The Calgary Hitmen made two picks in the 2020 CHL Import Draft. On Tuesday, the club announced the selections of forward Jonas Peterek and defenceman Alexei Garapuchik.
Peterek, a 19-year-old from the Czech Republic, is no stranger to the Hitmen organization after being previously selected in the 2019 CHL Import Draft. As a rookie, he posted 16 points in 32 games for the Hitmen but was traded to the Kelowna Rockets in January. The Rockets released Peterek in June, allowing him to re-enter the 2020 Import Draft.
Alexei Garapuchik, a 17-year-old left-shot defenceman from Belarus, was taken 60th overall in the second round. Garapuchik was a member of the Belarus U17 team last season and is a depth selection to add to the growth and development of the back end on the Hitmen roster.
The Hitmen were able to make their two draft selections since both import roster slots were open. Signed Philadelphia Flyers prospect Egor Zamula is expected to graduate from the Hitmen blue line. Occupying the other spot was Jonas Peterek before being dealt to Kelowna last season.
Calgary Hitmen Import Draft Success
Each year, clubs in the Canadian Hockey League have a chance to improve their rosters through the CHL Import Draft. There have been some great players drafted to the Western Hockey League as imports. Many of these drafted players have gone on to have successful careers in the NHL or are currently playing in the NHL today.
Some of the most notable imports drafted to the WHL include: Thomas Fleischmann (Moose Jaw Warriors 2002), Radko Gudas (Everett Silvertips 2009), Sven Baertschi (Portland Winterhawks 2010), Oliver Bjorkstrand (Portland Winterhawks 2012), Leon Draisaitl (Prince Albert Raiders 2012), Ivan Provorov (Brandon Wheat Kings 2014) and Juuso Valimaki (Tri-City Americans 2015).
The Calgary Hitmen have made many successful selections in the history of the CHL Import Draft. Players like Vladislav Yeryomenko, Pavel Karnaukhov, Freddie Pettersson, and Konstantin Pushkarev have all donned the Hitmen jersey after being selected in the import draft.
Here are three notable import drafted players in Hitmen history that stand out for the organization and have gone on to play games in the National Hockey League.
Pavel Brendl (1998 – 34th Overall)
In 1998, the Calgary Hitmen selected arguably one of the best players in franchise history. Pavel Brendl from Olomouc U20 in the Czech Republic was selected 34th overall in the import draft. The 17-year-old had recorded back-to-back 52 point seasons for HC Olomouc before being selected by Calgary. Brendl also played for the Czech Republic in the 1998 U18 tournament where he recorded 6 points in 6 games.
In his first season for the Hitmen in 1998-99, Brendl put up 73 goals and 61 assists for 134 total points. He still holds the Hitmen team record for most goals in a season (73) and most points (134). Brendl went on to earn the WHL Top Scorer, Rookie of the Year, and the Plus Minus Leader awards. He was named to the CHL All-Rookie Team and to the CHL First All-Star Team. He helped the Hitmen capture the 1999 WHL Championship which led to a birth in the Memorial Cup. The Hitmen ultimately lost in overtime in the Memorial Cup Final to the Ottawa 67’s.
Following the breakout first season for the Hitmen, Brendl was selected fourth overall by the New York Rangers in the 1999 NHL Draft. He was returned to the Hitmen for two more seasons where he put up another 100+ point season and then followed it up with a 75 point season. During his final year in Calgary, Brendl represented the Czech Republic at the 2001 World Junior Tournament. He helped the Czechs capture the gold medal and was named to the tournament’s first all-star team and also named top forward.
Despite Brendl’s incredible junior hockey play and statistics, a career in the NHL never materialized for the former Hitmen star. Brendl did not suit up for the Rangers in his first NHL season. He was part of a package deal that sent him to the Philadelphia Flyers in return for Eric Lindros. He appeared in only 78 NHL games, posting 22 points while playing for the Flyers, Coyotes, and Hurricanes. Following a year in the AHL in 2005-06, Brendl left North America to play out the remainder of his professional hockey career in Sweden, Russia, and Slovakia. He finished playing professional hockey in 2017-18.
