Kootenay Ice sign import draft pick Gilian Kohler

Kootenay Ice sign import draft pick Gilian Kohler

Dynamic Swiss forward to join Cranbrook club for 2017-18 season, team eager to help his development

The Kootenay Ice announced on Tuesday the signing of import draft pick Gilian Kohler.

The Ice selected the 2000-born forward from Biel, Switzerland with the third overall pick in the 2017 CHL Import Draft.

“We are excited to welcome Gilian to Ice Country officially on Swiss National Day,” said Ice president and general manager Matt Cockell in a team release. “He is a dynamic, skilled forward and it will be exciting to support his development as a member of the Ice.”

Kohler recently attended the Switzerland U18 summer camp and will compete at the upcoming Ivan Hlinka tournament beginning next week.

The new Ice addition spent the 2016-17 season as an underager with his hometown Biel-Bienne U20 team in the Elite Jr. A Swiss league and put up eight goals and 42 assists in 43 games last season.

Kohler also spent time with the Switzerland U17 and U18 teams last year, including a trip to the U18 World Junior Championships as an underage player.

After the draft, in an interview with the Townsman, Cockell spoke highly of Kohler’s potential.

“[He’s] a very exciting 2000-born player [with] high skill, high compete,” Cockell said. “He played on a U18 team in Switzerland which is developing a lot of fantastic players. We think he’ll be a really good fit with an exciting group of forwards and fit nicely on our roster.”

Switzerland has been a rising hockey nation of late.

At the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, Nico Hischier became the first ever Swiss player to be selected first overall when he was selected by the New Jersey Devils. Hischier was taken sixth overall by the QMJHL’s Halifax Moosehead at the 2016 CHL Import Draft before putting up 86 points in 53 games and becoming a blue-chip prospect.

In 2009, Nino Niederreiter was taken with the second overall selection at the CHL Import Draft by the Portland Winterhawks. Niederreiter has gone on to play in 389 NHL games and has put up 176 points.

When asked by a reporter for RJB, a Swiss radio station, about being taken in a similar position to Niederreiter, Kohler said that it was “an incredible feeling”.

During the interview, Kohler also stated that he models his game after Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane.

With the signing of Kohler, Kootenay have commitments from both of their CHL Import Draft picks to join the team this fall. Slovak defenceman Martin Bodak signed with the Ice last Thursday.