Knights select Ruslan Gazizov in 2021 CHL Import Draft

The London Knights have had excellent success in the Canadian Hockey League Import Draft.

It has brought them Olli Maatta, Nikita Zadorov, Janne Kuokkanen, Vladislav Namestnikov and Adam Boqvist, who are all regulars in the National Hockey League. And that’s just dating back to 2010.

The Knights are hoping that Ruslan Gazizov can join that list in the future after selecting the Russian forward with the 12th overall pick in the June 30 draft.

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Unlike a number of players his age from Ontario, Gazizov was able to get onto the ice and play in games in the 2020-21 season.

Gazizov played for both the Avangard Omsk Under-17 team and with Omskie Yastreby of the MHL. The MHL is the Russian junior or minor league that feeds the professional leagues, the Supreme Hockey League and the Kontinental Hockey League.

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In 13 games with Omskie Yastreby, Gazizov had three goals and four points. He was one of the offensively dominant players on Avangard Omsk U17 putting up four goals and 11 points in just six games.

“Ruslan is an offensively gifted player with very good hockey sense and dynamic skill,” describes London Knights associate general manager Rob Simpson.

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Gazizov also starred for Russia at the 2020 Youth Olympic Games where he had five points in four games. He scored one of the four goals in a 4-0 victory over Team USA to help capture Russia’s first gold medal at the games.

London had the 111th selection in Import Draft but passed on using it, which allows them to keep defenceman Kirill Steklov and forward J.J. Peterka on their import player protected list.

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Canadian Hockey League teams can only dress two import players in any game but they are permitted to keep three as long as one has ties to the National Hockey League.

Peterka was drafted by the Knights in 2020 but has not played for the team. He was selected in the 2nd round of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft by the Buffalo Sabres. He will attend training camp with Buffalo in the fall and London could be a destination, though the Sabres would have several options for Peterka, including the NHL, the American Hockey League or even a return to Europe.

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Steklov played a rookie season for the Knights in 2019-20. He spent most of last year a long way from London as a member of Russkie Vityazi Chekhov in the MHL.

Ontario Hockey League teams selected 27 players from 12 different countries.

Next for the OHL will be the opening of training camps in late August or early September, depending on provincial rules and restrictions.

The Knights are slated to begin their 2021-22 season on Oct. 8 against the Owen Sound Attack at Budweiser Gardens.

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