Raiders select Belarusian netminder in CHL Import Draft

Photo Courtesy of Belarus Hockey/Twitter Belarusian netminder and 2021 Prince Albert Raiders import draft pick Tikohn Chayka moves Russian forward Matevi Michkov away from his crease during a quarter-final game at the IIHF World Under-18’s in April.

For the first time in their history, the Prince Albert Raiders have selected a goaltender in the CHL Import Draft.

The Raiders used the 53rd overall selection on Wednesday morning to draft 17-year-old Belarusian netminder Tikohn Chayka, who spent last season with the Team Belarus Under-18 program.

“We watched Tikohn very closely through the Under-18’s,” Raiders general manager Curtis Hunt said.

“We like his competitiveness, his quickness and his hockey sense as a goaltender. There’s a lot to work with and I think he’s a good guy to bring in and support what we have in place.”

This also marks the third time in the last four years that the Raiders have picked a player from Belarus, as they selected forwards Aliaksei Protas and Uladzislau Shyla in 2018 and 2020.

“There might be a certain amount of comfort with taking a player from Belarus given our history over the last couple of years,” Hunt said.

 “The challenge this year was getting eyes on players and getting information from agents as to which players are coming over. There are a number of players who have signed pro deals to stay in Europe with the uncertainty with the Canadian border and how that would affect their ability to play in the CHL.”

Chayka, who is from Minsk and is eligible for this year’s NHL Draft, suited up in 29 games last season and had a 3.60 goals against average and an .870 save percentage.

He also posted a 2-1 record, a 2.67 goals against average and a .911 save percentage for his country at the 2021 IIHF World Under-18’s in Texas this spring, where he was teammates with Shyla, who signed with the Raiders last summer and is expected to join the club this fall.

“We wanted to get a good look at Shyla during that tournament and see where he could fit in as a player for us, especially as he faced higher-end teams like Canada and Russia,” Hunt said.

“As we watched him, we discovered that Tikohn could be available and he went on our radar. With that being said, there were also players from Russia, Finland and Sweden that we were watching.”

At the moment, the Raiders have two netminders signed for the upcoming campaign.

Third-year goaltender Carter Serhyenko is currently slated to take over the starting duties from the graduating Max Paddock, while the club signed 2019 13th round pick Max Hildebrand in April and brought him to the Regina bubble.

“Carter believes very strongly that he can be an elite guy and he’ll get that opportunity coming back as a 19-year-old,” Hunt said. “We think he’s a strong and powerful guy and NHL Central Scouting feels the same way with how they’ve ranked him (ninth overall) among North American goalies for this year’s draft.

“We liked the way that Max competed in a partial season (with the Saskatoon Contacts) and he got an opportunity to be a backup for us for some games in the Regina hub, which was good for him to get an idea of the WHL game and getting comfortable with our team.

“There’s a lot of road to go before we get to October, but it should be an exciting competition in goal. Everyone knows how important that position is and all you have to do is look at the Stanley Cup final with Tampa Bay (Andrei Vasilevskiy) and Montreal (Carey Price), along with what ‘Scotty’ (Ian Scott) did during our run to the title in 2019.”

Import Draft Recap

The QMJHL’s Baie-Comeau Drakkar kicked off the draft by taking Latvian blueliner Niks Fenenko.

Finnish forward Niko Huuhtanen went second overall to the Everett Silvertips, while the OHL’s Barrie Colts rounded out the top three by picking Ukrainian defenceman Artur Cholach.

The Vancouver Giants were the only WHL club to pick a NHL prospect as they used the eighth overall selection on Swedish netminder Jesper Vikman, who was a fifth round choice by the Vegas Golden Knights in 2020.

The Charlottetown Islanders stole the show in the second round as they took 16-year-old Russian forward Matvei Michkov with the 112th overall selection.

Michkov led the World Under-18’s in scoring with 16 points in seven games and is battling it out with Regina Pats forward Connor Bedard to be the first overall pick in the 2023 NHL Draft.

A trio of teams passed on making selections Wednesday as they already have their two import slots filled for next season.

Those squads were the Halifax Mooseheads (Attilio Biasca and Senna Peeters), Hamilton Bulldogs (Artyom Grushnikov and Jan Mysak) and the Mississauga Steelheads (Kasper Larsen and Ole Julian Bjørgvik Holm).

Around the WHL

The Edmonton Oil Kings have added a key veteran to their roster for the upcoming season as they’ve received a commitment from overage Czech blueliner Simon Kubicek.

Kubicek, who will turn 20 on Dec. 19, suited up for the Seattle Thunderbirds from 2018 to 2020 and had 55 points in 113 regular season games.

He spent this past season with Motor Ceske Budejovice in his home country and had three points in 21 games, in addition to a two-point showing for the Czech Republic Under-20 team at the World Juniors.

The Oil Kings acquired Kubicek’s rights from the Thunderbirds in January in exchange for the rights to Belarusian forward Vladimir Alistrov.

In addition to Kubicek, forwards Carter Souch and Josh Williams are the other overagers on Edmonton’s roster for the upcoming campaign.

Meanwhile, the Kelowna Rockets announced on Wednesday morning that had signed head coach Kris Mallette to a multi-year contract extension.

Mallette, who has been a member of the Rockets coaching staff since 2014, took over behind the bench in February 2020 after Adam Foote was fired from the position.

The 42-year-old has posted a 15-7-2-1 record in 25 regular season contests.

In international hockey news, Saskatoon Blades blueliner Pasha Bocharov is the lone WHL player to make the United States’ roster for the 2021 Hlinka Gretzky Cup, which will be held in the Czech Republic and Slovakia from Aug. 2-7.

Bocharov, who was an eighth round pick in the 2019 WHL Bantam Draft, had an assist in 16 games for the Blades this spring.

Canada will not be taking part in this year’s competition, which is the first to be held since 2019 as last summer’s tournament in Edmonton and Red Deer was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.