Victoria Royals change direction at import draft with selection of Keanu Derungs

The Victoria Royals took a different direction at the 2019 Canadian Hockey League Import Draft

Victoria selected Keanu Derungs — a 2002-born forward from Switzerland — 28th overall.

In a change from last year’s import draft, where the Royals selected then 18-year-old Phillip Schultz, the club selected a younger player in Derungs, who is currently 17.

Victoria Royals President and General Manager Cameron Hope (Photo: Jon Howe)

“We’re going a little bit of a different direction,” said Victoria Royals President and General Manager Cameron Hope. “In the past, we’ve taken what we considered to be more of a sure thing — a player who’s a little bit older — giving us a better ability to assess whether he’s going to fit perfectly in the Western Hockey League.”

Hope continued, “With Vladimir Bobylev we had a chance to watch him for a year in the WHL with the Vancouver Giants, and Phillip Schultz was going into his 18-year-old year and so on.”

“With this player, we feel that we have such a group of veteran forwards this year, that we can take on a bit of a project in a 17 year old, coming over and getting used to the league. He [Derungs] won’t have to be thrust into a position of getting a lot of ice time before he’s ready. So it’s by design.”

As per a team release, Derungs spent the majority of last season in the U-20 Elit League — Switzerland’s top junior league — with the EHC Kloten Under-20 team. In 34 contests with the club, Derungs recorded 14 points (5g-9a) and 57 penalty minutes. He also played for EHC Kloten’s Under-17 team of the U-17 Elit League and registered 23 points (14g-9a) and 18 minutes in penalties in just 11 games.

When asked what he will look to bring to Victoria, Derungs said, “I‘m a competitive player, I battle hard in the corners and in front of the net to find the loose puck. I do everything to make the team win. I have a good shot but I can also make nice plays with the puck. Off the ice I’m an easy guy to hang around.”

Hope commented, “What we like about him is that he has high-end talent, has a terrific release, is motivated to come over and and be successful in North America. His brother [Ian Derungs] came over and played in the Ontario Hockey League and had a good experience.”

Keanu and Ian’s father, Thomas Derungs, also had an extensive hockey career and represented Switzerland in the 1990-91 World Junior Championships, held in Saskatchewan. Thomas currently serves as the head coach for EHC Kloten’s Under-17 team of the U-17 Elit League and, in 2018-19, was the head coach of the Switzerland Under-16 team.

The Royals scouted Derungs at the 2018 Under-17 Four Nations Tournament in Plymouth, Michigan, this past December. Hope and the Royals liked what they saw. “In speaking to the people that we know in Europe that have watched Keanu, and also our scouts seeing him in the tournament in Michigan this year, we feel that he’s one of those players who are just starting to show what they can do. As he grows and develops, he may be a really good player.”

“I‘m very happy and excited to be a part of such an amazing organization like Victoria is,” added Derungs. “I‘m really looking forward for what the future holds.”

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