Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Import draft has two agents seething . . . In the NHL, it's only money

F Chuck Kobasew (Kelowna, 2001-02) has signed a two-year contract with Bern (Switzerland, NL A). Last season, with the Pittsburgh Penguins (NHL), he had two goals in 33 games, and in 12 games with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (AHL), he had 13 points, 11 of them goals, in 12 games. . . .
F Willie Coetzee (Red Deer, 2007-10) has signed tryout contract with the Graz 99ers (Austria, Erste Bank Liga). Coetzee was with the Grand Rapids Griffins (AHL) last season, but hurt a knee in training camp and missed the season. In 2012-2013, with the Toledo Walleye (ECHL), he had 68 points, including 28 goals, in 64 games. He led the Walleye in goals, assists and points. He also was pointless in one game with Grand Rapids. . . .
F Oscar Möller (Chilliwack, 2006-08) was released by Skellefteå (Sweden, SHL) in order for him to sign a two-year contract with Ak Bars Kazan (Russia, KHL). Last season, with Skellefteå, he had 45 points, 27 of them goals, in 48 games. He led his team in goals, led the league in PPG (15) and finished sixth in the league scoring race. Under the terms of his release, Möller will return to Skellefteå in 2016-17 to complete the remaining three years on a contract he signed in February 2013.
The CHL’s import draft has always been driven by agents; in fact, you could make the case that it is owned by agents.
When the CHL decided to ban the picking of goaltenders in the import draft there are people out there who were surprised that the agents seemed to let it slide by with nary a peep.
Which brings us to Wednesday and the 2014 import draft.
For starters, it seems there are some new rules governing the draft. As Mark Staudinger (@MarkStaudz), who scouts the WHL for Red Line Report, tweeted: “Not only are Euro Goaltenders no longer allowed, but also major financial changes. Teams now penalized for signing players to huge packages.”
No, I don’t know what he meant by “huge packages.” Wink! Wink!!
And so it was that the OHL’s Sarnia Sting selected Czech F Pavel Zacha with the first pick of Wednesday’s draft. It was a move that brought howls of protestation from Allan Walsh, one of the most outspoken agents in the hockey world.
Walsh (@walsha) tweeted:
1. “Sarnia was advised that Pavel Zacha has a professional contract in Czech Republic for 2 more years and has no interest in playing for them.”
2. "Sarnia just wasted the #1 overall pick in the CHL Import Draft on a player who's not coming and has a professional contract. #RookieGM.”
3. “Looking forward to Sarnia's statement on how pleased they are to draft Pavel Zacha. #Wasted#1Pick.”
The 6-foot-3, 220-pound Zacha is projected as a top-10 selection in the NHL’s 2015 draft. The Hockey News reported in April that Zacha had signed a three-year contract with Liberec of the Czech Extraliga.
Nick Sinclair, the Sting’s first-year general manager, told Brent Boles of the Sarnia Observer: “With the import draft there's always some uncertainty with the players coming over here. It's a calculated risk that we took. . . . We're optimistic that Sarnia can be a place that will really enhance his draft status.”
Sinclair also said he took Zacha because he was seen as the best player available.
“Skates very well, very skilled, good hockey sense – he's got all the tools to be a real good NHL player,” said Sinclair. “Hopefully, Pavel will be wearing our jersey come September.”
A team took the best player available. Isn’t that the way drafts are supposed to work? Well, not when the agents are used to running the show.
Which brings us to the 13th selection of the 2014 import draft, where the OHL’s Mississauga Steelheads picked Swedish F William Nylander, who had been selected by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round of the NHL’s 2014 draft.
It wasn’t long after Mississauga had taken Nylander that journalist/author Gare Joyce was tweeting about another “pissed” agent.
Joyce (@GareJoyceNHL) tweeted three times:
1. “agent 4 @MapleLeafs 1st-rounder Nylander sez he ‘had no communication w Mississauga Steelheads’ who picked client 13th in CHL import draft.”
2. “Agent Theofanous pissed that Steelheads jumped in. ‘I would not have made the pick w/o talking to agent or client.’ ”
3. “Theofanous: ‘It's William's intention to play for @MapleLeafs next yr, not junior.’ ”
That would be agent Paul Theofanous of Theofanous Management International.
So there were at least two angry agents when the CHL’s latest import draft drew to a close. You can bet there were more than that many CHL general managers giggling about it.

