When Oscar Dansk made his intentions clear he would play junior in the CHL this season, it apparently emboldened the Erie Otters.
The smart money say the Columbus Blue Jackets high second-rounder, who was the third goalie taken in last Saturday's NHL draft, landing with a big-budgeted OHL team such as the London Knights or Windsor Spitfires. Instead, Otters managing partner Sherry Bassin surprised many observers by nabbing Dansk with the No. 3 overall selection in this morning's CHL import draft.
It's a can't-lose move by Bassin and the Otters. If Dansk is 100 per cent intent on the OHL, then he would report to Erie. If it turns out the Otters called his bluff, they could trade him to a contender such as London or Windsor as last resort.
Oscar Dansk told me at the NHL Combine he was set on coming to the CHL, so this comes as no surprise. I expect he'll report to Erie.
— Ryan Yessie (@RyanHPscout) June 27, 2012
Some people assumed Dansk would be a Knight. It was a rumour. He'll be playing against them.
— Ryan Pyette (@RyanatLFPress) June 27, 2012
The Otters' image took a hit this season, what with the CHL's worst 10 wins and the sideshow of having to use a centre in goal one Sunday against the Niagara IceDogs. But one can see where there would be some selling points to convince Dansk to arrive. The team has a young nucleus, particularly 15-year-old phenom Connor McDavid, which could allow it to be more competitive across the next two seasons. Dansk would also have a chance to work with a former NHL goaltender, assistant coach Peter Sidorkiewicz. Erie is also in relative close proximity to Columbus.
Granted, it's important to hedge a little here. It's not unheard of for a team to take a European player they knew had designs on going to a certain franchise and then flipping his rights. That's what happened when reigning NHL rookie of the year Gabriel Landeskog came into the the OHL in 2009. The Plymouth Whalers drafted him, then the Kitchener Rangers had to ante up in a trade for the Swedish forward. If it turns out Dansk and his adviser are more selective about what OHL team they wish to align with, Windsor and London would certainly be interested.
London, which took 6-foot-3½, 200-pound Russian defenceman Nikita Zadorov with the No. 9 pick, having designs on Dansk was not a lock. There was some indication before the draft that their desire was a shutdown defenceman to help fill the massive void left by the graduation of captain and Montreal Canadiens prospect Jarred Tinordi. On listed size alone, Zadorov addresses that need.
At No. 6, the Kingston Frontenacs selected Finnish defenceman Mikko Vainonen, a fourth-round pick of the Nashville Predators who is 6-foot-2¾ and 222 pounds. Vainonen also indicated during the NHL scouting combine that he was interested in Canadian major junior. His skating and conditioning are reportedly a little behind, hence him lasting until the middle of the draft. However, his surly disposition on the ice and hockey smarts could make him a great value pick for Nashville. He played in the IIHF under-18 championship where Frontenacs coach Todd Gill was on Canada's staff. He could give the Frontenacs the bigger, older defenceman they lacked last season, plus shield OHL No. 2 overall pick Roland McKeown from being rushed into a big role at 16 years of age.
Between Erie and Kingston holding on to their picks (for now), the story of the day might be that the smaller-market teams decided to use their picks. That's a refreshing change from the usual stereotype.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.