By Carter Brooks
Photo by Brandon Andreasen
The Kelly McCrimmon connection in Brandon has struck once again. On Thursday the Brandon Wheat Kings used their two selections in the Canadian Hockey League's 2018 Import Draft to select two European prospects of the Vegas Golden Knights.
With their first round selection, the Wheat Kings chose 19-year-old Swedish defenceman Erik Brannstrom. The Wheaties then selected 19-year-old goaltender Jiri Patera of the Czech Republic in round two. 2018 marked the first time in five years that non-North American goaltenders were granted availability in the CHL Import Draft.
The selection of Brannstrom is a far more curious case than that of Patera, as the strong play-making defenceman was recently selected by the Golden Knights 15th overall in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. Although opting to play for HV-71 of the Swedish Hockey League in his native country last season, Brannstrom will have some options for the 2018-19 season.
As he recently stated, Brannstrom's goal is to crack Vegas' squad and stick around in the NHL, however, that may be a lofty goal for a team laced with able-bodied defencemen ready to play full-time NHL minutes. If the Golden Knights are not the right place to the season for Brannstrom, he and Kelly McCrimmon will have three options on their hands.
The 5-foot-10, 175-pound blueliner could return to the SHL and play for HV-71 once again, he could accept an assignment to the American Hockey League and play for the Chicago Wolves, or he could spend the year dressing for Brandon in the WHL.
In opting for the SHL or WHL, Brannstrom would not be eligible to join Vegas - if they so choose - until his respective season has culminated. If he is sent to the minors, he could be recalled at point throughout the 2018-19 calendar year. Playing in Sweden would give Brannstrom a higher level of competition on an Olympic-sized sheet of ice, while playing in the WHL would provide the teenager a chance to build some relationships with hockey players his age. Whereas the AHL would provide more insights into the Golden Knights' organization and style of play/coaching.
McCrimmon's influence will certainly play a toll on the Knights' decision. Beginning his third season as the Assistant General Manager of the Vegas Golden Knights, McCrimmon still remains the owner of the Wheat Kings. Although giving up his Head Coach and General Manager roles, he did not relinquish the team to a new owner.
Patera - the Wheaties' second selection - played the 2017-18 season with the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders of the United States Hockey League. The monstrous 6-foot-2, 215-pound netminder put up a 13-13-0 record with one shutout, a .901 save percentage and a 3.24 goals against average last season. He will look to do battle with Dylan Myskiw in the cage next season.
The Wheat Kings were only able to select two players due to parting ways with Czech import defenceman Daniel Bukac last Wednesday, and the lack of commitment from 2017 first round selection in the CHL Import Draft Martin Kaut - who has elected to remain in Czech Republic.
The Wheat Kings will open their 2018-19 regular season on Friday, September 21st against Jett Woo and the Moose Jaw Warriors at home at Westoba Place.