmed on Sunday that Tommi Kivisto will not be returning to the Rebels for the 2009-10 Western Hockey League season after playing as a rookie defenceman last winter. Kivisto signed with the Jokerit Helsinki organization in his native Finland in May, but left the door open just a crack regarding a possible return to Red Deer.
But he won’t be back and the Rebels will try to fill his spot and perhaps add a second import on Tuesday.
“Jesse (Rebels head coach/vice president of hockey operations) and myself have made contact with different people (agents, scouts) while trying to put together a list of prospective players,” said Sutter. “It’s not a real strong European draft, we know that going in. But hopefully there’s one or two players there we can get who can help our team.”
The Rebels have the 14th overall pick this year as well as a second-round selection, No. 74.
“I think we’ll use both of them unless there’s nothing there with the second pick,” said Sutter, who last week signed on as the head coach of the Calgary Flames. “We’ll see what’s there when it all shakes down.”
The Rebels will likely have to overlook several players based on the preferences of them and their respective agents.
“You might have certain players rated higher than others but their agents are adamant that they won’t come out west, that they want to go to Quebec and Ontario. So there’s no sense in wasting your time on those players because you’re never going to get them,” said Sutter.
A similar scenario exists with the high-end Europeans who were selected in the NHL draft on Friday and Saturday.
“All of the Swedish kids who were selected early, I’ve been told they’ll be staying overseas,” said Sutter.
That means there’s little likelihood of the Rebels selecting and then securing the services of defenceman Tim Erixon, the Flames’ first pick in this year’s NHL draft.
“Darryl (Flames GM Sutter) has never mentioned it to me,” said the Rebels owner, in reference to the possibility of the Flames approaching Erixon with the notion of him coming to Red Deer.
Erixon and more than a few of his young countrymen — seven of whom were selected in the first round of the NHL draft — played in the Swedish Elite League last winter and will return for another season. Not only are they making generous amounts of money, but they are competing against men and thus developing perhaps even quicker than would be the case in the major junior ranks.
“And not only that, those players can stay over there and play and their NHL teams can hold their rights for quite a long time,” said Sutter. “If they come over here and play they (NHL teams) have to sign them within two years. So most NHL clubs are not really pushing these players to come over.”
The import draft starts at 7 a.m. MDT. The Rebels will make their first selection at 9:40 a.m.
gmeachem at bprda.wpengine.com