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New Jersey Devils pick Artur Gavrus eyes return to OHL; Owen Sound Attack are not so sure

Artur Gavrus is a potential point-a-game scorer for Owen Sound (Getty Images)The Owen Sound Attack have Artur Gavrus on their wish list but aren't sure if he'll turn up under the Christmas tree.

The Attack and GM Dale DeGray were blindsided in the summer when the 18-year-old New Jersey Devils draft choice did not report to them, instead staying in his native Belarus to play for Neman Grodno. Over the weekend, though, the skilled forward who would diversify the Attack's top-heavy scoring told Belarusian media that he thinks he will take the Devils scouts' advice and return to North America at the end of this month.

Cue the Google Translate-fuelled speculation.

"If you are asking me if he is [coming back], that I don't know," DeGray said Monday. "If you're asking if I hope he is, I would sit here and tell you I hope he does. We would love to see him back in Owen Sound. But quite honestly from what I understand, they [Neman Grodno] have to give him permission to come back.

"I'll be straight up with you. I have not submitted any paperwork [to the IIHF] to have Artur back in Owen Sound. But have we talked? Absolutely we have ... we have to get permission from his Belarusian team to have Artur back. Is that my hope to have that happen? Yes. Is it Artur's? I kind of think he would like to, but let's not kid ourselves, maybe his club team doesn't want him coming back."

Gavrus had 37 points in 45 games in his age-17 season with Owen Sound. It was an impressive showing for a rookie whose regular season was sidetracked by a concussion sustained in a collision with London's Max Domi. Gavrus was also injured during the playoffs by an elbow to the head from then-Kitchener Rangers forward Tyler Randell.

The Raitichi, Belarus native captained his country's squad to a runner-up finish behind Norway at last week's Division I Group A world junior championship in France.

Like adding a free agent

The Attack had to grant permission for Gavrus to play in Belarus. They have held on to his OHL rights and have an open import spot. Owen Sound (23-8-1-2, .721 point percentage) has the second-best record in the 20-team OHL at the holiday trade freeze. However, only forwards Cameron Brace, Daniel Catenacci and Gemel Smith are on pace for 20-goal seasons. They could use some scoring help.

"Why would I not want a point-a-game guy in my lineup?" DeGray said. "You can only imagine if in fact that [Gavrus returning] was true, what that would mean. That would be a freebie. That didn't cost me one thing, one trade, one draft pick, one player off my roster. And I'm hoping that if he comes back this year, he'd be back next year."

Boston Bruins second-rounder Alexander Khokhlachev, formerly of the Windsor Spitfires and now with the KHL's Moscow Dynamo, has also been rumoured to be mulling a return to the OHL.

Junior-aged players often do leave Europe or minor pro at midseason to play in the CHL. Current Phoenix Coyotes prospect Henrik Samuelsson, who is American and does not count against the CHL's two-import limit, left Sweden last season to join the WHL's Edmonton Oil Kings. In 2010-11, Los Angeles Kings prospect Maxim Kitsyn joined the Mississauga-St. Michael's Majors immediately following the world junior championship.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.

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