This year’s Canadian Hockey League (CHL) Import Draft is an important one for the Red Deer Rebels.
Each Western Hockey League team is permitted to have two import players and with the departure of defenceman Christoffer Sedoff after his 20-year-old campaign, the Rebels are left with an open roster spot alongside Czechia product Frantisek Formanek.
Red Deer will select just one player with the 54th overall pick in the draft on Wednesday.
“Formanek will be back with us so we’re really happy to have him back. We think he’ll have a really good year,” said Rebels associate general manager Shaun Sutter.
“It seems like every import draft is a big one in the sense that we have had a lot of success in it in terms of players that come that are quality players.”
Last year the Rebels selected Czechia defenceman Vojtech Port who was later traded to the Edmonton Oil Kings in an effort to free up a roster spot for Sedoff. Port played a full season in Edmonton and was recently selected by the Anaheim Ducks in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft.
In 2021, the Rebels selected Formanek who’s been a regular contributor throughout the lineup the last two years.
“Every year is important. We’ve always looked at it sort of like a trade acquisition but at the same time we are picking very late,” he said.
“If you look at the import draft historically the players who are picked in that area of the import draft that a lot of them either don’t pan out or don’t come. We’ll try to prepare the best we can but it’s possible we might be taking a flyer on a guy too.”
Sutter explained they’re not looking to address a certain position but will assess once it gets closer to their pick and see who’s available.
There are always many players from Europe who want to play in the CHL but Sutter said since they have such a late pick he can’t say for certain that whoever they draft will want to come to the CHL.
In addition, a lot of the players have contracts to play at home and they have a lot of good options to go play professionally in other European countries and get paid.
“At the same time, there are a lot of kids that do want to come to the CHL but it’s just a matter if they like the fit or not.”
Sutter added the scouting staff put a lot of work into preparing for the draft including watching a lot of videos and talking with people in Europe. That’s part of the reason why he believes they’ve been rewarded with great players over the years but there are certainly times of uncertainty.
“There’s some years where you’re not sure if they’re going to come… I can’t remember the last time we picked in the 50s. Last year we picked in the mid-40s when we picked Port so we’ll just see,” he said.
“I don’t think the pool is as big this year but you never know until you get there.”