Each year, the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) Import Draft presents exciting and intriguing opportunities for all Canadian junior teams. This annual event allows clubs from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), Ontario Hockey League (OHL), and Western Hockey League (WHL) to select draft-eligible players who do not hold residency status in either Canada or the United States. Rosters are enhanced, lives are changed, and potential stars are born from the unique events surrounding the CHL Import Draft.
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Over the years, the CHL has seen it’s fair share of high-profile names emerge from the import draft. From Leon Draisaitl (Prince Albert Raiders), Timo Meier (Halifax Mooseheads), Andre Burakovsky (Erie Otters), Nikita Zadorov (London Knights), and Nico Hischier (Mooseheads), there’s been some talented players that have made names for themselves and gone on to successful National Hockey League careers.
On Tuesday, the Barrie Colts were on the clock in the first round with the 25th overall pick. Shortly, thereafter, the team proudly announced the selection of Czech Republic native, Stanislav Vrhel. Like all other teams across the CHL, the Colts are hoping that their first-rounder can develop into the next best talent who will take the OHL by storm in 2020-21 and beyond. So who is Vrhel and what does he bring to the Colts? Let’s read on and find out.
Stanislav Vrhel, C/LW
Date of Birth: December 20, 2002
Place of Birth: Chomutov, Czech Republic
Weight: 174 pounds
After being drafted 25th overall, Vrhel has the potential to be an important player for the Colts in 2020-21 assuming he makes the trek over from Europe. He’s a dynamic, two-way centerman with a real intense, competitive edge to his game. He also possesses a unique combination of skill and power which should serve him well on the smaller ice surfaces across the OHL. At 17 years of age, he stands at 6-foot-0, 174 pounds, and is still waiting to fully “fill out” as a player. That’s something the coaching and development staff in Barrie will work on as he matures and grows accustomed to the North American game.
Hockey is tough in the “O”. It’s a constant, gruelling battle each and every night. This bodes well for Vrhel who loves to compete for both space and loose pucks. He’s shifty, flashy, and loves to get in on the forecheck. Playing the game the “right way” is also a major strength of his and a real testament to his skills and preparation level as a player. It’s certainly early, but I think the Colts may have a real talent on their hands. He’s someone to keep your eye on in the coming season.
Vrhel has made appearances for several clubs during his time overseas. As an under-16 player for Pirati Chomutov, Vrhel skated in 68 games, tallying 32 goals and 58 points between 2016 and 2018. He even appeared in three games with the under-19 team. The next season saw him play 44 games with the under-19s, scoring 12 goals, 22 assists, and 34 points to go along with a plus-15 rating.
This past season saw Vrhel score five points in six games with Pirati Chomutov’s under-20 team before moving up to the senior team in the Czech league’s second division where he scored eight points in 22 games. During his time in Finland, another European hockey hotbed, Vrhel suited up for the Lahti Pelicans at the under-18 and under-20 levels. He also appeared in the first division in the Finnish Liiga, despite playing a rather limited role with just 7:43 of ice time. All in all, he would play a total of 11 league games in Finland scoring one goal and two assists.
The Sadlon Arena (formerly known as the Barrie Molson Center) awaits in anticipation! If (and it’s a big if) Vrhel decides to join the Colts, they will be a much-improved team right from the get-go. Vrhel has the skill and scoring touch that should fit in nicely with an up-and-coming Colts team. He’s also eligible for the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, meaning he’ll have something to prove to the passionate Colts faithful. With budding superstars-in-the-making such as Tyson Foerster and Brandt Clarke already part of the fold in Barrie, Vrhel will look to join the dynamic duo and become one of the most electrifying trios in Canadian junior hockey.
Carolina Hurricanes forward Andrei Svechnikov, who played junior with the Colts is a product of the CHL Import Draft. Selected first overall in 2017 by the Colts and second overall a year later by the Hurricanes in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, Svechnikov’s first (and only) season in Barrie saw him tally 40 goals and 72 points in just 44 games played. We’ve seen brilliance before in Barrie from the import draft, can we see another with Vrhel? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.
My name is Domenic Lunardo, and I cover all things Blue Jackets here at The Hockey Writers. I am an avid Toronto Maple Leafs fan living in Toronto, with an unmatched passion for the beautiful sport of hockey.