Here are the need-to-know picks from the CHL Import Draft

Filip Hronek (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The CHL Import Draft establishes major junior rights for European players and it’s never a dull process. Because the kids picked are under no pressure to come over here, it’s never just a matter of Best Player Available. And since junior teams all have different rebuilding/contending cycles, sometimes BPA is irrelevant anyway. Some have already been drafted by NHL teams; other younger picks are hoping to boost their stock for upcoming drafts. Each CHL franchise gets two picks, but some pass because they are already set with their quota of two imports. With another draft in the books, let’s take a look at some of the most important names that were called today.

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Best picks by round on Day 2 of the draft

Carter Hart (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

BUFFALO – On Day 2 of the draft, team preference plays such a huge role in when kids get picked. But for my money, there were some definite winners by round. In some cases, it was teams that made solid multiple selections. In other cases, it was a matter of the value they got in one player. Here are my winners for Day 2.

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Winners and losers from the first round of the draft

Ryan Kennedy
Winnipeg's Patrik Laine (Photo by Jen Fuller/Getty Images)

BUFFALO – So, who saw the draft going down the way it did? Be honest.

Yes, the top two picks were chalk. Toronto got their dominant center of the future in Auston Matthews, while Winnipeg added a savage scoring weapon in Patrik Laine. But who else won the night? And on the downer side, who lost in Buffalo? Here’s a breakdown.

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Tyson Jost: Family, sacrifice and what it takes to get to the draft

Ryan Kennedy
Tyson Jost. (Garrett James Photography)

BUFFALO – The first thing you should know about Tyson Jost is that he’s a character kid. He blew away teams at the draft combine with his interviews and it’s not hard to predict him wearing the captain’s ‘C’ in the NHL some day. The dynamic two-way center will go in the first round tonight but he’ll be the first to tell you he didn’t get there alone.

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This man could shake up the first round of the 2016 draft

Pierre-Luc Dubois.  (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

BUFFALO – Weird. Vincent Lecavalier retired. You’d swear it was him, or a magical teenage version of him, sitting on a podium overlooking Lake Erie. That’s what it felt like talking to elite 2016 NHL draft prospect Pierre-Luc Dubois.

Dubois, a friendly, rosy-cheeked tank of a youngster at 6-foot-3 and 202 pounds, carries himself like a young Vinny. It’s a strange coincidence, as the last time the draft went down in Buffalo was 1998, when Lecavalier went first overall. Dubois was calm yet confident, exuding the poise of a man many years older, seemingly enjoying the questions as he sat outside on a windy Thursday. The novelty hadn’t yet worn off.

He was endearingly wide-eyed about the draft experience. He said his old QMJHL teammate, Red Wings 2015 first-rounder Evgeny Svechknikov, told him to have fun and not waste the experience. Dubois was gracious about his off-season workouts, in which he encountered the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Alex Killorn and Andrej Sustr and eventually worked up the courage to approach them for advice. Dubois can’t wait to face his childhood idol, Henrik Zetterberg, and couldn’t believe his eyes when, while he attended the Stanley Cup final in San Jose, Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby approached and said, “Maybe I’ll see you soon.”

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Mock draft: how will the first round go down in Buffalo?

Ryan Kennedy
Jakob Chychrun (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

We are achingly close to the 2016 draft in Buffalo. The first round is Friday night and there is a lot of anticipation about what might happen. While Auston Matthews will still get his coronation in Toronto, late speculation was casting doubt upon what would follow. Is Winnipeg hot on Jesse Puljujarvi? Does Columbus want to trade the third pick? Personally, I don’t believe any draft rumors that happen in the final week – especially when so many people in the industry were partying in Las Vegas last night – but hey, the draft is unpredictable. Here’s what I see happening in the first round, assuming no trades are made (ha ha, like that’s realistic).

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Top prospect Matthews says Swiss league helped him elevate his game

Jared Clinton
Auston Matthews (John Carnessali/Bauer)

Auston Matthews is less than half a week away from arguably the biggest day of his young life. Come Friday, the 18-year-old center is expected to become the first-overall pick in the 2016 draft and a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

He’s already seen what the pro life can be about. He’s gotten the experience playing in the World Championship, he’ll be a key player on Team North America at the upcoming World Cup and, on Monday, Matthews inked the first major equipment deal of his career, signing on to become one of the new faces of Bauer.

But getting to this point, and being less than a week from being drafted, saw Matthews carve out a new path. He made a bold decision to forego the traditional development path and eschew time in the NCAA or Canada’s major junior ranks saw him take a highly publicized trip over to Switzerland, sign a deal with Zurich’s Lions of the NLA and try his hand at pro hockey. It could blaze a new trail for Matthews. He says the choice was a wise one.

“It helped a lot, and if I were to do it all over again, I’d do the same thing,” Matthews said. Read more

Final rankings: the top 120 prospects for the 2016 draft

Ryan Kennedy
Auston Matthews  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

We are one week away from the 2016 NHL draft in Buffalo. So now is the time to really bear down and get your knowledge. The following is my top 120 list. That represents about the first four rounds (give or take a compensatory pick) and it’s my hope that you will see all these names on the draft board by the time everything wraps up on Saturday afternoon.

Important note: This is not a mock draft. None of the selections are based on which teams are picking when, because that can (and pretty much always does) change with trades on the floor. This is a ‘Best Player Available’ list, for all intents and purposes. Nearly all the players here are first-time eligible. I try not to speculate on those already passed over unless they’re obvious (Tanner Pearson in 2012, for example), but a couple got through.

Otherwise, enjoy this primer.

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