LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — When Warren Rychel talks about Swedish star Jacob de la Rose, it’s hard for the Windsor Spitfires general manager to hide his frustration.
Rychel selected de la Rose with the 11th overall pick in the CHL import draft and had been given assurances the centre would report to Windsor, despite having a year left on his contract with his Swedish team in Leksand. That, however, was not case when Leksand GM Tommy Salo balked at the idea of letting the 18-year-old leave the Swedish club early.
"Obviously it's been disappointing how it went down," said Rychel. "It's been frustrating, but I'm going to stay positive on this one."
De la Rose said he spoke to Salo about trying to leave, but was told in no uncertain terms he’d have to honour his contract.
“Of course we talked about it, but he was clear to me that he wanted me to stay,” said de la Rose of his discussions with Salo. “He said I would be getting a big role in Leksand, so it’s going to be a good.
“It was all Leksand’s decision. I have a contract there so I have to respect that. But I’m not disappointed; it’s going to be a great season with Leksand.”
This season Leksand has qualified to move up to play in the top tier, Swedish Hockey League, so the amount of ice time de la Rose is given remains to be seen. Rychel is hopeful that if this is the case, the Montreal Canadiens might make a push to have him sent to the OHL where he’ll assuredly get more ice time and work on special teams.
"There's still a chance maybe this year if things don't work out well for him there and he's not playing a lot," said Rychel. "We'll see what happens. I'm anxiously waiting to see how much he plays (in Sweden) and how much he's developing.
"You always hope. We're always hopeful that we get the best players.”
Rychel said he liked what he saw of de la Rose in Lake Placid, N.Y., where the 6-foot-2, 190-pound centre was taking part in Sweden’s summer world junior evaluation camp.
"He's really big and a very smart player," said the GM. "I think he just needs to come and play 22 minutes a game in a top six situation, handle the puck and get on special teams."
At the moment, the Spitfires only have one of their two import slots filled having selected Russian forward Nikita Yazkov with the 18th overall pick in the 2013 import draft. Rychel said the Spitfires will also keep the rights to overagers Russian forward Alexandre Khokhlachev and Czech goalie Jaroslav Pavelka protected until the January trade deadline.
The CHL recently made changes to their import rules that prevents the trading of trading new import players for a full year. In the event de la Rose is sent to Windsor and their import quota is full, the Spitfires have a two week window to either trade or release the veteran import – since neither Yazkov nor de la Rose can be traded.
"I'm not a big fan of the new import rules and I'm not afraid to say it," said Rychel. "But what are you going to do? It's the same for everyone ... it's hard because you always want to make your team better through that. I've acquired imports and picks and I've traded them to make our team better for those Memorial Cup teams.
"The more tools GMs have in our league to make their teams better - if that's trading or signing - the better and it seems like that's going away."
In the event Pavelka returns as an overager, Rychel said the plan would be to trade him though the new import restrictions would make it difficult.
"We'll try to move him to another team," said Rychel. "But it would have to be to a team with only one import and I wouldn't be able to receive another young import back - because you can't trade (a rookie import player) for a year. So I feel bad for a guy like Pav."