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Wheat Kings Draft Russian Defenceman in 2020 CHL Import Draft

June 30, 2020 - Western Hockey League (WHL) - Brandon Wheat Kings News Release

Toronto, ON. - The Brandon Wheat Kings added one player to their prospect pool in Tuesday's Canadian Hockey League Import Draft.

With their first round selection, the Wheat Kings chose 17-year old Russian defenceman Yaroslav Busygin 39th overall. The Wheat Kings also held the 99th overall selection in the Draft's second round but decided to pass on making a pick.

Born in 2003, the 17 year old Busygin is a 6'2", 170 lbs. blueliner who played with three different teams during the 2019-20 season. He skated with and captained Vityaz Podolsk in Russia's U17 league for 24 games, collecting 21 PTS (4G-17A) and 38 PIM. He also played and captained 8 games with Vityaz Podolsk's U18 team and had 11 PTS (4G-7A) with 18 PIM. In the MHL (Molodyozhnaya Hokkeinaya Liga), Russia's top junior hockey league, Busygin played 25 games for Russkie Vityazi Chekhov and had 5 PTS (4G-1A) with 26 PIM.

"He's a really dependable, smart defenceman who played the off side in a difficult league. We look forward to getting Yaroslav to Brandon and accustomed to our community", says Wheat Kings General Manager, Darren Ritchie.

CHL clubs are permitted to carry a maximum of two imports who the Wheat Kings expect to be Busygin and 22nd overall 2019 Import Draft selection, Marcus Kallionkieli from Helsinki, Finland. In 24 games with the Wheat Kings in 2020, Kallionkieli notched 11 PTS (1G-10A) after returning from injury in the second half of the season.

This year was a new challenge for CHL clubs taking part in the Import Draft as the abrupt halt to the hockey season due to the coronavirus pandemic meant a change in scouting and NHL Draft procedures. Ritchie says he and his scouting staff prepared the best they could and treated it like any other season or draft, assessing talent through game tape and getting as much information they could on eligible players.

"We do a lot of talking with a lot of people who know European players and use our contacts to sort out who the best available players are."

The two round draft took place online with the order of selection rotating through each of the CHL's three leagues using an inverse order of final regular season standings during the 2019-20 campaign.

The top pick belonged to the Ontario Hockey League's North Bay Battalion who selected Russian right-winger, Matvei Petrov. The QMJHL's Acadie-Bathurst chose second and took Czech goaltender Jan Bednar and the WHL's Swift Current Broncos chose Oliver Fatul with the third overall pick. This was the second season in a row the Broncos were the Western League's first team to pick in the Import Draft.

The last Russian-born player to be drafted by the Wheat Kings in the CHL Import Draft since it was established in 1993 and wear the black and gold is defenceman Ivan Provorov. Provorov played two seasons with the Wheat Kings, amassing 134 PTS (36G-98A) in 122 regular season games and was instrumental in helping the Wheat Kings win the 2016 WHL Championship, the same season he was was awarded the CHL Defenceman of the Year Award. Provorov was a 7th overall pick by the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2015 NHL Draft.

Seven Russians in total have now been chosen by the Wheat Kings since 1993 but only two have played in Brandon. Provorov was chosen 30th overall in 2014 while Andrei Lupandin was selected with the 28th pick of the Import Draft in 1995. Lupandin was a member of the 1996 WHL Championship Team.

The Western Hockey League plans to start their regular season on October 2, 2020 after announcing their Return to Play for 2020-21 earlier this month. The October 2 start date remains contingent on receiving the necessary approvals from government and health authorities in each of the six jurisdictions in WHL territory and the league fully intends to complete a full 68-game schedule for 2020-21, regardless of when the season begins.

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