MEDICINE HAT, AB – From Marek Langhamer to Kristians Rubins, the annual CHL Import Draft has provided the Medicine Hat Tigers with many key players over the years.
On Thursday, the next crop of foreign-born talent will be selected by Medicine Hat and other major junior clubs across Canada and the United States as part of the 2018 Import Draft.
The Tigers hold two picks at 32nd and 92nd overall, and the team is planning to use both selections on international players.
Much of the scouting and ground work is being done by former assistant coach Bobby Fox, who took over the director of player development title last week.
Tigers head coach and GM Shaun Clouston said they’re determining which players would welcome a move to the WHL and which are more risky picks.
“Shortly after the restructuring in our group, I moved a lot of the information over to Bobby,” said Clouston. “He’s done a tremendous job the last week or so compiling information and putting our list together, so we got a real good list of players.”
With Rubins’ graduating this past season, the Tigers will have at least one open import spot on their roster for the 2018-19 WHL season.
The second is currently occupied by 2017 second round selection Linus Nassen, who is eligible to return to the team as a 20-year-old over-ager this upcoming season.
A Florida Panthers prospect, Nassen is currently on loan from Lulea in Sweden and can play in his home country, the American Hockey League, or with the Tigers next year.
Clouston is hopeful that the Swede will be back in Medicine Hat next year, but will be picking two players on Thursday just in case.
“If Florida after training camp determines they want to send him here, I think Linus is excited about potentially coming back,” he said. “But, we will draft two players in the draft and sort it out as we move forward.”
Along with Nassen, the Tigers selected forward Mick Kohler in last year’s draft, but had to release the German once Rubins came back to the organization.
This will also be the first time CHL teams will be able to draft international goaltenders since 2013, as the governing body of the national major junior leagues previously outlawed foreign netminders.
According to the CHL, this was to promote Canadian and American goaltenders in the league and create more opportunity for home grown talent.
After five years, Clouston said allowing foreign goalies is something that most general managers are now supporting again.
“I think sometimes in the draft it makes sense,” he said. “I think most of the teams were in favour of going back to having forwards, defencemen, and goaltenders available.”
The Saint John Sea Dogs from the QMJHL hold the first overall pick, as the 2018 CHL Import Draft gets underway at 9:00 am on Thursday.
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