Benjamin Franklin always gets credit for saying that the only certainties in life are death and taxes.
If that adage still holds true, then it makes the CHL Import Draft look a little bit like a winning scratch ticket that you find inside something purchased from a garage sale.
It’s about as far from a guarantee as you can go.
Still, when the draft pays off, it can pay off in a very big way.
The Halifax Mooseheads made Nico Hischier the sixth overall pick last year and he rewarded them with 86 points in 57 games and then the New Jersey Devils made him the first overall selection in this year’s NHL Entry Draft.
The London Knights have had considerable success as well. Where would their back-to-back OHL Championship seasons in 2012 and 2013 be without Olli Maatta? It certainly hurt the Knights when he made the Pittsburgh Penguins as a 19-year old.
Olli Juolevi has had an outstanding junior career in London. Janne Kuokkanen was a key addition to the Knights last season.
Now, London will hope that, with Kuokkanen destined for at least the American Hockey League next year and Juolevi possibly set to be a Canuck, General Manager Rob Simpson has found more talent from Europe.
Finland was the hotbed that produced Maatta, Juolevi and Kuokkanen. Simpson went to their largest rival with both picks in 2017.
He called the name of Stockholm’s Jesper Bratt with the 49th selection. Bratt was a 6th round pick of the New Jersey Devils in 2016, who impressed Simpson with his level of play.
“He is speedy, skilled, can make plays and score. He has a lot of dynamic parts to his game.”
Bratt could play this coming year with the Binghamton Devils of the AHL, since he was not OHL property when New Jersey drafted him. At 5’10 and 174 lbs., he doesn’t own a whole lot of bulk, but survived just fine with AIK this past season, contributing 22 points in 46 games in the Swedish Allsvenskan, which acts as the second division. He was not a member of Sweden’s World Junior team, but at 18 he did play a combined ten games with Sweden’s U19 and U20 teams in international tournaments.
Adam Boqvist is 17-years-old and from Falun. He played in 18 games internationally for Sweden in 2016-17. As a defenceman, he recorded some impressive totals with the U17 team, scoring nine goals and 12 points in 11 games.
The Knights selected him at number 109, but because of a number of teams choosing not to use both of their picks, he was actually the 66th player taken.
“He’s our style of defenceman along the lines of a Juolevi. He’s a puck-moving, offensive defenceman who helps you because you don’t spend much time in your end.”
Boqvist is entering his NHL draft year.
There is no guarantee that either one will walk through the London Knights’ dressing room. In fact, there is still a chance that Juolevi plays another year in the OHL. Since he was drafted by Vancouver while he was with the Knights, he can only play in the NHL or the OHL, the American Hockey League is not an option.
That leaves London with a number of uncertainties for the moment, but that is the nature of the Import Draft.
“We’re going to communicate with Jesper and with New Jersey over the next couple of days,” Simpson says.
They will do the same with Boqvist this summer.
And they will hope that uncertainty turns more toward to certainty as the 2017-18 season arrives.
Notes: The London Knights will open the 2017 OHL pre-season on September 1 at Budweiser Gardens against the Sarnia Sting. London will be in Sarnia on September 2.
The Erie Otters will play the Knights at Budweiser Gardens on September 15 and then the teams will meet in Komoka the next night as London completes their pre-season schedule.