Import draft: Another Euro surplus on tap

The CHL import draft takes place Wednesday, and once again Everett finds itself in the unusual situation of having the option of drafting a third Euro.

Last year the CHL implemented several new rules regarding imports and the import draft, including banning teams from selecting goaltenders. However, two rules are relevant to Everett’s situation:

1) Teams with a European player who selected in the first round of the NHL draft while playing in the CHL, they are now allowed to draft a third import, even though teams have just two import roster spots. The rationale behind this is that it provides insurance against an 18- or 19-year-old Euro making his NHL team and leaving the CHL team short. It seems an odd rule, since it’s possible for Euros selected in the second round and beyond to make the NHL early, and teams aren’t compensated for North American players who stick in the NHL as underagers. But whatever, it’s the rule and teams have to deal with it.

2) European players are no longer eligible to be traded until they’ve been with their team for one year (with one exception, but we’ll deal with that later). I believe this was done to try and provide some stability for players coming to North American for the first time, as well as decrease the amount of leverage desirable markets have over non-desirable markets with regard to European players.

Last year Everett became the test case for these rules, as Swiss defenseman Mirco Mueller was selected in the first round of the 2013 NHL draft by the San Jose Sharks. Mueller was the only import on Everett’s roster at that point, as Czech winger Stathis Soumelidis had been released earlier in the offseason. Therefore, the Tips were allowed to use both their selections in the import draft, despite having just two import roster slots available. Everett selected Finnish winger Waltteri Hopponen in the first round, then took Russian center Ivan Nikolishin in the second.

This, of course, turned into a fiasco. Mueller not only didn’t make the Sharks, he never really had a realistic chance as an 18-year-old defenseman who wasn’t a top-five NHL selection. That left the Tips with three Euros and just two roster slots available, and the only one who could be traded was the team’s No. 1 defenseman who was just picked in the first round of the NHL draft.

Compounding the situation, not only could Hopponen and Nikolishin not be traded, if one was released he wouldn’t go on the waiver wire. Instead, that player would be ineligible to compete in the CHL that season.

Nikolishin ended up winning the battle for the last Euro roster spot, Hopponen had to be released, and a kid who wanted to play in the CHL in his NHL draft year was prevented from doing so.

Well guess what boys and girls? We’re right back there again this year.

Everett still has the 19-year-old Mueller and the 18-year-old Nikolishin on its roster, theoretically filling the team’s two European roster slots. But Mueller is still a first-round NHL draft pick selected out of Everett, and therefore the Tips are still eligible to draft a third Euro. Everett general manager Garry Davidson said he will do so (the Tips select 45th overall).

However, things are a little different this time around. First, Everett isn’t alone. Prince Albert, Swift Current and Saskatoon all had Euros taken in the first round this year, so there’s going to be all kinds of spare Euros swimming around in the WHL player pool this season.

Second, Everett has two players it could conceivable trade this year instead of one, as both Mueller and Nikolishin have been here for at least a year. There’s also the stipulation that if Mueller is still with the Sharks on Oct. 1, then the third Euro can also be traded. Mueller didn’t last until October last year, but he has a better chance of sticking longer with San Jose this year.

And third, the CHL scrapped that awful rule where if the third drafted Euro ends up getting released, he’s barred from playing in the CHL. Now any Euro who gets released will be placed on waivers and be available to be picked up by other WHL teams.

So this means another year of intrigue with regards to Everett’s Euros. Mueller is a longshot to make the Sharks again this year, so it’s likely the Tips will have to make another decision during the preseason. Davidson said he would select the top available player on the team’s list when Everett’s pick comes around, regardless of position.

Anyway, I won’t be around to write about Everett’s pick, as I’m headed out on vacation, so check elsewhere on our website for the story. I’ll be back later in the summer.

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