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Junior hockey: Kelowna Rockets select defenceman in import draft

The Canadian Hockey League held its annual import draft on Friday. The Kelowna Rockets came away with one new player.

Selecting 43rd overall, Kelowna picked 17-year-old Marek Rocak, a 5-foot-10 and 168-pound defenceman from Czechia (Czech Republic).

The rearguard spent last season in a U20 league, where he tallied 10 points (4 goals, 6 assists) in 33 games with HC Ocelari Trinec. Born in 2005, Rocak isn’t eligible to be drafted until 2023.

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All CHL teams have the option to select two players. However, teams are limited to two import players, and Kelowna will have one returning from last season.

With centre Gabriel Szturc, 18, returning for a second season to Kelowna, the Rockets opted not to use their second pick.

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Last season, the 5-foot-10 Szturc recorded 16 goals and 41 points in 67 games with the Rockets. And in late June, Szturc was invited to Czechia’s selection camp for the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship.

Szturc was selected 44th overall by Kelowna in the 2021 CHL import draft.

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Kelowna’s other import, Pavel Novak, will be stepping away from hockey following a cancer diagnosis.

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In a statement released to the media last week, Novak said “unfortunately, my health condition does not allow me to prepare for the next season. I was diagnosed with an oncological disease a few days ago and will soon begin treatment.”

He continued, saying “the coming months will not be easy for me but I firmly believe that everything will turn out well and soon I will fly again on the ice with joy and passion! I will be back stronger!”

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Novak was selected in the fifth round, 146th overall, by the Minnesota Wild in the NHL’s entry draft.

In all, 64 players were selected in Friday’s import draft.

Selecting first overall were the Medicine Hat Tigers, who took 5-10 centre Adam Sykora of Slovakia.

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