Raiders select Belarusian forward at CHL Import Draft

Photo Courtesy of the Prince Albert Raiders Forward Uladzislau Shyla controls the puck for the Team Belarus' U18 program during a game this past season.

The Belarusian pipeline to the Art Hauser Centre continued on Tuesday.

With the 45th overall pick in the 2020 CHL Import Draft, the Prince Albert Raiders selected 17-year-old forward Uladzislau (pronounced Vladislav) Shyla.

Shyla, who stands 5’9” and weighs 154 pounds, had 10 goals and nine assists in 55 games last year for the Team Belarus Under-18 program.

“I think he’s a really good skater with a good 200-foot game,” Raiders general manager Curtis Hunt. “He’s a real smart player who can distribute the puck and score, in addition to taking the puck into tough areas.

“I’m excited about this young player. We’ve got a good environment here with some peers (Aliaksei Protas and Ilya Usau) to look up to and learn from, which I think will help his development.”

The Minsk product shares the same hometown as Usau, who played his minor hockey in the United States before coming to the WHL.

If Shyla comes to Prince Albert, he would join fellow countryman Protas, Igor Revenko, Sergei Sapego and Daniil Stepanov as Belarusian players who have suited up for the Raiders.

With Protas expected to return for his third campaign, the club elected to make just one pick on Tuesday after releasing Stepanov earlier in the month.

“We looked at our defence and we like what we have coming back (Nolan Allan, Remy Aquilon, Kaiden Guhle and Landon Kosior),” Hunt said.

“We also have four young guys (Tre Fouquette, Tayem Gislason, Graydon Gotaas and Adam McNutt) that are going to compete for jobs, so we felt that it made more sense for us to look at a forward and add some depth at that position.”

In addition to Stepanov, overager Brayden Watts is the only other forward who will not return for the 2020-21 campaign at this point.  

Eleven of the Raiders’ forwards from last season are eligible to return next year, in addition to signed prospects Niall Crocker and Logan Linklater.

The OHL’s North Bay Battalion selected Russian forward Matvei Petrov with the first overall pick, while Czech netminder Jan Bednar and Slovakian blueliner Oliver Fatul were chosen by the QMJHL’s Acadie-Bathurst Titan and the Swift Current Broncos respectively.

Daniil Gushchin, who was selected seventh overall last year by the Regina Pats but stayed in the USHL to play for the Muskegon Lumberjacks, was taken by the OHL’s Niagara IceDogs with the fourth pick.

The Russian forward is projected to be a second round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft.

The most eye-popping pick of the day was by the Saskatoon Blades as they selected Finnish forward Brad Lambert with the 33rd overall selection.

Lambert, who is a dual-citizen and played one season of minor hockey in Saskatoon before spending the last three years in Finland, is ranked alongside Shane Wright and Matthew Savoie as the top prospects for the 2022 NHL Draft.

The 16-year-old had 38 points in 42 games for the HIFK U20 program, in addition to scoring three goals as an underage player for Finland at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup and putting up six points in five games at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.

Around the WHL

The Edmonton Oil Kings have lost the services of one of their top returning forwards as 19-year-old Belarusian Vladimir Alistrov signed a contract on Wednesday with Dinamo Minsk of the KHL.

Alistrov, who was the second overall pick in the 2018 CHL Import Draft, recorded 73 points in 119 games over the last two seasons in Edmonton.

Meanwhile, graduating Brandon Wheat Kings netminder Jiri Patera signed a pro deal with the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday.

Patera, who was a sixth round pick by the club in 2017, spent the last two seasons in Brandon after starting his North America hockey career with the USHL’s Cedar Rapids RoughRiders.

The 21-year-old from the Czech Republic was a finalist for the WHL’s goaltender of the year award this past season after posting a 24-12-4 record with a 2.55 goals against average, a .921 save percentage and five shutouts.

Former Raiders netminder Donovan Buskey has found a new home as his rights were recently acquired by the Tri-City Americans.

The potential overage candidate had a 9-13-2 record with a 4.20 goals against average and an .876 save percentage for the Regina Pats last season, who released him last month after they acquired Philadelphia Flyers prospect Roddy Ross from the Seattle Thunderbirds.

Another Raiders alumni is looking for a new team to play with as forward Nikita Krivokrasov was recently waived by the Prince George Cougars.

The 19-year-old had 11 points in 37 games last season, which were split between the Americans and the Cougars.