Fredrik Sjostrom (2001 – 39th Overall)
Fredrik Sjostrom was selected 39th overall by the Calgary Hitmen in the 2001 CHL Import Draft. Sjostrom, a first-round draft pick of the Phoenix Coyotes prior to the import draft, joined the Hitmen after playing for Frolunda HC of the Swedish Elite League. In his first WHL season in 2001-02, Sjostrom put up 19 goals and 31 assists for 50 points. Following his rookie season in the WHL, he increased his point totals with 34 goals and 43 assists for 77 points. At the end of his second season in 2002-03, Sjostrom joined the Springfield Falcons in the AHL for two games where he scored one goal.
In his junior career, Fredrik Sjostrom represented Sweden in the World Junior Hockey Championships for three years from 2001-2003. He recorded four points in 18 games over that span. He also played for Sweden during the 2004 World Championship tournament.
Sjostrom played his first full season in the NHL in 2003-04 for the Phoenix Coyotes. He dressed in 57 games, recording 13 points. Sjostrom went on to play three more seasons for the Coyotes before being dealt to the New York Rangers in 2007. In two seasons with New York, he was only able to produce 15 points over 96 games. Prior to the 2009-10 season, Sjostrom signed as a free agent with the Calgary Flames and returned to the Saddledome where he played for the Hitmen in junior. Sjostrom’s career in Calgary only lasted half a season before he was sent to Toronto in a blockbuster deal with Flames star defenceman Dion Phaneuf.
He then played in parts of two seasons for the Leafs before finishing his NHL career in 2010-11. Sjostrom returned home to play two more seasons professionally in Sweden for Frolunda HC. He officially retired from playing hockey in 2013 where he immediately joined Frolunda as a scout. In 2015-16, Frolunda announced Sjostrom as the team’s new general manager. Sjostrom still manages the hockey club in 2020.
Victor Rask (2011 – 3rd Overall)
One of the highest import selections in Hitmen history, Victor Rask was selected third overall in 2011. In the days prior to the 2011 CHL Import Draft, Rask was drafted to the NHL by the Carolina Hurricanes 42nd overall. He played for Leksands FC in Sweden before coming over to North America to play for the Hitmen. Rask played his first WHL season in 2011-12, putting up 63 points in 64 games. His first season with the Hitmen earned him a three-year entry-level NHL contract with the Hurricanes. Rask was named the Hitmen Rookie of the Year after his first season in 2011-12.
In 2012-13, Rask began the season with the Charlotte Checkers, the AHL affiliate for the Hurricanes. He only played in 10 games in the American Hockey League before being returned to the Hitmen for the remainder of the year. In 37 games for the Hitmen, he posted 14 goals and 27 assists for 41 points. He also represented Sweden in the World Juniors that year, earning a silver medal in a loss to the United States.
After two seasons with the Hitmen, Victor Rask needed a full year of seasoning in the AHL before cracking the Hurricanes lineup in 2014-15. He made his NHL debut against the Islanders in October 2014 and scored his first NHL goal in November in a game against the Kings. Rask recorded 33 points in 80 games in his rookie season and then followed that up with 48 points in 80 games the next year.
Rask signed a six-year, $24 million deal with the Hurricanes in 2016. He was named an alternate captain for the season and was even protected in the NHL Expansion Draft in 2017. An unfortunate off-ice injury delayed the start of the 2018-19 season for Rask. He did not start playing until November. Prior to the trade deadline in January 2019, he was traded to the Minnesota Wild for Portland Winterhawks alum Nino Niederreiter. Rask has suited up in 66 games for the Wild, recording 16 points over a season and a half. He remains on the Minnesota roster in 2020.