The 2020 CHL import draft took place on June 30, and the Victoria Royals selected Marcus Almquist with the 27th overall pick. Although they already have two import players on the roster in Phillip Schultz and Keanu Derungs, the Royals were allowed to make a selection as Schultz is now considered a league overage player.
With the addition of Almquist, the three players offer Victoria some nice talent and needed skill, but the situation may also lead to some difficult decisions to be made.
Almquist, a 16-year-old forward from Rodovre, Denmark, spent much of last season with the HV71 J18 team in Sweden’s J18 Elit League. During that time, he recorded 24 points (10 goals, 14 assists). Of note, Almquist played 10 games as a 16-year-old with Denmark’s Under-20 team and held his own, recording seven goals and two assists.
In a team release, Royals’ general manager and head coach Dan Price said, “We are excited to have been able to draft Marcus with our pick this morning. He is a dynamic and highly skilled young forward who plays the game with speed and will be a great fit for our style of play.”
The report on Almquist is that he is a small but skilled player. The forward has strong offensive instincts, is a good skater and possesses soft hands. Victoria has had some success with undersized forwards. Matthew Phillips and Dante Hannoun immediately jump to mind as comparables, as both were successful and durable junior hockey players. And with the Royals’ emphasis on speed and being a pressure team, Almquist’s abilities would serve him well in Victoria.
Almquist is eligible for the 2021 NHL Draft and has been on many scouts’ radars for a while. Victoria will look to get him signed to a contract so he can show how he adapts to hockey in North America.
The original Royals’ Dane, Schultz has won over his coaches, teammates and fans during his two seasons in Victoria. Like Almquist, Schultz also is a product of Rodovre, Denmark. Should the WHL season get going, the Royals will have a difficult decision in whether to have Schultz return as a 20-year-old, or move on with Almquist, or trade for an alternate import player.
With the selection of the younger Almquist, the opinion would lean towards Victoria bringing their captain back for a final season. The scenario where Schultz returns stronger and well-rested, while Almquist gets another year in Europe to mature seems likely for Victoria.
Another scenario could be that Schultz takes the decision out of the Royals’ hands and decides to play professional hockey. Upon his arrival to the WHL, the Dane was billed as playing a “pro game” and surely he is destined at some point to make the jump to the next level.
Whichever situation plays out, the captain can be a role model for Almquist, even if they don’t play together. Schultz could be a voice to share his experiences of making the trip from Rodovre to Victoria.
Upon his arrival to Victoria, then-Royals general manager Cameron Hope stated the plan was to ease the 17-year-old Derungs into action. Selected as a younger import last year, Derungs was joining a veteran 2019-20 roster in Victoria and therefore there was no need to rush him into action.
However, Derungs forced a change to that plan, as his strong play kept him in the lineup. He experienced it all in his premiere season in the WHL – game-winning goals, hits, and injuries – and did not seem to miss a beat. His efforts led to Victoria awarding him the 2019-20 Elite Promotional Marketing Rookie of the Year. In 57 games, Derungs recorded 29 points (15 goals and 14 assists).
Derungs is draft-eligible for the 2020 NHL Draft and made it into Larry Fisher’s Top 500 Final Rankings.
A crafty forward who loves to create in the offensive zone. A balanced passer and shooter who sometimes tries to do too much with the puck but has the skill to pull off some surprising stuff. Projects as a middle-six option at the NHL level.Dobber Prospects
He could be primed for a big sophomore effort after getting quality ice time in his first season.
An Unknown Future
With the selection of Almquist, questions began from fans wondering if the club was moving on from either Schultz or Derungs. In a normal season, that decision would be more urgent. However, 2020 is far from normal. THW’s Mark Scheig wrote an article describing the potential challenges that face CHL imports this season. Currently, there is only a target date for a season to commence. For now, the Royals and their fans will likely have to wait to see how the team’s import situation gets resolved.
Following the Victoria Royals since their first game in 2011, and witnessed the last season of the Victoria Cougars in 1994 at the old Memorial Arena. Ryan is a Northern Manitoba transplant who is now fortunate to call Vancouver Island home