Toronto, ON – The Canadian Hockey League’s annual Import Draft has come and gone and the Brandon Wheat Kings used it to select two highly touted prospects from the Vegas Golden Knights organization.
With their first round pick (37th overall), the Wheat Kings opted for 19-year old Swedish defenceman Erik Brannstrom and in round two, they chose 19-year old goalkeeper Jiri Patera of the Czech Repbulic.
A 5’11” 181 lb. puck moving defenceman, Brannstrom was a first round pick and 15th overall selection of the Golden Knights in the 2017 National Hockey League draft while Patera was taken by Vegas in the sixth round (161st overall) last year.
“Erik is a highly skilled world caliber junior player,” says Brandon general manager Grant Armstrong. “He’s an excellent skater…has impressive offensive instincts and hockey sense. If he comes to Brandon he could be a difference maker in our lineup.”
Signed by the Golden Knights this past season, Brannstrom will be given every opportunity to make the Golden Knights in the fall but if not, the chances of him playing in Brandon will increase dramatically.
As a member of HV71 Loan in the Swedish Hockey League in 2017-18, the powerplay specialist scored two goals and 15 points in 44 regular season games. He also helped Sweden capture a silver medal at the 2018 World Junior Hockey Championship.
In addition to winning silver at the WJHC, Brannstrom helped his club capture a gold medal and was chosen Playoff Most Valuable Player in the Swedish Super Elite League.
Patera meanwhile spent the 2017-18 campaign with Cedar Rapids of the USHL.
In 34 games with the Roughriders, the 6’2″ 209 lb. netminder compiled a 3.24 goals against average and a .901 save percentage.
Prior to coming to North America, Patera was a member of HC Ceske Budejovice and represented his country at the World U18 Junior Hockey Championships.
“Jiri is a young goaltender working to mature his game,” says Armstrong. “We have two legitimate number one netminders and that is a position that you can never have enough.”
Brandon closed out the 2017-18 season with veteran Dylan Myskiw and rookie Ethan Kruger between the pipes.
Not only does Patera become the first ever European goalkeeper to be chosen by the Wheat Kings, this marks the first time in five years that import netminders were eligible for selection.
The Wheat Kings, who finished fourth in the Western Hockey League’s Eastern Division this past season with a record of 40-27-3-2, were able to select two players after releasing veteran Czech defenceman Daniel Bukac on Wednesday. Bukac landed with Niagara Falls of the Ontario Hockey League Thursday.
Meanwhile Martin Kaut, who was the Wheat Kings first round pick in 2017, was chosen in round one (16th overall) by Colorado in last weekend’s National Hockey League Draft. He remains Brandon property which means the Wheat Kings currently have three imports on their protected list.
CHL teams are permitted to carry a maximum of two.
Rather than coming to the WHL last season, Kaut elected to play professionally at home, scoring nine goals and 16 points in 38 regular season games.
The two round draft took place online with the order of selection rotating through each of the Canadian Hockey League’s three leagues using an inverse order of final regular season standings within each league from the 2017-18 season.
The QMJHL’s Saint John Sea Dogs had the first overall pick and opted for Slovakian right-winger Maxim Cajkovic.
With the second pick, the WHL’s Edmonton Oil Kings selected Belarusian left-winger Vladimir Alistrov.
Brannstrom and Patera become the 33rd and 34th players chosen by Brandon in the CHL Import Draft. The last time Brandon had a pick this high was in 2014 when the Wheat Kings chose Russian defenceman Ivan Provorov 30th overall.
A total of 12 players acquired through the CHL Import Draft were recently selected in the 2018 NHL Draft led by top CHL pick Andrei Svechnikov, a Russian forward from the Barrie Colts, chosen second overall by the Carolina Hurricanes. Other first round picks from the CHL Import Draft included Czech forward Filip Zadina of the Halifax Mooseheads chosen sixth overall by the Detroit Red Wings, Swedish defenceman Rasmus Sandin of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds chosen 29th overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs, and Russian defenceman Alexander Alexeyev of the Red Deer Rebels chosen 31st overall by the Washington Capitals.
Thursday’s CHL Import Draft caps off a busy week for the Wheat Kings, who unveiled their 2017-18 regular season schedule on Tuesday.
The Wheat Kings will open up the season with a home and home series with Moose Jaw, beginning Friday, September 21st at Westoba Place.