Prospects News & Rumors: Patera, Rossi & CHL Import Draft

One of the top goaltenders in junior hockey signed his first professional contract on Tuesday as he looks to take the next step in his career. Speaking of next steps, a large group of players from outside of North America heard their names called in a draft. Plus, we profile one of the most dynamic players of this year’s NHL draft class.

Golden Knights Ink Goalie Prospect

If and when the Stanley Cup playoffs begin this summer, the Vegas Golden Knights will be boasting a high-end goaltending tandem with Marc-Andre Fleury and Robin Lehner. Fleury has been the mainstay in goal since the team’s first game in 2017, but at 36-years-old, the Golden Knights need to have a mindful of the future.

Oscar Dansk and Garret Sparks both played well this past season for the Chicago Wolves in the American Hockey League (AHL), but neither is expected to be a long-term solution at the position. On Tuesday, the team, with an eye towards the future, signed goaltender Jiri Patera to a three-year, entry-level contract.

Oskar Dansk Vegas Golden Knights
Dansk may not be the long-term solution in Vegas. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Golden Knights selected Patera, a native of the Czech Republic, in the sixth round (161st overall) on the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. His first season in North America, 2017-18, was spent with the Cedar Rapid RoughRiders of the United States Hockey League (USHL). He posted a .901 save percentage (SV %) and 3.24 goals-against average (GAA) in 34 games.

This next season he stepped up a level and played for the Brandon Wheat Kings in the Western Hockey League (WHL). He appeared in 48 games during his rookie season and finished with a .906 SV% and 3.31 GAA.

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This past season he upped his game and the numbers improved. In 41 games, he had a .921 SV% and finished with a franchise-record low 2.55 GAA. He was named the WHL’s Eastern Conference Goaltender of the Year Award and finished second to Dustin Wolf of the Everett Silvertips for league’s overall award.

CHL Import Draft

The three leagues of the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) held the annual Import Draft on Tuesday. Each team for the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) and WHL get two picks to draft any player they’d like from outside of Canada and the United States. Since each team is only allowed to carry two import players during the season, many teams passed on their picks if the have imports returning from last season. A total of 66 players were drafted into the three leagues.

The rules of the draft also do not allow for trading of picks and moving up and down. Also, just because you draft a player doesn’t mean he will ever actually play for your team. Sometimes a team will luck out and a player chosen, who was drafted by an NHL club, will be encouraged to play in the CHL.

The OHL’s North Bay Battalion used the first pick to select Russian winger Matvei Petrov. He is a prospect for the 2021 NHL Entry Draft an is reportedly going to play in North America next season. The Acadie-Bathurst Titan of the QMJHL used the second pick to take Czech goaltender Jan Bednar, who is expected to be selected in this year’s NHL Entry Draft. The first WHL team to draft, the Swift Current Broncos, took Slovakian defenseman Oliver Fatul. NHL Central Scouting has him ranked 70th among all European skaters for this year’s draft.

The Saskatoon Blades (WHL) used the 16th pick to draft Brad Lambert from Finland. The dynamic offensive talent, and son of New York Islanders assistant coach Lane Lambert, is already considered one of the top prospects for the 2022 NHL Entry Draft. He is likely to remain in his home country for the 2020-21 season, but the Blades are hoping he eventually makes the trip overseas.

The London Knights (OHL) drafted German forward J.J. Peterka. He played on a line with top 2020 prospect Tim Stutzle for Germany at the World Junior Championship. This is a case where the Knights are hoping whichever NHL drafts him insists that he plays in North America before turning pro.

Some of the notable NHL players who were once selected in the CHL Import Draft include Sven Baertschi Andre Burakovsky, Leon Draisaitl, Nico Hischier, Vladislav Namestnikov and Andrei Svechnikov.

Prospect of the Day: Marco Rossi

Today is a perfect day to profile Rossi as he was selected by the Ottawa 67’s, 18th overall, in 2018 CHL Import Draft. The Austrian-born forward has had himself quite the run in the OHL. He scored 29 goals and 65 points in 53 games during his rookie season of 2018-19. In the playoffs, he had six goals and 22 points to help the 67’s reach the OHL Finals.

MArco Rossi Ottawa 67s
Rossi led the entire CHL in scoring this season. (Credit: CHL Images)

Rossi took a huge step this past season. In 56 games, he scored 39 goals and 120 points. He became just the third player ever selected in the Import Draft to lead the CHL in scoring. He took home the Eddie Powers Trophy for leading the OHL in scoring and the Red Tilson Trophy for being named the OHL’s most outstanding player.

He was Ottawa’s top-line center for most of the season and drove the team’s offense every time he stepped on the ice. He has a combination of elite vision and world-class speed. He can not only get to a very fast top speed, but he gets there quickly with great acceleration. Scouts have called Rossi a magician with the puck as he possesses great vision and the patience to go along with it.

Related – 2020 NHL Draft Guide

His offensive game isn’t the only thing that has him high on the draft board. He is also very good defensively. He uses his speed to get back down the ice and help out in his own zone. He is not afraid to battle for pucks and plays with an edge. Despite his smaller frame (5-foot-9, 179 pounds) he is very hard to separate from the puck. Some have even compared him to Patrice Bergeron and Pavel Datsyuk.

Our own Mark Scheig, who saw a lot of Rossi in person this season, thinks that he will be a top-10 whenever the draft happens.

“The industry agrees that Rossi will go somewhere in the top-10. The question to consider is will he go in the top-five? Or will there be some old school thinking by teams about the fact that’s he just 5-foot-9? On my list, Rossi comes in seventh overall. That’s more of a reflection of the top heaviness of this draft than anything else. Most years, Rossi would be a candidate to go first overall. Still expect his name to go very early.”

The Ottawa Senators have the third and fifth overall picks and you have to wonder if they will use one of them to keep Rossi in town.