The CHL held it's import draft today and the London Knights held the first overall pick after making a deal with the Barrie Colts. A lot of speculation had Mark Hunter and company taking Mikhail Grigorenko from Russia, a guy who could contend for the top spot at the 2012 NHL draft. However London went to Finland instead opting for Olli Maatta, a left handed defenceman who stands 6.02 and is almost 200 pounds. One scout described Maatta as "...big and solid. A shut down guy." He was excellent at the U18 World Championship and played for Finland at last year's World Junior Championship as a 16 year old. Maatta will be in the outstanding crop of defenceman for next year's draft and some think will be a top 5 pick, although there will be plenty of competition from CHL blueliners.
As for Grigorenko, the skilled Russian didn't have to wait long to hear his name called as Quebec traded up for the #2 pick and took him. Not very surprising as Patrick Roy's club has had a long history of successful Russians who have suited up for the Rempart. Last night Dmitry Chesnokov from Yahoo Sports told us Grigorenko is the most talented Russian eligible for the NHL draft since Ovechkin and Malkin, and along with Nail Yakupov in Sarnia could mimic the OV and Malkin in going 1-2 in 2012.
With the 3rd pick, the Calgary Hitmen made it 3 countries in 3 picks by taking Swedish power forward Victor Rask, a Carolina Hurricanes 2nd round pick from last weekend's NHL draft. Rask is dynamite in the faceoff dot, skates really well but it's his compete level that impresses scouts the most. The Hitmen scoop Rask up long before the Edmonton Oil Kings were going to take him.
As for Edmonton, they settle on Slovakian Dman Martin Gernat, who the Oilers selected in the 5th round last Saturday in Minnesota. He's 6.04 and 187 pounds and hopefully there is a little of Martin Marincin in him, as Marincin went first overall last year and starred for Prince George this season.
The ongoing draft can be found here.
Interesting that both Grigorenko and Yakupov, arguably the two biggest Russian prospects we've seen since Filatov or Cherepanov, will both play their draft years in the CHL.
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