The London Knights snapped up Russian Matvei Guskov today, with their first pick of the CHL Import Draft. They originally had the 42nd and 102nd overall picks, but after teams passed on their picks, the Knights ended up selecting 36th and 67th overall. With their second pick, London chose
defenseman Vladislav Kolyachonok from Belarus.
Guskov scored 32 points (14 goals, 18 assists) in 25 games last season, playing for CSKA Moskva in the Russian U17 League; but drew more attention for his international play. The big 6’1″ centre had a great showing at the World U17 Junior Championships, scoring four goals and adding an assist in five games for Russia.
In January, Sporting News rated him as the TOP prospect for this draft.
“Big skilled two-way centre. Played as underage player at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament and chipped in with a pair of goals. Complete package. Was one of best players at World Under-17 Challenge. Has solid set of tools. Good speed and explosion – not afraid to run guys over. Showed some high-end skill when he scored fourth goal on an individual effort. Physical, competitive and strong on his feet. Top prospect for 2019 NHL draft.” – scouting director Dennis MacInnis:
Previous to the tournament, International Scouting Services selected three players to keep an eye on from each of the eight teams competing at the 2017 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, and Guskov was on the list:
Skilled centre … plays a 200-foot game … highly intelligent … high-end skills and physical tools … good character and work ethic … complete package – International Scouting Services
In Vladislav Kolyachonok, the Knights drafted a 6’1”, 175-pound defenceman who played up a year with the U18 Team Belarus. He is heading into his first NHL Entry Draft eligible season, after putting up 20 points in 43 games last season.
Now the Knights just have to try and convince both players that they should spend next season in the OHL. That will be made marginally easier by the fact that both players are represented by the same agency.
Last year, the Knights drafted two Swedish players – Jesper Bratt and Adam Boqvist – in the Import Draft. Bratt had already been drafted by the New Jersey Devils but it was still a surprise when he made their 2017-18 roster. He ended up playing 74 games and scoring 35 points for the Devils last season.
There’s still a chance that Boqvist could play for the Knights. He was drafted 8th overall by the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, but is still just 17 years old. Since he was drafted in the first round, London retain his junior rights, and have already had discussions with Chicago about the bluechip blueliner.
Getting the import picks to come and play in North America is by no means a given, but when successful, teams can drastically impact their roster. Last year the Barrie Colts landed Andrei Svechnikov with the first pick in the import draft, and he would win rookie of the year honours after piling up 72 points in just 44 games. As a result, he was just drafted 2nd overall by the Carolina Hurricanes in the 2018 NHL Draft.
Filip Zadina went to the Halifax Mooseheads with the tenth pick in last year’s import draft. His 82-point season for the Mooseheads landed him the number six overall selection from the Detroit Red Wings in the 2018 NHL Draft.
Adding either of the two players drafted today, or Bovqist, to the 2018/19 Knights roster would be a tremendous boost.
#CHLImportDraft Round 1 Summary:
52 players chosen from 11 countries featuring 34 forwards, 12 defencemen, 6 goaltenders.
— CanadianHockeyLeague (@CHLHockey) June 28, 2018