The Annual Candian Hockey League Import Draft took place today at 11 AM EST.
With the 55th pick, the Knights selected German winger John-Jason “JJ” Peterka. The 18-year-old is one of three players from Germany in contention to go in the first round of the 2020 NHL Draft, along with Tim Stuzle and Lukas Reichel.
Knights Associate GM Rob Simpson on JJ Peterka… “JJ is a top end offensive talent and showcased his skill at this past years World Junior Hockey Championship in the Czech Republic. JJ has the combination of skill, speed and hockey sense that we covet with the London Knights organization.”
Peterka developed in the Red Bull hockey academy in Austria before joining EHC Red Bull Munchen of the Deutsche Eishockey Liga this season. He had 7 goals and 11 points in 42 games in limited minutes as Munchen finished atop Germany’s top men’s league
After winning gold at the U18 World Junior D1A tournament, the Munchen native was a member of the exciting Germany team at this year’s World Juniors. Alongside Stuzle, Reichel, and NHL picks Moritz Seider and Dominik Bokk, the Germans became a cult favourite after nearly surprising the Americans in their tournament opener. They ended up defeating the Czech Republic in Round Robin play and beating Kazakhstan to earn a place at next year’s tournament.
Peterka was a main part of the team’s success. He finished the tournament second in team scoring. The nifty winger possesses good speed and excellent puck skills, and is an effective finisher in front of the net. He spent time on the powerplay with both Germany and with Munchen. The 18-year-old reads the game well and is able to make an impact on any line.
Each team in the CHL is permitted to have two import players on their roster each season. The Knights opted to protect their 2019 import pick Kirill Steklov and pass on their second pick in this year’s import draft.
Including Steklov, London has found success in past years drafting defenseman from overseas. The European model of a defenseman – smooth-skating, offensively gifted and highly intelligent – is beginning to dominate North American hockey. The Knights have also had some highly skilled European forwards switch continents to play in London…
Sergei Kostitsyn – Belarus (2005-2007)
Before the days of Tkachuk-Dvorak-Marner, there was another superstar line that put on a show for fans in London. In the 2006-07 season, the trio of Kostitsyn, Sam Gagner and Patrick Kane finished 1-2-3 in league points-per-game. With the Belarusian quarterbacking the power-play, the team finished with an astounding 133 goals on the man-advantage. He set the franchise record for assists in a single season – a record yet to be broken – with 91.
The year prior, Kostitsyn led all Ontario Hockey League rookies in scoring with 22 goals and 78 points in 63 games played. In the playoffs, he found another gear, scoring 13 goals and 37 points in 19 games played as the Knights made it to the OHL Championship series.
Internationally, he was a trailblazer for Belarusian hockey. In 2006, he was Belarus’ best player as they won promotion to the top tier of IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships. Alongside his brother, Andrei, he represented his country at their third and most recent appearance at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.
Vladislav Namestnikov – Russia (2010-2012)
The Knights traded up in the 2010 Import Draft to select Namestnikov. With great hands and hockey IQ, the Russian made an instant impact in the OHL, scoring at a point-per-game pace in his first season in North America.
After being selected in the first round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft by the Tampa Bay Lightning, Namestnikov returned to lead the Knights reach the 2012 Memorial Cup Finals.
His ability to process the game at a high level has allowed him to play up and down the lineup in the National Hockey League. In 2017-18, he had his most productive year, putting up 0.71 points per game on a line alongside Steven Stamkos in Tampa Bay. He has struggled to score at that level following trades to struggling Rangers and Senators teams. However, before the league was cut short, he had 6 points in 9 games since being acquired by the Avalanche.
Olli Maata – Finland (2011-2013)
Another player the Knights traded up to acquire, Maata was the 1st overall pick in the 2011 Import Draft. When he arrived in the OHL, he displayed all the qualities of a top-pairing defenseman. He was dominant in his own zone, making smart decisions and knowing when to utilize his big frame. He showed in the playoffs he had the ability to contribute offensively too, putting up 23 points in 19 games en route to his first of two OHL Championships in London.
