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T-Birds looking to stock up in CHL Import Draft


Can the T-Birds find another import player like Roberts Lipsbergs? (Thunderbirds)

The Seattle Thunderbirds will look to pick up two new European players Wednesday morning as the CHL holds its annual Import Draft. The import draft is often compared to a crapshoot as you never know what kind of player you are getting or if they will even come.

Unlike the WHL Bantam Draft, this one includes every team from the WHL as well as the OHL and QMJHL. Going into the draft the T-Birds hold the 48th and 108th picks and will try to find some gems. Those positions may change as several clubs, who already have one or two import players on their roster, will most likely pass on their picks — moving Seattle up.

Seattle got great contributions from their last two import picks, Roberts Lipsbergs and Alex Delnov. The two forwards played the past two seasons with Seattle and combined for 112 goals. Both players are technically eligible to come back for one more year, as 20-year-olds, however that is unlikely. Delnov has signed a pro contract in the Russian KHL and if Lipsbergs came back he would take up an import and 20-year-old slot, hampering the team’s roster flexibility. That being said, Lipsbergs scored some big goals for the T-Birds, was well liked by his teammates so there is always the slightest of chances the team would welcome him back.

The draft is unpredictable because CHL teams don’t have a staff of international scouts to watch these players closely. They rely on coaches and contacts who have seen them play and game tape in order to try and predict if a European player’s skill set will transfer to the smaller ice and more physical game played in North America. It’s far from an exact science.

Who they pick is the big unknown. There are a lot of players out there, some may have been drafted in this past weekend’s NHL Draft, some may be just entering their draft year. If you’re worried about how far back Seattle’s picks are, don’t be. There are gems to be found everywhere. Last year Saskatoon selected Nikita Scherbak with the 109th pick and he went on to score 78 points and get selected with the 26th pick in last weekend’s NHL Draft.

You just never know with this draft, something that makes it kind of exciting, a mystery.

If you’d like to follow along in real time as the picks are made, you can do so through the CHL’s web site. After the draft, check back here to the blog as we will have information on the picks and reaction from T-Birds General Manager Russ Farwell.

Follow Andrew Eide on Twitter @andyeide