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Kolyachonok and Keppen Selected Saturday

June 24, 2019 - Ontario Hockey League (OHL) - Flint Firebirds News Release

Vancouver, BC - For the third time in four years, two Flint Firebirds were selected in the NHL Draft. Defenseman Vladislav Kolyachonok and forward Ethan Keppen each heard their name called this past Saturday at Rogers Arena, home of the NHL's Vancouver Canucks.

"We'd like to congratulate both Ethan and Vladislav and their families on this accomplishment," said Flint Firebirds Vice President of Hockey Operations and General Manger Barclay Branch. "This is a testament to their hard word and dedication over their hockey careers and we couldn't be happier for them."

Kolyachonok was picked in the second-round (52nd overall) by the Florida Panthers Saturday, making him the first Flint Firebird ever to drafted in the second round of the National Hockey League.

"It's pretty hard to find words, I'm extremely excited to be a part of a team who wants me and now I know that Florida believes in me," said Kolyachonok. "Being in Flint has been a really good experience. I was traded from London to Flint and I play a lot of minutes in Flint now. I think it's one of the best experiences in my life."

Kolyachonok, a 6-foot-1, 185-pound native of Minsk, Belarus, finished second among all rookie defenseman in the OHL this season, setting a record for most points by a rookie in a Firebirds' uniform with 30 points (4G, 26A) in 54 games. He was the first ever Flint Firebird to be named to the Ontario Hockey League's (OHL) First All-Rookie Team for the 2018-19 season. Along with earning the honor on the league level, he was tabbed as Flint's 'Best Defenseman' at the end-of-year Firebirds' player awards banquet.

The Vancouver Canucks selected Ethan Keppen in the fourth-round (122nd overall), making him the seventh Flint Firebird to drafted in the of the National Hockey League in just four years.

"It's such an honor to be drafted by the home team, I know how excited their fans are and I just can't wait to get started," said Keppen. "This was just a special moment to share. Last season, things didn't go right but we have a lot of unfinished business here in Flint, we have a lot of plans coming up for this next season, we're going to be a playoff team next year so I can't wait. Getting my name called was just an incredible feeling, I'm never going to forget this in my life. A lot of credit to everyone including my parents, everyone in the Flint organization, Eric Wellwood, Barclay Branch, they've been incredible to me and have given me every opportunity there is in Flint, so a lot of credit to everyone on the staff top-to-bottom."

Keppen, a 6-foot-2, 212-pound forward, played in all 68 games with the Firebirds this season, finishing tied for second on the team in points (59). He tripled his goal production (30) and more than tripled both his assists (29) and points in one season. Keppen earned the 'Blue Collar Worker,' 'Combined Academic & Athletics Excellence Award,' and 'Most Improved Player' awards at the end-of-year Firebirds' player awards banquet. The Whitby, Ont., native was Flint's first-round draft pick, 10th overall, in the 2017 OHL Draft.

Since the Flint Firebirds' inception just four season ago in 2015, the club has now had 17 drafted or NHL signed players on its roster consisting of Will Bitten (Montreal), Dennis Busby (Arizona), Nick Caamano (Dallas), Connor Chatham (New Jersey), Ty Dellandrea (Dallas) Fedor Gordeev (Toronto), Ethan Keppen (Vancouver), Kyle Keyser (Boston Bruins), Vladislav Kolyachonok (Florida), Nick Mattinen (Toronto), Brent Moran (Dallas), Alex Nedeljkovic (Carolina), Alex Peters (Dallas), Vili Saarijarvi (Detroit), Kole Sherwood (Columbus), Jalen Smereck (Arizona) and Josh Wesley (Carolina).

For the past five seasons, the OHL has sent more players to the NHL than any other league in the world. The OHL is first in the world in total players selected in the NHL Draft (197), first and second round selections combined (76), defenseman (80) and forwards (122). On NHL opening day rosters in October, one-in-four players (26.4%) competing in the NHL were alums of the OHL, which is also the highest percentage in the world.

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