With Sergei Sapego already on the roster, the Prince Albert Raiders have selected a fellow Belarusian to potentially be his teammate next season.
On Thursday morning, the Raiders selected 17-year-old forward Aliaksei Protas with the 26th overall selection during the Canadian Hockey League’s import draft.
“He’s a big long centreman that can play on the right wing and shoots from the left-hand side,” Raiders general manager Curtis Hunt said. “He’s got real nice skill and good vision.”
Protas, who stands 6’3″ and weighs 178 pounds, had 29 points in 49 games for the Belarus Under-17 program this past season.
The 2019 NHL Draft eligible forward also had four points in five games for his country at the 2018 World Under-18 Championship.
“He’s played on all of their elite teams, including the Belarus team that was at the Mac’s Midget Tournament in Calgary over Christmas, which is where we got a chance to watch him,” Hunt said.
“Obviously it takes some time for European players to adjust to our league, but I expect him to contribute to our offence. With how big he is and how he plays, we expect him to play a big role in the penalty kill as well.”
While it wasn’t a major factor in the selection, Hunt says it’s an added bonus to have two players from the same country potentially be part of the roster next year.
“It’s a nice addition in the fact that we can put both Aliaksei and Sergei in the same school together, plus we have ‘Krivo’ (forward Nikita Krivokrasov) here as well to help them out,” Hunt said.
The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Saint John Sea Dogs held the first overall pick in Thursday’s draft and selected 2001-born Slovakian forward Maxim Cajkovic, who is a possible top ten pick at next year’s NHL Draft.
With the second overall selection, the Edmonton Oil Kings nabbed Belarusian forward Vladimir Alistrov, who had seven points at the World Under 18’s as a teammate of Protas.
Meanwhile, the Sudbury Wolves of the Ontario Hockey League made a big splash with the third overall pick as they drafted Finnish goaltender and Buffalo Sabres prospect Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen.
The CHL had announced Wednesday that teams could draft goaltenders for the first time since 2013.
“I thought there might be a few more goaltenders taken before we picked,” Hunt said.
“There were a couple of surprises early on but as I look at our list and the picks that have happened in the first round, most of the guys that we had interest in are already gone.”