The hockey pipeline from Las Vegas to Brandon got a little more crowded this week. The Wheat Kings selected a pair of Vegas Golden Knights draft picks in the annual Canadian Hockey League Import Draft on Thursday, June 28.
With the 37th overall selection, the Wheat Kings took Swedish defenseman Erik Brannstrom. Brannstrom, who signed an NHL Entry-Level contract with the Golden Knights won a gold medal with his home country at the 2018 World Junior Hockey Championship.
“Erik is a highly skilled world caliber junior player,” says Brandon general manager Grant Armstrong. “He’s an excellent skater…has impressive offensive instincts and hockey sense. If he comes to Brandon, he could be a difference maker in our lineup.”
The 5’11" defenseman was drafted 15th overall by the Knights in 2017 and quickly turned pro in Europe, registering 15 points in 44 games. While his junior hockey rights now lie in the Wheat City, Brannstrom has his sights set on playing pro hockey in North America.
“Obviously, my goal is to play for the Vegas Golden Knights next season so we’ll see after that what happens,” Brannstrom told SinBin Hockey.
For the first time in five years, CHL teams were permitted to add European goaltenders via the import draft. The Wheat Kings quickly got on board, selecting Jiri Patera from the Czech Republic.
Patera spent last season in the United States Hockey League with Cedar Rapids where he posted a .901 save percentage. The sixth-round pick of the Golden Knights represented the Czech Republic at the U18 World Championships and is the first European goaltender ever taken by the Wheat Kings.
“Jiri is a young goaltender working to mature his game,” says Armstrong. “We have two legitimate number one netminders, and that is a position that you can never have enough.”
The addition of Patera and Brannstrom create a bit of a logjam of sorts for the Wheat Kings who retain the rights of Martin Kaut, the highly sought after Czech forward who was drafted in the first round by the Colorado Avalanche in last week’s NHL Entry Draft.
There is no word yet on if any of the three will report to the Wheat City. CHL rules state that teams can carry a maximum of two European imports during the season.
To make room, defenseman Daniel Bukac was released by the Wheat Kings but was quickly scooped up by the Niagara IceDogs of the Ontario Hockey League.
“Thanks to Niagara (@OHLIceDogs) that they drafted me. Really excited to be part of this great organization!” Bukac said on Twitter following the draft.