Highly-touted Russian prospect Klim Kostin (left) is not expected in Cranbrook for Kootenay Ice training camp. Jeff Chynoweth

Highly-touted Russian prospect Klim Kostin (left) is not expected in Cranbrook for Kootenay Ice training camp. Jeff Chynoweth

Chynoweth: CHL must level import draft playing field

Kootenay Ice GM Jeff Chynoweth says wild Western Hockey League polices itself while OHL, QMJHL ignore backdoor deals at import draft

When the Kootenay Ice open up WHL training camp in Cranbrook, there will be a serious void as 17-year-old forward Klim Kostin, the first overall selection from the 2016 CHL Import Draft, remains in Russia.

Jeff Chynoweth, president and general manager of the Ice, was hopeful Kostin was going to report to Cranbrook after being claimed with the top nod at the CHL’s annual international market in June.

Instead, the highly-touted and supremely talented playmaker from Penza, Russia, is going to stay home, at least for the time being, as he pursues a roster spot with Moscow Dynamo of Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League (KHL). According to Chynoweth, Kostin signed a contract with the KHL club after the U18 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup in August.

While Kostin remains in the motherland for now, Chynoweth didn’t come up empty-handed at the import draft as burly Russian defenceman Nikita Radzivilyuk — selected 61st overall — is expected to be in Cranbrook this weekend ahead of Kootenay Ice training camp.

Still, Chynoweth said the Ice have been virtually handcuffed at previous CHL Import Drafts and the longtime Kootenay kingpin believes serious change is needed in order to level the playing field.

According to Chynoweth, the biggest problem with the CHL Import Draft is the ever increasing circumstance in which some teams come to agreements with players and player agents prior to the running of the import draft.

“Until the CHL changes the rules of the import draft, nothing is going to change,” Chynoweth said. “I know when my dad was in charge of the CHL, he would recognize and strive to address the issues. Right now, to me, it looks like the commissioners of the OHL and QMJHL look the other way and are ignoring a serious problem when it comes to the import draft. It’s broken.

“It’s the haves and the have-nots. It’s not a level playing field. Something has to be done about it.”

Chynoweth’s father — the late Ed Chynoweth — was the commissioner of the WHL from 1972 through 1995 and the first president of what is now the CHL, holding that position from 1975 through 1995 after helping form Canada’s major junior banner league. He was posthumously inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2008 for his role as a builder and is widely regarded as one of the most influential men in junior hockey.

These days, players and agents hold the bulk, if not all, of the power heading into the CHL Import Draft. If a player has his heart set on playing in a specific market for a specific team, all his agent needs to do is circulate the word that the player he represents will not report or come to North America if any other club expresses interest or claims his rights.

What this leads to is informal arrangements in the back rooms of the CHL, where member clubs lay claim to highly-touted and skilled players, ensuring their services without necessarily needing to spend an equally valuable import draft selection to do so.

Really, it completely defeats the purpose of even hosting a formal draft when so much is predetermined and out of control for many CHL franchises.

One needs look no further than the 2015 CHL Import Draft for recent example.

With the 45th overall pick, the OHL’s London Knights selected Finnish defenceman Olli Juolevi. At the time, it was no secret the 6-foot-3, 179-pound blueliner was expected to be a top-tier choice at the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, which was still a year away.

After coming over from Europe, Juolevi’s stock continued to soar. The Vancouver Canucks eventually tabbed the mobile rearguard with the fifth-overall selection at the 2016 NHL Entry Draft this past June.

Why 44 teams prior to the OHL’s powerhouse Knights opted to pass on the supremely talented Finn is a baffling mystery, unless of course they all knew the native of Helsinki was only only going to report to London.

Chynoweth — and many general managers before him — likely would have loved the opportunity to use a top pick on a player of Juolevi’s ilk. Instead, Chynoweth was left with few options, eventually taking Czech forward Roman Dymacek in the 35th slot — well ahead of Juolevi. Of course, Dymacek never truly found his stride in North America and was released by the Ice at the conclusion of the 2015-16 WHL campaign after having very little impact.

“The Western Hockey League polices itself against the backdoor deals that go on with the import draft,” Chynoweth said.

David Branch has been the president of the CHL since 1996 after the late Chynoweth left the role. He has also been the commissioner of the OHL since 1979.

Further east, Gilles Courteau has been the commissioner of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League since 1986.

Meanwhile, Ron Robison has served as the WHL commissioner since 2000.

So what is the solution? How can the CHL Import Draft be fixed?

Chynoweth has his own answer for that and the first step is to create an opt-in process for players to enter the import draft.

“Critics will say an opt-in doesn’t guarantee a player is coming,” Chynoweth said. “Absolutely it doesn’t. But at least you know that Kootenay or London have the same list of players to choose from.

“Until we do that, it’s not a level playing field.”

As long as the status quo remains, small-market managers like Chynoweth will remain unable to compete with the big-market, big-money powerhouses of the CHL when it comes to the import draft, making life even more challenging than it already is for clubs operating in small towns around the country.

It also means elite talents like Kostin will stay home rather than coming to North America to ply their trade in one of the world’s greatest developers of high-end hockey talent, while the CHL as a whole loses out on bringing in entertaining and skilled players for fans to enjoy.

“With the bantam draft, when you select first overall, you know you’re getting a good player,” Chynoweth said. “Unfortunately, with the import draft, that’s not the case.”

All things considered, it’s a lose-lose situation for the entire Canadian Hockey League and hockey fans in North America.

The Kootenay Ice report for fitness testing this Sunday before on-ice training camp sessions get underway Monday (9 a.m.) at Western Financial Place.

Just Posted

The latest EKASS survey confirms a steady decline in substance use among EK youth over the years. (image compilation via Pixabay)
Latest survey shows steady decline in adolescent substance use over the years

Starting in 2002, the survey has been conducted every two years to monitor changes in substance use patterns, attitudes and behaviors amongst East Kootenay youth.

The Aquatic Centre at Western Financial Place.
Cranbrook Aquatic Center to close temporarily

The annual shutdown of the Aquatic Center at Western Financial Place will begin earlier than scheduled this year and does not have a defined end date at this time.

Residents line up outside the Vernon Recreation Complex for their COVID-19 vaccine Saturday, June 5. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
No appointments necessary for first dose COVID-19 vaccine: Interior Health

People can just show up at clinics, register on the spot and get the shot

It happened this week in 1914

June 6 -12: Compiled by Dave Humphrey from the archived newspapers held at the Cranbrook History Centre and Archives

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry on Thursday, June 10, mentioned Grand Forks among two other COVID “hot spots” in B.C. Photo: Screenshot - YouTube COVID-19 BC Update, June 10, 2021
PHO Henry says West Kootenay city is a COVID ‘hot spot’ in B.C.

There are 11 cases of COVID-19 in the Grand Forks local health area, according the BC CDC

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Premier John Horgan speaks as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, and health minister Adrian Dix look on during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan during a press conference from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to provide details on Step 2 of COVID reopening plan Monday

Step 2 could allow for larger gatherings and a resumption of recreational travel

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Most Read