Toronto, Ont. – Ontario Hockey League member teams selected 27 players from across 12 different countries in the 30th annual CHL Import Draft held Wednesday online at CHL.ca.
Eighteen OHL clubs made selections with the Hamilton Bulldogs and Mississauga Steelheads passing on both of their picks. The Barrie Colts, Erie Otters, Guelph Storm, Kitchener Rangers, Niagara IceDogs, Oshawa Generals, Sarnia Sting, Soo Greyhounds and Sudbury Wolves each made two selections.
The two-round draft took place online with the order of selection rotating through each of the CHL’s three regional leagues. The OHL’s order of selection was determined through a draft lottery process held back in May. OHL clubs selected in inverse order of their positioning for the 2021 OHL Priority Selection, and conducted the 2021 CHL Import Draft in a serpentine format.
The Barrie Colts led the way for the OHL, selecting Ukrainian-born 18-year-old defenceman Artur Cholach with the third overall pick. Cholach, who spent the 2020-21 season with Sokol Kiev of Ukraine’s top circuit, is the highest-chosen Colt in the CHL Import Draft since Barrie selected eventual OHL Rookie of the Year Andrei Svechnikov with the top choice in 2017. The last OHL player to be chosen third was 2020 Red Tilson Trophy recipient and OHL Goaltender of the Year Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen of the Sudbury Wolves who was the OHL’s top pick in 2018.
The Soo Greyhounds followed at sixth overall, adding Russian defender Kirill Kudryavtsev with their highest pick since 2002. The 6-foot, 176Ib. rearguard spent the 2020-21 season with Loko Yaroslavl of Russia’s top junior circuit, posting seven points (2-5–7) in 20 games. Kudryavtsev isn’t NHL Draft eligible until 2022.
The Kitchener Rangers rounded out the OHL’s top ten selections with the addition of Slovakian winger Filip Mesar at ninth overall. The 17-year-old played in Slovakia’s pro circuit in 2020-21, posting 14 points (4-10–14) in 36 games with HK Poprad before adding four more points (2-2–4) in 15 playoff games. Mesar is a 2022 NHL Draft prospect.
Other picks of intrigue included the Niagara IceDogs going to Switzerland for the third time in the past four years to select defenceman Rodwin Dionicio with the 18th overall selection. He follows countrymen Giancarlo Chanton (2019) and Kyen Sopa (2018) as an IceDogs first round Import Draft selection. The Ottawa 67’s also went to familiar territory, going back to the country they found reigning Red Tilson Trophy recipient Marco Rossi in 2018 with the addition of forward Vinzenz Rohrer from Austria at 27th overall. The North Bay Battalion followed the first overall choice of Matvei Petrov last year with another Russian addition in 6-foot-1 defender Aleksander Lukin at 30th overall. The Kingston Frontenacs nabbed the lone goaltender and NHL prospect selected by OHL teams, taking recently signed Ottawa Senators 2020 third round pick Leevi Merilainen out of Finland at 48th overall. The 18-year-old Merilainen comes off a tremendous season with Karpat of Finland’s top junior league.
In the second round, the Guelph Storm charted new territory with the selection of Belgian-born defender Leo Hafenrichter, making him the first Belgian selected in the CHL Import Draft since the Val-d’Or Foreurs took Mitch Morgan 71st overall in 2008. The Niagara IceDogs picked up British talent Alex Graham with the 105th overall choice. He follows in the footsteps of fellow Brit and Sheffield Steelers forward Liam Kirk who recently signed an entry-level NHL contract with the Arizona Coyotes following a two-year stint with the Peterborough Petes from 2018-20.
OHL member teams selected a total of seven players in their first year of eligibility for the upcoming 2021 NHL Draft in addition to 19 eligible for next year’s 2022 NHL Draft.
Each CHL team is permitted to dress a maximum of two import players each season who are selected annually through the CHL Import Draft.
OHL at the 2021 CHL Import Draft Summary:
Draft Picks by Position:
Forwards – 15
Defencemen – 11
Goaltenders – 1
Draft Picks by Country:
Russia – 6 (SOO, LDN, SAR, NB, WSR, GUE)
Czech Republic – 5 (SAG, ER, OS, FLNT, SBY)
Germany – 3 (PBO, OSH, SOO)
Sweden – 3 (SAR, KIT, BAR)
Finland – 2 (KGN, SBY)
Slovakia – 2 (KIT, ER)
Austria – 1 (OTT)
Belarus – 1 (OSH)
Belgium – 1 (GUE)
Great Britain – 1 (NIAG)
Switzerland – 1 (NIAG)
Ukraine – 1 (BAR)
Draft Picks by Birthdate and NHL Status:
2004-born late and 2023 NHL Draft eligible – 2
2004-born early and 2022 NHL Draft eligible – 16
2003-born late and 2022 NHL Draft eligible – 1
2003-born early and 2021 NHL Draft eligible – 6
2002-born late and 2021 NHL Draft eligible – 1
2002-born early and 2020 NHL Drafted – 1
NHL Draft picks by OHL teams in the CHL Import Draft:
48. Leevi Merilainen (G) (Kingston – 3rd round to Ottawa in 2020)
2021 NHL Draft Prospects Ranked by NHL Central Scouting:
33. Jiri Tichacek (Erie – 104th ranked European skater)
118. Oskar Olausson (Barrie – 13th ranked European skater)
Last summer OHL teams selected a total of 23 players from 10 different countries led by seven players from Russia consisting of 12 forwards, nine defencemen and two goaltenders.
For full coverage of the 2021 CHL Import Draft, visit chl.ca.
About the Ontario Hockey League
The Ontario Hockey League is a proud member of the Canadian Hockey League which is the world’s largest development hockey league with 60 teams in nine Canadian provinces and four American states. In addition to the OHL, the CHL is made up of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and the Western Hockey League. The CHL supplies more players to the National Hockey League and U SPORTS than any other league.