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International Impact: WHL imports who starred in 2019-20

 

There is no question the CHL Import Draft serves as an important day on the calendar for all WHL Clubs. Each year, new players from overseas make their way to North America in hopes of providing an immediate impact for their WHL Clubs. The 2019-20 WHL season was no exception.

With the 2020 CHL Import Draft scheduled for Tuesday, June 30 at 9 a.m. MT, let’s take a quick look at some of the top-performing WHL import players from 2019-20.

Forwards

Aliaksei Protas – Prince Albert Raiders (31-49–80)
2018 CHL Import Draft, 26th overall

A product of Vitebsk, Belarus, Protas excelled in what is expected to be his final season in the WHL. After being selected by the Washington Capitals in the third round (91st) of the 2019 NHL Draft, the 6-foot-6, 210-pound pivot return to Prince Albert and tore up the East Division with 80 points in 58 games to lead all WHL import skaters.

The 19-year-old Protas gave the Raiders two years of excellent contributions, including 22 points (12G-10A) in 23 playoff games, helping bring the Ed Chynoweth Cup back to Prince Albert in May 2019. Protas was also named the WHL’s Eastern Conference Humanitarian of the Year for 2019-20.

Though he has already signed an entry-level contract with Washington, Protas is eligible to return to the WHL as a 20-year-old, though that decision ultimately is up to the Capitals.

 

Oliver Okuliar – Lethbridge Hurricanes (33-35–68)
2019 CHL Import Draft, 49th overall

A product of Trencin, Slovakia, Okuliar took the WHL by storm in his rookie campaign, registering 68 points in 55 games with the Hurricanes. On back-to-back nights in November, the 6-foot-1, 185-pound winger registered consecutive hat tricks on an East Division road swing, delivering damage against the Winnipeg ICE and Brandon Wheat Kings on November 1 and 2, respectively. Those two hat tricks served to cap off a run of seven straight games in which Okuliar found the back of the net at least once, collecting 11 goals in total.

Ranked 154th among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting, the 20-year-old Okuliar is eligible to return to the Hurricanes for 2020-21.

 

Michal Teply – Winnipeg ICE (29-34–63)
2019 CHL Import Draft, fourth overall

A product of Havlickuv Brod, Czech Republic, Teply led all WHL rookies in scoring during the 2019-20 season, securing 63 points in 53 contests. Selected by the Chicago Blackhawks in the fourth round (105th) of the 2019 NHL Draft, the 6-foot-3, 192-pound stepped into the ICE lineup and provided immediate impact in the Club’s return to Winnipeg.

The 19-year-old forward signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Blackhawks on April 10. Teply is eligible to return to Winnipeg for 2020-21.

 

Defencemen

Filip Král – Spokane Chiefs (12-37–49)
2017 CHL Import Draft, 78th overall

A product of Blansko, Czech Republic, Král enjoyed a career year in his final WHL campaign, setting career highs in all major offensive categories, while serving as a reliable presence at his own end of the rink.

Selected by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the fifth round (149th) of the 2018 NHL Draft, the 20-year-old Král has been nothing short of steady and impactful during this three seasons in the WHL, collecting 120 points (31G-89A) in 154 career regular season outings.

Král signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Leafs on April 1. As a 1999-born player, he is not eligible to return to the WHL.

 

Kasper Puutio – Everett Silvertips (5-23–28)
2019 CHL Import Draft, first overall (Swift Current Broncos)

A product of Vaasa, Finland, Puutio did not disappoint after being selected first overall in 2019.  Upon stepping foot on North American soil, the shifty blueliner was immediately noticeable in Swift Current before a midseason trade to Everett. From there, Puutio appeared at the 2020 Kubota CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game in Hamilton and helped the Silvertips position themselves for what they hoped would be another deep playoff run, prior to the WHL season being cut short due to COVID-19.

Ranked 76th among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting, Puutio should expect to hear his name called at the 2020 NHL Draft, when it eventually takes place. He is eligible to return to Everett for 2020-21.

 

Simon Kubicek – Seattle Thunderbirds (7-20–27)
2018 CHL Import Draft, 89th overall

A product of Jindrichuv Hradec, Czech Republic, Kubicek put forth a second consecutive strong showing for the Thunderbirds, racking up 27 points in 52 games this past season. The 6-foot-2, 203-pound defenceman was tasked with greater responsibility in his second season in North America and handled it admirably. In fact, Kubicek performed well enough to earn himself a place on the North American ranks from NHL Central Scouting, sitting 136th heading into the 2020 NHL Draft.

Born in 2001, Kubicek remains eligible to return to the Seattle Thunderbirds for 2020-21.

 

Goaltenders

Mads Søgaard – Medicine Hat Tigers (21-13-1-1)
2018 CHL Import Draft, 32nd overall

A product of Aalborg, Denmark, Søgaard eclipsed the 20-win mark for the first time in 2019-20, going 21-13-1-1 with a 2.53 goals-against average and four shutouts. His win total (21), GAA (2.53) and four shutouts all served as new career bests after breaking into the WHL with 19 wins, a 2.64 GAA and three shutouts in 2018-19.

The 6-foot-7, 200-pound netminder represented his nation at the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship after being selected by the Ottawa Senators in the second round (37th) of the 2019 NHL Draft.

Born December 13, 2000, Søgaard is eligible to return to the WHL for 2020-21.

 

Jiri Patera – Brandon Wheat Kings (24-12-2-2)
2018 CHL Import Draft, 104th overall

A product of Praha, Czech Republic, Patera recorded career marks in 2019-20, including wins (24), goals-against average (2.55), save percentage (.921) and shutouts (five). Patera’s efforts were vital to the success of the Wheat Kings in 2019-20 and they didn’t go unnoticed as the 6-foot-2, 205-pound puckstopper was named the WHL’s Eastern Conference Goaltender of the Year.

Selected by the Vegas Golden Knights in the sixth round (161st) of the 2017 NHL Draft, Patera is not eligible to return to the Wheat Kings 2020-21, having graduated from the WHL as an overage player this past season.

 

Lukáš Pařík – Spokane Chiefs (22-7-2-0)
2019 CHL Import Draft, 43rd overall

A product of Neratovice, Czech Republic, Pařík electrified fans in Spokane in his first season in North America. Not only did he serve as the backbone for a Chiefs squad that caught fire down the stretch in 2020, he also managed to entertain with his energy and panache.

The 6-foot-4, 185-pound Pařík registered a respectable goals-against average of 2.73 in 2019-20, paired with an admirable .917 save percentage. Capping it all off, he became the first goaltender in WHL history to score a goal and earn a shutout in the same game as he found the back of the net in a 3-0 win over the Kamloops Blazers on March 11.

Selected by the Los Angeles Kings in the third round (87th) of the 2019 NHL Draft, the 19-year-old Pařík is eligible to return to the Chiefs for 2020-21

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