For Soo Greyhounds defenceman KirillKudryavtsev, the draft year began by helping Russia capture a gold medal at the 2021 Hlinka-Gretzky Tournament.
The Greyhounds had just selected Kudryavtsev with the sixth overall pick in June at the CHL Import Draft. Immediately following the Hlinka-Gretzky, he committed to joining the Greyhounds for his draft year.
There were expectations on Kudryavtsev entering the OHL. He was known for having an impact at both ends of the ice. Sometimes it takes a bit of patience with a European player coming to North America and playing on the smaller ice surface. That said, I’ve been impressed with his progression this season.
Kudryavtsev has some decent wheels when he gets going at top speed. However, it takes some time for him to reach it. I think improving his first few steps will go a long way for him. When he reaches top speed, he uses it to his advantage to join the rush. His puck handling is very good and I think he sees the ice well enough that he can make plays.
Kudryavtsev also has a variety of very nice shots. What is best about it is that he can adjust his release point. He can also bring it in close to his blades and get off a shot from there. Too many times however, he is looking to make the play rather than take the shot himself. When he does decide to shoot – only 87 in 68 games – it’s always with a purpose. He’s looking for those tips and rebounds for his teammates.
Defensively, I have also been impressed with his development. Early on there was some tentativeness to take opponents to the wall and engage in front of his own net to help his goaltenders see the shots coming. It has come along. Even his puck retrieval skills have improved and can only get better if he and when he works on those first few steps I mentioned. His decisions when exiting the zone were not always the best, but there has been a marked improvement there as the season has progressed. Maybe it’s confidence. Maybe it’s getting use to the smaller ice because everything was coming at him faster this year then in previous years.
I’ve seen him called “the best Russian Defenceman with a 2004 birthdate.” I don’t know that I would go that far, but the skills and talent level have me intrigued for sure.
The Ontario Hockey League had to postpone more games than anyone wanted to see in December due to the COVID-19 Protocols, but there were some pretty good performances that should not be ignored.
In previous season, I looked for one performance that I would feel comfortable saying that player was the Player of the Month. But because of the lost season one year ago and the number of players re-entering the NHL Entry Draft in 2022, I decided for this year to select one forward, one defenceman and one goaltender. Here we go.
Up front, It’s Mississauga Steelheads forward Luca DelBelBelluz who scored 4 goals and 9 assists in 9 contests in the month of December and a whopping 31 shots on goal. He had 4 multi point games including a four-assist night against North Bay on December 29 and he was held off the scoresheet in just two contests.
DelBelBelluz now has 15 goals and 21 assists on the season and sits second in points on the Steelheads just two points behind James Hardie. Among draft eligible players, he is third in points, tied for third in goals and second in assists and easily leads all draft eligible players in plus/minus with a plus-27.
Also considered were a pair of Hamilton Bulldogs. Avery Hayes had 6 goals and 7 assists in 9 games while Ryan Humphrey had 3 goals and 8 assists in 9 games. Shane Wright of the Kingston Frontenacs had 3 goals and 7 assists but played in just 4 games because of the World Junior Championships and the Fronts being in COVID protocol.
On the blueline I could have gone a number of different ways but settled on Kirill Kudryavtsev of the Soo Greyhounds. The 5’11, 200-pound Russian scored once and added 6 assists in 7 games for the Greyhounds raising his totals to 2 goals and 16 assists in 28 games on the season.
I gave the nod to Kudryavtsev because I liked his all-around game. He was kept off the scoresheet in 2 of those 7 games, but the Greyhounds were 0-1-1 in those games. In the 5 games he registered a point? 4-0-1. He is an important player on the Greyhounds blueline as a rookie.
Also considered were Saginaw Spirit defenceman Pavel Mintyukov with 3 goals and 5 assists in 10 games, Samuel Mayer of the Peterborough Petes with 3 goals and 3 assists in 7 games, Ty Nelson of the North Bay Battalion with 8 assists in 9 games and Rodwin Dionicio of the Niagara IceDogs with a goal and 5 assists in 5 games.
The decision in net was the easiest and that was Pavel Cajan of the Kitchener Rangers. The draft re-entry netminder simply gives the Rangers a chance every time he mans the crease. He went 4-1-1 in the month of December with a stellar .919 save-percentage.
In his only regulation loss, Cajan stopped 32 of 34 shots in a 2-1 loss to the Windsor Spitfires. In his only other loss – in overtime- he stopped 34 of 38 shots in a 4-3 OT loss to the Soo Greyhounds. On the season Cajan has a save-percentage of .904 – third among draft eligible goalies and a goals-against-average of 3.23 – fifth among draft eligible goalies.
Also considered was North Bay Battalion netminder DomDiVincentiis. In 4 appearances he went 1-2-0 with a .909 save-percentage
December – Luca DelBelBelluz – Mississauga Steelheads
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.
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.