1. The WHL’s 22 teams combined to select 29 players, 20 of them in the first round, in Wednesday’s import draft. The Prince George Cougars, who held the 15th pick, and Portland Winterhawks, who had No. 59, both passed as each already has two imports, none of whom are NHL first-round draft picks, on its roster. With teams now prohibited from trading import draft selections, the Cougars and Winterhawks simply passed. . . . All told, nine of the CHL’s 60 teams passed in the first round, and only 20 players were taken in the second round. When it was all over, 51 teams had taken 71 players from 12 countries.

2. The Prince Albert Raiders held the 24th pick in the first round, but that moved up No. 20 due to teams passing in front of them. With that selection, the Raiders took Czech F Simon Stransky, who turns 17 on Dec. 21. He is the younger brother of former Saskatoon Blades F Matej Stansky (2010-13). . . . The Raiders have two other imports on their roster, the other two being German F Leon Draisaitl and Czech D Tomas Andrlik. Draisaitl was taken third overall by the Edmonton Oilers in the 2014 NHL draft, so the Raiders are allowed to keep three imports on their roster until his immediate future is decided.

3. The Kootenay Ice took Russian F Alexander Chirva, 18, in the first round. He played last season with the Moose Jaw Warriors, putting up six points, two of them goals, in 58 games. . . . Kootenay’s roster also includes Swiss/French F Tim Bozon, 20, who is expected to play professionally if sufficiently recovered from his bout with Neisseria meningitis, and Russian D Rinat Valiev, 19.

4. The Seattle Thunderbirds used the 42nd selection on Danish F Alexander True, who turns 17 on July 17. His father, Soren, was a 12th-round selection by the New York Rangers in the NHL’s 1986 draft. He later played three seasons in the now-defunct IHL with teams in Flint, Mich., Albany, N.Y., San Diego and Phoenix. . . . Alexander also is a cousin to F Nikolaj Ehlers, who was taken ninth overall by the Winnipeg Jets in the NHL’s 2014 draft. Ehlers played last season with the QMJHL’s Halifax Mooseheads, putting up 104 points in 63 games.

5. The Brandon Wheat Kings used the 25th pick on Russian D Ivan Provorov, 17. He played last season with the USHL’s Cedar Rapids RoughRiders, picking up 19 points, including six goals, in 56 games. Provorov spent the 2012-13 season with a midget team in Wilkes-Barre Scranton, earning 97 pints in 51 games. . . . Provorov joins Latvian F Rihards Bukarts, who turns 19 on Dec. 31, and Czech F Richard Nejezchleb, 20, on Brandon’s roster. . . . Teams are allowed to have two imports on their rosters, but Brandon was allowed to make one selection because Nejezchleb is entering his final year of junior eligibility and could turn pro. The New York Rangers took him in the fifth round of the NHL’s 2014 draft.

6. The Spokane Chiefs, with the 36th pick, took D Tamás Láday of Hungary. According to the Chiefs, he is 6-foot-7 and 212 pounds. “Tamás’s size allows us to get bigger as a team, an area which we felt we needed to improve on,”Chris Moulton, the Chiefs’ director of player personnel, said in a news release. “He is not afraid to engage physically. . . . He has a good skill set for a player with a very large frame. He moves well for a big man, so he does a great job of transitioning the puck. He looks to have a lot of upside and will make our team better in the future.”

7. The Swift Current Broncos used their first-round selection on Russian F Maxim Letunov, who played last season with the USHL’s Youngstown Phantoms, earning 43 points, 19 of them goals, in 60 games. The St. Louis Blues selected him 52nd overall in the NHL’s 2014 draft. . . . Because D Julius Honka was a first-round selection (Dallas Stars) in the NHL’s 2014 draft, the Broncos are allowed to carry three imports for now. So they selected Swedish F Andreas Schumacher in the second round. His brother, Michael, played two seasons (2011-13) with the OHL’s Soo Greyhounds before splitting last season between the AHL’s Lake Erie Monsters and the Central league’s Denver Cutthroats. He was selected by Los Angeles Kings in the seventh round of the NHL’s 2011 draft.

