The CHL adopted an import draft in 1992 so that players from countries outside of Canada and the United States could be brought into the three leagues in a method that was supposed to create a more even playing field for recruiting talent outside of North America.
From 1992 through to 1995 there was just one round of draft picks available.
1996 and beyond saw the emergence of a two round draft and every team had the opportunity to select in both rounds if they so desired.
Teams must have had an open import roster spot or a player that was selected in the first round of the previous NHL entry draft to be able to make a selection. The most recent example of this was last year when the Red Deer Rebels saw Alexander Alexeyev get drafted in the first round of the NHL entry draft by the Washington Capitals. This allowed the Rebels to select two times at the 2018 CHL Import draft even though they still had the Russian import on their roster.
The CHL import draft is now open to all positions, from 2014 through 2017 the CHL had decided to ban all goaltenders from being selected. This meant that Marek Langhamer was the last goalie to play in the CHL while Daniel Gibl (2013, Barrie Colts) was the last to be selected to a CHL team. When the rules were changed back in time for the 2018 CHL import draft, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen was the first goalie to be drafted by a CHL team (Sudbury Wolves).
For the purpose of this study, we looked at the 2004 through 2017 CHL Import draft. We chose this route because the data is readily available and verifiable on www.chl.ca.
We will start with the level of reporting. For this part we decided to use 12 games as a gauge. If a player did not stay for 12 games they were considered to have reported but did not reach the threshold. More than 12 is considered a full season and of course there were players that did not report at all.
|Did not report||156||15.34%|
Across all three leagues the scouts, agents and general managers did a great job of insuring that the players selected in the import draft made their way to the WHL. A whopping 84.66% of players drafted at least made it through the rigorous training camp.
Now of course there are outliers and exceptions, some players came over to the team that drafted them and were traded, dealt or released. Sometimes a player made his way to his team only to be scooped up by another team once they were released.
Some notable players that did not come over to the CHL were 2017 Import picks Filip Chytil (North Bay #6), Martin Necas (Saginaw #10) Jesper Bratt (London #49). As well in 2016 Eeli Tolvanen spurned the Oshawa Generals.
It is also more common for second round picks to not report. This happens often because teams tend to swing for the fences in hopes that the NHL team that drafts or had drafted the player will ask the player to report to the CHL club that drafted them.
There are also occasions where a player will be drafted more than once in the CHL Import draft. This can happen when a player is released from the team that they played for in the first season or when a player does not report after their first year of being drafted. They can then be re-selected and play (or not) for the new team that drafted them.
Of the 811 players that did report, we then looked at whether or not they had played in the NHL after their CHL career. We broke it into four categories; Yes NHL games played, Yes NHL signed, Yes NHL drafted and no. The results were as follows:
This is a particularly interesting stat to look at. Many times, players were drafted to the NHL and then sent to the CHL to be closer to the NHL team that drafted them. This set up a good scenario for the teams as they would be able to watch their pick develop on the smaller ice of North America. Some players came over to the CHL at a young age and were able to develop well enough to be selected at a future NHL draft.
Nonetheless, the CHL has proven to be a great development ground for players that decide to come overseas. Many of the players that were not drafted to the NHL went on to successful careers in many of the professional leagues in Europe and Asia such as the KHL, SHL, Czech league, NLA (Swiss elite), DEL (German Elite).
Lastly we took a look at the nationality of players selected in the CHL Import Draft
It came as little surprise that the Czech Republic supplied the most talent to the CHL. Russian players have a tendency to want to stay home and play in the KHL so that they are closer to their own homes and families.
We also broke down the import draft by the teams and their leagues. Just five teams have had 100% success with bringing players over in the Import Draft in the years 2004 through 2017. One of them is the now defunct Lewiston MAINEiacs. They were a perfect 8-for-8. The Spokane Chiefs lead the way with a perfect 15 picks joining the team. After them come the Lethbridge Hurricanes (14), Edmonton Oil Kings (12) and the Kingston Frontenacs (11).
The Niagara Ice Dogs have the dubious distinction of having just 60% of their import draft choices join the team. The team has selected players in the past that were already drafted by an NHL team such as David Kase (2015) and Timothy Liljegren (2017).
The Brandon Wheat Kings also often swing for the fences and therefore have a low success rate of 61.9%. Martin Kaut and Linus Nassen have both supurned an opportunity to join the team in recent years.
If you have any questions regarding the import draft or your favorite team please reach out on our twitter (@dub_network) and we can answer those questions.