The CHL has suspended controversial owner Rolf Nilsen of the Flint Firebirds for five years.
The case of the Flint Firebirds just grew more precarious – and I doubt anyone is surprised.
After the utter storm of incompetence that was the club’s inaugural 2015/2016 season, which featured not one but two direct interventions by the Ontario Hockey League commissioner, things reached their climax this week.
In a move that shocked even those in the know, CHL commissioner David Branch swung a heavy hammer in dealing with team owner Rolf Nilsen. Long accused of purchasing the Firebirds so his son, Hakon, could play, Nilsen received an unmistakable message from Branch that the league comes first.
This took the form of a five-year suspension for the owner from working with the club, combined with a $250,000 fine. Perhaps most painful, though, was the forfeiture of the club’s third overall selection in today’s OHL priority selection draft.
This last move is somewhat dicey on Branch’s part. While a reasonable maneuver by the league, it also hurts the franchise if Nilsen is found to have breached the league constitution and be forced to sell the club. Would a club, operating in a dismal economic environment like Flint, truly be seen as an attractive commodity without its premier pick in the draft? Perhaps not.
However, it also highlights another emerging issue with junior hockey.
We have seen an increasing number of top-tier prospects refuse to go to smaller market teams. We saw it just a few years ago, when we saw the Kingston Frontenacs draft future Coyotes star Max Domi. A refusal to report saw a near immediate trade from Kingston to London, where Domi went on to become a star.
Unconfirmed reports have surfaced that a great number of prospects have advised Flint they refuse to report if selected. The league has attempted to combat this by assuring prospect families that the team is now under league control. However, whether this is enough or not remains to be seen.
While young prospects may want to be in an environment conducive to development, a name such as Bode Wilde (though currently committed to Harvard), Kirill Nizhnikov, or Tyler Weiss would sure make the club a lot more competitive in the near future.
Wonder about why Ryan Merkley was not mentioned?
The Guelph Storm has already announced him as the first overall selection – not surprising, as he may be the best talent in the entire draft.
A new discussion has emerged for the coming NHL entry draft – and it involves the blueline.
While Jakob Chychrun of the Sarnia Sting and Olli Juolevi of the London Knights have long been spoken of as the blue-chippers in this crop, the name of Mikhail Sergachev in Windsor has been making the rounds.
At least one scout thinks Mikhail Sergachev of the OHL's Windor Spitfires could be taken high in the first round of the 2016 NHL entry draft:
Speaking to one scout recently, he was highly impressed with Sergachev and his fluid skating.
“It’s absolutely effortless,” the scout told me as we discussed the merits of each defender. While citing the seamless mobility of the likes of Juolevi, the scout smiled knowingly.
“I know you like Juolevi,” he replied (true).
“But this kid is something else. I have him right there with Chychrun, and it wouldn’t shock me if a club had him as the first to go.”
Sudden changes and surprises involving blueliners are hardly unforeseen. Looking back to the 2012 in Pittsburgh, many eyebrows were raised when Anaheim decided to utilize its sixth overa