The CHL Import Draft took place this morning, and two of the Jackets' recent NHL draft choices had their rights claimed. Goaltender and second round pick Oscar Dansk was tabbed third overall by the OHL's Erie Otters, while fellow goaltender and third round pick Joonas Korpisalo was taken two spots later by the WHL's Prince George Cougars.
A refresher: the CHL Import Draft isn't really a draft. I mean, ok, it is a draft I suppose. The worst teams have the better picks, there is a draft order...but that's about where the similarities end. The CHL has a mandate that their clubs can carry a maximum of two import players on their roster, and the import draft is how these players are acquired. What makes this less of a draft is the fact that behind the scenes, junior clubs tend to do their own recruiting of import players, working out agreements with the players prior to the draft. When the draft comes along, the results tend to be funny- usually the first overall pick is a very good player. You then have some guys you've never heard of before, but then, wouldn't you know it! The best players available start getting picked sporadically, by the big market clubs like London, Windsor, and Quebec. It's because these teams have more eyes on them. More to offer on and off the ice. The cities are larger.
Sometimes however, General Managers of the smaller market teams pull off a block, like Erie may have done today with Dansk. It was rumored at the NHL Draft that London had its sights firmly on him, they even traded up a few spots previouslyt to 9th, in an effort to improve their draft position. Knowing that London wanted Dansk, Erie's GM, picking third and coming off a horrific season, instead grabbed the Swedish goalie. There's a chance he may have done this with the intent on drafting him and then trading him to London at an inflated price. It's greasy, but on the level.
That's just the conspiracy theorist in me, I don't really buy that scenario.
As I said, Erie was terrible last year. By finishing as the worst team in the OHL, they earned the top pick in the OHL Priority selection- their version of an entry draft. With the top pick they drafted one of the very few players who have earned Exceptional Player Status, allowing them to be drafted at 15 rather than 16 in Connor McDavid, a highly skilled centerman. With McDavid and some other young players already on the roster, not to mention third round NHL pick Adam Pelech, the Otters are on an upward trajectory. A young star between the pipes in Dansk will go that much further to taking Erie out of the OHL's basement. The Otters will be a team to watch over the next couple of years, and providing he isn't traded (or refuses to report, a nasty bit of business that I need not doscuss at the moment) Dansk will be a part of a young, exciting program in Erie, geographically not that far from Columbus, as it happens.
It will be interesting to see what happens with Korpisalo. He was taken by the Prince George Cougars, a Northern British Columbia team that finished near the bottom of the WHL standings last season. It's a small market, but if they can convince (if they haven't already) Korpisalo to report, he will be a huge piece in their rebuilding effort. They picked up two young forwards in the top ten of the WHL Bantam draft, and combined with 2012 first oveall pick Alex Forsberg the Cougars are a team on the rise.
With these goaltenders making the jump to the CHL, the Jackets' prizes between the pipes are in very good hands.