8. In the second round, the Kamloops Blazers took Swiss D Michael Fora, who turns 19 on Oct. 31. His agent is Hnat Domenichelli, a former Blazers forward (1992-96) who played 11 pro seasons in Switzerland. Domenichelli retired after the 2013-14 season.

9. The Red Deer Rebels used their first-round selection to take Latvian D Eduards Jansons, who turns 17 on Sept. 7. Jansons’ is represented by Hockey Hall of Famer Igor Larionov. “His agent . . . absolutely loves the player,” Brent Sutter, the Rebels’ owner, GM and head coach, told Greg Meachem of the Red Deer Advocate. “Igor thinks he’s going to be a real good pro.”

10. In chasing around Tuesday and reading about the NHL’s signing frenzy, I found this lead to a column by the Vancouver Sun’s always astute Iain MacIntyre on the Canucks’ signing of G Ryan Miller:
“Forget about the money because it’s Francesco Aquilini’s money and he has lots of it.”
Which is about when it finally hit me. The NHL has gotten to the same level of insanity as the NBA and much of Major League Baseball when it comes to paying players. In other words, forget about the money because it’s only money and there’s lots more where that came from.
So when you hear that the New York Islanders have signed F Nikolai Kulemin for four years at $4,187,500 per and F Mikael Gravovski for four years at $5 million you don’t need to roll your eyes. Remember: It’s only money.

11. The San Jose Sharks signed enforcer John Scott for one year at $700,000. This comes one day after the Calgary Flames signed D Deryk Engelland for three years and $8,750,000. Last season, Scott, with the Buffalo Sabres, made $750,000; Engelland, with the Pittsburgh Penguins, earned $575,000.

12.’s latest figures for the NHL and its two-day-old free-agent feeding frenzy: 72 signings totalling US$550,300,000. . . . And the teams aren’t done yet.

The Edmonton Oil Kings have re-signed head equipment manager Rogan Dean and head athletic therapist Brian Cheeseman. Dean, who is from Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., is preparing for his eighth season with the Oil Kings, while Cheeseman, from Mount Pearl, Nfld., is going into his fifth season in Edmonton. Cheeseman also spent one season with the Tri-City Americans. . . . F Brendan Ranford, who played five seasons (2009-13) with the Kamloops Blazers, has signed a three-year entry-level deal with the NHL’s Dallas Stars. Ranford, 22, played his first pro season in 2013-14, picking up 33 points, 12 of them goals, in 65 games with the AHL’s Texas Stars. He added 16 points, including eight goals, as the Stars won the Calder Cup in 21 games. . . .
F Jamie Lewis of the OHL’s North Bay Centennials has been hit with an eight-game suspension for an anti-doping rule violation. According to a news release from the CHL and the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport, the violation “resulted from a urine sample collected during in-competition doping control in May 2014 which revealed the presence of methylhexaneamine, a prohibited stimulant. Under the rules of the CHL Anti-Doping Policy . . . Lewis was assessed an eight-game suspension for a first violation for using a prohibited substance.” . . . From the same news release: “Methylhexaneamine is banned in competition by the World Anti-Doping Agencies Prohibited List which is recognized by the CHL. In Canada, methylhexaneamine is not an ingredient in medications licensed by Health Canada, but can be found in supplements.” . . .
Kaleb Toth (Prince Albert, Moose Jaw, Lethbridge, 1993-98) went on to a legendary pro lacrosse career after leaving the WHL. In fact, he scored 346 goals in 206 National Lacrosse League games. Toth, 36, now has been named an assistant coach with the NLL’s Vancouver Stealth. He also coaches the Nanaimo Timbermen of the Western Lacrosse Association.
Troy Mann is the new head coach of the Hershey Bears, the AHL affiliate of the NHL’s Washington Capitals. Mann was an assistant coach with the Bears (2009-13), but spent last season as head coach of the ECHL’s Bakersfield Condors. . . Bryan Helmer, who played with the Bears and is the AHL’s all-time leading scorer among defenceman, signed on in Hershey as an assistant coach. He had been an assistant with the OHL’s Peterborough Petes. . . . Hershey’s head-coaching job opened up when Mike Haviland left to become the head coach at Colorado College.

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