The Silvertips have used their first-round pick (10th overall) in today’s CHL import draft on Finnish winger Waltteri Hopponen. Hopponen is a 17-year-old who is listed at 6-foot-1 and 181 pounds. Last season he split time between Espoo’s U-18 and U-20 teams, combining for 31 points in 38 games. He also played for Finland at the U-17 World Hockey Challenge.
Hopponen is yet another 1996-born player, meaning the Tips are bursting at the seams in 1996-born forwards. Tyler Sandhu, Ty Mappin, Dawson Leedahl and Mitch Skapski were all on the team last year as 16-year-olds, and Kyle Raymond played several games as a call-up.
More to come later, as the Tips intend on using their second rounder …
On a side note, Tips winger Reid Petryk was invited to attend the Edmonton Oilers’ development camp this week. Defenseman Ben Betker, who was selected by Edmonton in the sixth round of Sunday’s NHL draft, is also attending. Defenseman Mirco Mueller will be going to camp with the San Jose Sharks after being drafted in the first round. No word yet on whether any other Everett players will be receiving NHL camp invites, though I’ve got to think goaltender Austin Lotz will get a look. I’m still shocked he didn’t get drafted.
—- UPDATE, 11:15 a.m.
Everett did indeed use its second rounder (61st overall), and the Tips selected 17-year-old Russian winger Ivan Nikolishin. Nikolishin is the son of former NHLer Andrei Nikolishin and stands at 5-foot-9 and 154 pounds. He’s a high-end player, finishing as Russia’s co-leading scorer at the U-17 World Hockey Challenge, and he’s considered a potential first-round pick in next year’s NHL draft. My guess is he was available because he’s not coming to North America this year, but given Everett’s unusual circumstances (being able to draft a third Euro because Mirco Mueller was a first-round NHL draft pick) there was no reason why the Tips couldn’t take a flyer. Before the draft Tips general manager Garry Davidson said he might use the second-round pick for a player who would come a year later, so maybe Nikolishin could arrive in 2014.
I’ll wrap things up after speaking with Davidson …
—- UPDATE, 12:30 p.m.
I’ve spoken with Davidson, and here’s the scoop.
– Hopponen was right at the top of Everett’s list. He was described as a good-sized winger who’s a good skater and has offensive upside. Davidson’s sources say Hopponen could be a mid-round pick in next year’s NHL draft. Most importantly, he seems fully committed to coming to Everett, and the Tips have had good experiences with his agency in the past with defenseman Rasmus Rissanen. Hopponen is the third Finn ever drafted by the Tips, following Rissanen (2009) and winger Jesse Huhtala (2010).
– Nikolishin is pretty much exactly they type of player we figured the Tips would select in the second round. He’s described as a highly-skilled and intelligent player, but he’s “iffy” with regards to whether he’ll come to Everett next season. Nikolishin was also taken in the first round (29th overall) of the KHL junior draft by CSKA Moscow, so the Tips have to compete with that, too. If he did show up in Everett, the Tips would likely have to make a decision as Mueller is unlikely to stick with the NHL’s San Jose Sharks. The new import rules say Hopponen and Nikolishin can’t be traded for a year, so that would mean either trading Mueller or dropping one of the forwards. The best-case scenario for the Tips probably has Nikolishin spending another season in Europe and coming to Everett in 2014-15.