Red Deer Rebels forward Frantisek Formanek, the team’s 2021 CHL Import selection made his WHL debut last season. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)

Red Deer Rebels forward Frantisek Formanek, the team’s 2021 CHL Import selection made his WHL debut last season. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)

Red Deer Rebels ready to make a selection in 2022 CHL Import Draft

Rebels will make the 49th seelction

With the 2022 Canadian Hockey League Import Draft set for Friday, the Red Deer Rebels will look to improve their squad.

The Rebels will have the 49th pick in the first round and will only make a single selection. On Canada Day, all 60 teams in the CHL will make at least one pick and are allowed to keep two import players on the roster for the upcoming season.

Assistant general manager Shaun Sutter told the Advocate they will not be looking to select a goaltender. With the late pick combined with the shorter pool of talent with no Russian or Belarussian players allowed in the draft, the plan is to play the waiting game and see what player falls to them.

“Specifically if you look at the Western Hockey League a lot of the players that come to the WHL are Belarussian players so that really cuts the player pool in half combined with maybe not being a great year,” he said.

Another issue for CHL teams is the NHL Draft is usually held before the CHL Import Draft, which would give teams a better idea of which European players would be coming to North America to play hockey.

“That’s kind of another variable you’re chasing so it’s possible they may be picking a player that you never even see,” he said.

Technically speaking Red Deer will have Czech forward Frantisek Formanek who was selected 14th overall in 2021 and are permitted to have one more imported player. That could be whoever is selected on Friday but could also be Finnish defenceman Christoffer Sedoff who was selected 25th overall in 2019 and played with Red Deer this season. Sedoff turned 20 years old in February and has one more season of junior eligibility unless he gets the opportunity to play professional hockey.

Finding the right player can be difficult as the quality or quantity of tape on players is not always there.

“That kind of speaks volumes to the level of players you’re looking at. You’re ‘A’ trying to sort out if they’re even good enough to play at the CHL level and then ‘B’ who their agent is and then ‘C’ will they come or what’s their contractual status with the European team,” Sutter said.

Just because they pick a player doesn’t mean they even have to come to Red Deer if they don’t like the fit. With some of the players, there is a certain level of recruiting that takes place to entice them to come, which can be done before the draft but is usually done after you pick them in the draft.

A prime example is Formanek. Red Deer picked him last summer, but he didn’t join the team until January of 2022, midway through the WHL season when he was released by his Czech league team and allowed to join the Rebels.

“You’re trying to swing for the fences but they’re only good if they’re playing for you too,” he said.

On the personal side, it can be a bit of a culture shock for players coming from Europe to play hockey. Simple things like going to the gas station can be difficult with the language barrier combined with being away from home and your family. Sutter said they often find it takes about six months for the players to climatize.

“I know for myself I played in Europe so I went through it and you understand it better but It’s not just these kids coming over and playing hockey there’s all these other elements and a lot of them there first time being away from home,” Sutter said.

The draft will begin at 9 a.m. mountain time and can be watched online at chl.ca/draft.

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