By the time he turned 23, the Fin had already won two Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins and represented Finland at the 2014 Olympics and 2016 World Cup of Hockey. Injuries have resulted in his career stagnating a bit. Last summer he joined Patrick Kane and the Chicago Blackhawks, who are retooling after years of dominating the NHL.
Nikita Zadorov – Russia (2012-2014)
The big Russian defenseman is undoubtedly one of the most entertaining players in Knights history. Standing at six-foot-five, 229 pounds, Zadorov was a presence all over the ice. He would lay a huge-hit, make an end-to-end rush and score with a booming slap-shot, all in one shift.
Selected 16th overall by the Buffalo Sabres at the 2013 NHL Draft, the rearguard returned to dominate the OHL. He had 11 goals and 30 points in 36 regular-season games and four goals and nine points in nine playoff games.
After spending one year in Buffalo, Zadorov was traded to Colorado, where he has played since. The 25-year-old has established himself as one of the hardest hitters in the league and a solid bottom-six option. Zadorov and his compatriot Namestnikov will both be in pursuit of their first Stanley Cup should the season resume this summer.
The second Finnish defenseman named Olli to play for the Knights, Juolevi played with the same high level of composure as his namesake. However, the second Olli was more dangerous offensively. He seemed to always know when to rush, when to pass, or when to make a move around a defender. He was the type of player who would rack up three assists in a game without anyone noticing.
Juolevi was the number one defenseman on the 2016 Memorial Cup winning team and was named to the tournament all-star team. He was also a member of the Finland team that won gold at the 2016 World Juniors and finished the tournament with an impressive nine assists. He also made that tournament’s all-star team.
After being the fifth overall selection in the 2016 NHL Draft, Juolevi returned to London for further development. He again was the number one blueliner, playing north of twenty minutes every night.
Severe injuries have stunted his development at the pro level. Knee surgery saw him sit out most of the 2018-19 season, but this year the finished with 25 points in 45 games for the Utica Comets before the American Hockey League season ended prematurely.
Janne Kuokkanen – Finland (2016-17)
After tearing up the junior hockey scene in Finland, Kuokkanen arrived in London in the 2016-17 season. Although he only played at Budweiser Gardens for a year, he certainly made his mark. In the playoffs, he was often the best player on the ice. He finished with an impressive 10 goals and 16 points in 14 games.
The winger has had an impressive AHL career in the three seasons since departing from the OHL. He was a key player on the Charlotte Checkers in 2019 when they won the Calder Cup. The 22-year-old was traded to the New Jersey Devils at the deadline this year. In 4 games with the Devils affiliate in Bimhangton, the Fin had 6 points, earning himself an NHL call-up before the season came to a pause. Quick on his edges and always looking to make the simple play, he projects as a middle-six forward capable in both ends. He doesn’t drive play but he is the linemate every player likes.
The eighth overall selection brought an elite forward’s toolkit to the blueline. Although he went through an adjustment period in his first season in North America, once Boqvist got going he was unplayable. He saved the best for last – in the playoffs he had 10 goals and three assists in 11 games. The Swede combined with fellow 2018 top prospect Evan Bouchard to form a deadly powerplay.
After starting the season in the AHL, Boqvist was called up to the Chicago Blackhawks in October and stayed there all season. Although he is still maturing defensively, he showed notable improvement throughout the campaign and was especially effective in breaking up play with a well-timed stick check.
His offensive ability, however, is already elite. As he displayed in his time in London, he is capable of terrorizing his opponent’s defence in a multitude of ways. Boqvist epitomizes the word dynamic – his speed, creativity and hands are incredible. He can also shoot the puck and exploit a seam as well as any powerplay anchor.
The import pick will forever be remembered by Knights fans for his incredible performance in the 2019 post-season. Particularly, his four-goal effort in Game Three of the first round.