Following up with their first-ever Russian in Rinat Valiev last year, the Kootenay Ice again raided the Motherland to scoop up Alexander Chirva 33rd overall in the first round of the CHL Import Draft on Wednesday.
Chivra, an 18-year-old forward who played with the Moose Jaw Warriors last year, has a big 6’1″ frame and weighs in at 185 pounds. Chirva, who shares the same agent as Valiev, totalled six points in 58 games with the Warriors last year.
Looking at the lineup, Kootenay Ice general manager Jeff Chynoweth decided that he needed to add some more depth up front.
“You look on defence, you’ve got three 1995’s in Faith, Valiev and King coming back and you’ve got Troy Murray, so there’s four really good defenceman,” said Chynoweth. “You’ve got some young prospects coming up—Steenbergen and some other guys, so you look at the back, is there really room there right now?
“From our end, we thought a forward would look good.”
There’s also six overage players vying for three spots, however, one includes Tim Bozon, who is likely to step up into the AHL after making huge strides in his recovery from battling life-threatening meningitis earlier in March.
“Tim Bozon has made, so far, a remarkable recovery and all indications lead to him continuing his hockey career in the fall,” said Chynoweth. “In speaking with the Montreal Canadiens, the plan is for him to play pro hockey next year.”
Bozon could rejoin the Ice if the Canadiens choose to send him back to major-junior, but that will depend on how he performs when training camp rolls around.
Fellow overagers include Mackenzie Skapski, Landon Cross, Landon Peel, Levi Cable and Austin Vetterl.
“We just don’t know what’s going to happen with our 20-year-old situation,” added Chynoweth.
With that in mind, Chynoweth made Chirva his selection in the first round of the Import Draft, after talking with other teams that faced the Warriors more frequently last year.
“From Alex’s end, he played last year in Moose Jaw, I talked to a number of teams who saw him on a regular basis in the East Division, and they all thought he was a good player.
“Unfortunately for him, he came in late last year, much like Rinat Valiev with the Foreign Services strike, he didn’t get in till September, so he was kind of behind the eight ball right off the bat and it was tough to make up ground.
“A lot of times you go into this sight unseen, so we get a player now that has been here, knows the language, knows the culture.
“I think he’s going to be miles ahead of where he was last year.”
Mark your calendars
The WHL released the regular season schedule last week, and the Kootenay Ice will open the regular season with a quick road trip, starting in Red Deer on Sept. 19th, 2014 and follow up with a contest against the Oil Kings the evening afterwards.
The Ice won’t hold their home opener until a few weeks later, when they host the Spokane Chiefs on Friday, Oct. 3rd, 2014.
The Ice will primarily face Central Division opponents with 34 games on the calendar. Kootenay will hit the road for a swing through the U.S. Division, however, B.C. Division teams will make the trek to Cranbrook.
Of the 36 homes games, Kootenay will play 17 on Friday, nine on Saturday and three on Sunday. Of the seven remaining home games, five will be on Tuesday and two on Wednesday.
Like last year, the schedule was made with a computer program rather than team officials meeting together to hammer it out manually.
“For the most part, we’re very happy with our schedule,” said Chynoweth. “There’s always parts of a schedule you don’t like and it’s tough when you don’t control that, that’s the only thing that’s a negative.
“The pros outweigh the negatives and I think we’ve got a good schedule. You’ll always want to give your team as much a chance to win and a schedule plays a big part of that.
“You’re going to have parts of the year when it’s not very good, but you’re going to have parts of the year when it’s really good.”