Will Lassi Thomson be wearing Kelowna Rockets colours this fall?
That question was front and centre for Rockets management on Thursday at the CHL’s annual import draft.
The Rockets wound up selecting two players: Czech forward Pavel Novak at 13th overall in the first round, then Russian forward Daniil Gutik at 73rd overall in the second round.
Major junior teams are allowed just two imports, or European players. Now they have three, meaning one will ultimately be left off the roster.
Thomson, from Finland, had a wonderful rookie season with Kelowna in 2018-19, registering 17 goals and 41 points in 63 regular-season games. However, in May, a report surfaced stating Thomson would be leaving Kelowna to play professionally in the Finnish Elite League.
Thomson, though, may wind up in a Rockets uniform this fall.
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Last Friday, Thomson was selected in the first round of the NHL entry draft, with the Ottawa Senators selecting him 19th overall. Generally speaking, drafted players wind up going to where NHL teams assign them, but not always.
If Thomson plays in Europe, the Rockets made a smart move by selecting two imports on Thursday. If he’s assigned to Kelowna, then the Rockets have a decision to make between Novak and Gutik.
“We’re just protecting ourselves with Lassi,” said Rockets general manager Bruce Hamilton. “Both these players we picked today we think are talented players. Both had good numbers.”
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Below are tidbits on Novak and Gutik.
- Born in Tabor, Czech Republic. Listed at 5-foot-10 and 167 pounds. Played with Motor Ceske Budejovice U19 in 2018-19. Suited up in 31 games, recording 29 goals and 16 assists for 45 points.
- Also had 16 penalty minutes. He also dressed for 20 games with Budejovice in the Czech2 league, collecting three assists.
- Novak also played in the World U17 Hockey Challenge for the Czech Republic, recording a goal and an assist in five games.
- He also took part in 16 international U17 games, picking up 15 points (8 goals, 7 assists) and 12 international U18 games, collecting 6 points (4 goals, 2 assists).
- From Khabarovsk, Russia. Listed at 6-foot-3 and 179 pounds. Played 36 games with Loko Yaroslavl of the MHL last season, recording 5 goals and 8 assists 13 points. Also had 12 penalty minutes.
- Helped Russia win bronze at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup last August in Edmonton, notching 4 assists in 5 games.
- Gutik also won a silver medal with Russia at the World Junior A Challenge in Bonnyville, Alta., where he had 4 points (1 goal, 3 assists) in six games.
Rockets release regular-season schedule
The Rockets, hosts of the 2020 Memorial Cup, will begin their season on Saturday, Sept. 21, with a home game against the Spokane Chiefs.
The WHL’s 2019-20 regular-season schedule was released Tuesday. For the Rockets’ regular-season schedule, click here.
Kelowna’s season and home-opening game will also be Paint the Rink Pink Night. The team will don pink jerseys that will be auctioned off to raise money for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. Fans are encouraged to wear pink.
Kelowna’s schedule is comprised of 36 games against B.C. Division rivals, 20 games against Western conference teams and 12 games against Eastern Conference teams.
Foote signs entry-level contract with Tampa Bay
Also Tuesday, Rockets assistant captain Nolan Foote signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Last Friday, Tampa Bay selected Foote in the first round of the NHL entry draft at 27th overall.
With Kelowna last season, Foote registered , Foote tallied 36 goals and 63 points in in 66 regular-season games. He led the Rockets in goals and power-play goals (17) and was tied for second for points.
Last week, Hockey Canada announced that Foote was one of 43 players named to Hockey Canada’s national junior team development camp in Plymouth, Mich., July 27 to Aug. 4.
Rockets forward invited to national U17 development camp
Hockey Canada has invited Trevor Wong to its national under-17 development camp in Calgary, July 19-26.
The camp is the first step to playing in the 2019 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge. The week-long camp will feature 12 goaltenders, 36 defencemen and 64 forwards divided into six teams.
The breakdown of WHL players includes three goaltenders, eight defencemen, and 14 forwards.
“The national under-17 development camp is the first step these athletes take in their Team Canada career,” said Shawn Bullock of Hockey Canada.
Wong, 16 and from Vancouver, was selected by the Rockets 18th overall in the WHL’s 2018 bantam draft. He appeared in five games for Kelowna last season as a 15-year-old, scoring one goal.
Wong also played for Team B.C. at the Canada Games in February. He was tied for seventh in tournament scoring with 10 points (3 goals and 7 assists) in seven games.