By Woodard, Dale on July 13, 2020.
The Lethbridge Hurricanes pick in this year’s Canadian Hockey League Import Draft won’t be coming over to these shores.
Fortunately for the Canes, they have two players already ably filling that import role.
Picking 48th overall in this year’s Import Draft last month, the Hurricanes selected 17-year-old right winger Nikita Chibrikov, who played for his hometown MHK Dynamo Moskva last season.
However, with the right winger having recently signed a deal in his home country, that means it’s business as usual for the Hurricanes with their two existing import players, forward Oliver Okuliar and defenceman Danila Palivko.
And Hurricanes general manager Peter Anholt said that duo has done a fine job filling those roster spots.
“We have to talk about the importance that we have with our two guys,” said Anholt. “Both Okuliar and Palivko are planning on coming back and are excited about coming back. We like both of our players. So (the import draft) was an opportunity to, you might say, take a home run swing. We saw this player at the U17s and I felt he was the best player on the Russian team. There were some reports that he was coming over, but as it has turned out it doesn’t look like he is going to be coming over because he signed a contract over there. It’s not a big deal for us, to be honest with you.”
Still, armed with their 48th pick in the import draft, the Canes nonetheless took a shot.
“It didn’t make any sense just to take an average player,” said Anholt. “We thought if we are going to take one, we are going to take the best player and see if we can get them to come over. As it turns out, it sounds like he has signed a deal in Russia. So that will eliminate that and we will stick with our two guys that we’ve got.”
Okuliar, who hails from Trencin, Slovakia, and turned 20 in late-May, came to the Hurricanes last season after a year in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
He made an impression in his first season in Lethbridge, scoring 33 goals and 68 points in 55 games with the Hurricanes to finish second in team scoring.
Palivko, a 2001-born defenceman from Novopolotsk, Belarus, finished his second season in Lethbridge with two goals and 21 points in 62 games.
In April, the Hurricanes made their picks from this side of the pond in the Western Hockey League bantam draft.
Armed with a first-round pick – something they didn’t have last year – the Hurricanes selected Cole Miller of the Edmonton KC Squires bantam AAA team with their 16th overall pick.
The six-foot-two forward had 11 goals and 26 points in 28 games last season.
“He had had some injuries throughout the year, so he didn’t play a ton,” said Anholt. “So there were a lot of guys that hadn’t seen him. We really like this player. He’s a big, strong centre ice man and he’s the captain of his team. He has some great leadership skills, but when you first watch him what jumps out at you is his size, his skating ability and how he competes. There are so many good things that fall into line with what we like about our players. So we were really pleased to get him and getting him signed was a big part of being a Hurricane and what we want to do with this draft.”
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