The Kootenay Ice will look to replenish their international influence Tuesday morning at the 2015 CHL Import Draft. With forward Tim Bozon aging out and defenceman Rinat Valiev likely turning pro, there are big import shoes to be filled in Cranbrook.
The Ice hold the 35th overall selection at the Canadian Hockey League’s annual import restocking. All 60 of the CHL’s franchises have the opportunity to add two players via the import draft.
The CHL Import Draft is widely regarded as a bit of a crapshoot at times and history for the Kootenay Ice supports that.
“It’s the most difficult to prepare for because, in most cases, we have not seen the players,” said Jeff Chynoweth, Kootenay Ice president and general manager, on Monday. “When you’re dealing with bantam-aged players, we’ve seen the players throughout the season.”
With Bozon and Valiev moving on, the Ice head into 2015-16 with no import players on the roster. Chynoweth hopes to draft two forwards in the 1997 age group, but only time will tell if that opportunity comes to fruition.
“Depending how the draft goes, we might have to take one forward and one defenceman,” Chynoweth said.
Alexander Chirva, a smooth-skating centre from Moscow, was the team’s only selection at the 2014 CHL Import Draft.
There was at least some traceable trail on the shifty Russian as he had played 58 games for the Moose Jaw Warriors during the 2013-14 WHL campaign. Despite the track record, Chirva only lasted three games in Cranbrook before he was released by the Ice last season.
A consolation prize came along as Bozon was returned to the WHL from the NHL’s Monreal Canadiens shortly after. He went on to score 35 goals and 63 points in his final season with the Ice. In 107 games over two seasons, the native of Valbonne, France, registered 65 goals and 60 assists, good for 125 points.
Bozon was a 2011 CHL Import Draft selection of the Kamloops Blazers (27th overall).
Shift to the 2013 CHL Import Draft where two-way defenceman Rinat Valiev was selected by the club with the 25th overall pick.
Valiev went on to be drafted in the third round (68th overall) of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft by the Toronto Maple Leafs and helped quarterback the Kootenay Ice power play for two seasons.
After playing 107 games and registering 64 points in Cranbrook, Valiev is expected to join the Maple Leafs organization, whether that be with big club, the AHL Toronto Marlies or the ECHL Orlando Solar Bears.
“You try to network as much as you can, talking to as many NHL teams as you might have connections with,” Chynoweth said of what a manager can do to give his club the best chance at success during the import draft. “They’re going to give you different opinions, much like we do with the bantam-aged players.
“It’s a difficult draft.”
Left-winger Tomas Plihal, a 2001 CHL Import Draft acquisition (first round, 16th overall), is the most productive import selection in franchise history, having suited up for 139 games and scoring 163 points for the Ice.
An interesting piece of trivia: the Edmonton Ice selected centre Patrik Stefan with the second-overall pick of the 1997 CHL Import Draft.
Stefan went on to be the first-overall selection of the Atlanta Thrashers at the 1999 NHL Entry Draft, though he never played a single game in the CHL as he spent his first two seasons in North America playing for the Long Beach Ice Dogs of the now-defunct International Hockey League.
The 2015 CHL Import Draft begins at 9 a.m. (MT) Tuesday morning.
See more: Kootenay Ice history at CHL Import Draft