EVERETT – The Everett Silvertips took a slightly different tack during this year’s Canadian Hockey League import draft.
The Silvertips decided to go younger this year, selecting Slovakian center Lukas Vartovnik on Wednesday with their first-round pick.
The 1989-born Vartovnik, taken 38th overall, will be a 17-year-old in the upcoming season, meaning the 6-foot, 185-pounder will have three and perhaps four years of WHL eligibility. In the past the Silvertips have always selected 18-year-olds with the expectation of having those players for just two seasons.
“There was no real reason for going young,” Everett director of player personnel Scott Scoville said. “With where we were picking, and it not being a big year for Europeans in the NHL draft, there weren’t a lot of 87s or 88s available. So we took the best player available. He really adds depth for the future.”
Vartovnik played for HC Ziln in the Czech Republic Extraliga Under-20 League last season. In 43 games he tallied eight goals and 14 assists. He also played for Slovakia at the U-17 World Hockey Challenge in the winter, recording two goals and an assist in five games, and also saw time for Slovakia’s team at the U-18 World Championships in April.
“We saw him at the U-17s in Regina and he was easily the best player on a very poor Slovakian team,” Scoville said. “He’s a very well-rounded player. He has good hands, good skill, competes. We kind of felt bad for him in Regina because he was kind of playing alone.
“We don’t want to put him in a position where too much is expected from him,” Scoville added. “But we think he’ll be on our top three lines and be on our second power play.”
Vartovnik is eligible for the 2007 NHL draft. He’s currently ranked 38th overall by the Red Line Report and 58th overall by the International Scouting Service among players eligible for 2007.
There is apparently no concerns over whether Vartovnik will report. Scoville was told by Vartovnik’s agent that Vartovnik was “100 percent” going to play in the CHL next season.
Vartovnik will be the second Slovakian to play for Everett, joining former defenseman Ivan Baranka, who as a standout from 2003-05.
Vartovnik is expected to join Czech left wing Ondrej Fiala as Everett’s two imports next season.
Czech right wing Jakub Voracek was taken first overall by Halifax of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
Slap shots: The WHL announced that Edmonton’s bid for an expansion franchise has been approved. Edmonton becomes the 22nd team in the league and begins play in the 2007-08 season. Edmonton had a team in the 1990s before the Ice moved to Kootenay in 1998. … Red Deer made some waves by acquiring talented forward Martin Hanzal along with defenseman Mike Cann from Chilliwack in exchange for forward Matthew Cline and a fourth-round pick in the 2007 bantam draft. Hanzal, who was taken 17th overall by the Boston Bruins in the 2005 NHL draft, refused to report to Regina last season, then was taken by Chilliwack in the expansion draft.