Spirit look to continue Import Draft success with second overall pick


By Joelle Wood/OHL

The Saginaw Spirit will select second overall in the 31st annual CHL Import Draft on Friday morning after completing the 2021-22 season with a record of 24-43-1-0.

After selecting defenceman Pavel Mintyukov in 2020 followed by forward Matyas Sapovaliv in 2021, the Spirit currently have two of the best import players in the Canadian Hockey League as they both rank among the top 2022 NHL Draft eligibles.

“Mintyukov and Sapovaliv have had huge roles on our team right from the start,” said Spirit general manager Dave Drinkill. “We knew what we were going to receive from both players and with the opportunity for them to play with us this year in a bit of a reload, we knew it would be a great chance for them to really take the bull by the horns.

“Mintyukov is one of the best, if not the best in the League,” added Drinkill. “He’s very offensive which fits well into our style of play. He’s a great kid on and off the ice and really sets the tone for the back end.”

Mintyukov became the first defenceman in franchise history to lead the Spirit in scoring this past season, recording 17 goals and 45 assists for a total of 67 points during his rookie campaign.

Sapovaliv wrapped up 2021-22 tied for third in team scoring with 52 points counting 18 goals and 34 assists coming in 68 games, production that placed him fourth-best among fellow rookies league-wide.

When discussing the success of Saginaw’s import players, Drinkill touched on the culture that the Spirit’s coaching staff has put in place in order to succeed.

“Our head coach Chris Lazary and the entire staff have put in place a development culture that really installs our resources into making players better individually and collectively, leading our team to getting better as a whole and getting wins. I think all of that ties together and makes our club a comfortable setting to grow as a player on and off the ice.

“I think moving forward, what we’ve done with this type of blueprint and what’s worked with these two guys will speak for itself when we bring in new import selections. Both Sapovaliv and Mintyukov are great kids that are eager to learn, and they fit in with their teammates which definitely makes it easier as well.”

Looking ahead to this year’s Draft set for Friday, July 1st, Drinkill touched on the type of player Saginaw is looking to select and the importance of picking a player that can come in and make an impact when needed.

“Having a high-pick, we’re looking for a highly skilled player that can come in and contribute whether it’s this year, next year or even further down the road. You need a player that can come in and make an impact on the team right away.

“Clearly there’s always an adjustment for these players coming in to a different size ice, as well as learning a new language and culture, but having someone that can step in and be a go-to-guy right from the start is what we look for. It’s a very exciting time for the club.”

The 2022 CHL Import Draft will be held online on Friday, July 1 at 11 a.m. ET.

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