On Friday morning, the Ottawa 67’s of the Ontario Hockey League made a splash in the CHL Import Draft, selecting Austrian centre, Marco Kasper of Rögle BK of the SHL in Sweden.
When the sun rose over the nation’s capital on Thursday morning, the 67’s had both of their import player spots filled by Vinzez Rohrer and Vsevolod Gaidamak, and they would have likely passed on making another pick. However, the Barber Poles made a pair of trades during the brief trade window on Thursday, one of which sent Gaidamak to the Niagara IceDogs in exchange for a fourth-round pick in 2023.
Read More on Those Trades: Making Sense of the 67’s Trading Cranley, Gaidamak
The trade opened up a selection for the 67’s, and they headed into Friday with the 20th overall selection. With the Victoriaville Tigres, Niagara IceDogs, and Rouyn-Noranda Huskies ahead of them passing, Ottawa moved up to the 17th overall pick in the draft comprised of all 60 teams across the Canadian Hockey League. That pick, of course, was used on Kasper, and proceeded Ottawa passing on their second-round pick.
Kasper is a consensus first-round pick in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft next week, and it’s really not hard to see why. Playing professional hockey in Sweden in 2021-22, Kasper suited up in 46 games, scoring seven goals and adding four more assists. The 18-year-old has quickly become one of Austria’s best junior talents, and has been one of the nation’s top players at the World Juniors despite his young age. In August, Kasper will again play a key role for the Austrians as they look to stave off relegation.
Standing at six-foot-two and 187 pounds, Kasper has the chance to add some much-needed size and skill to the 67’s forward group. Pairing Kasper with some of the talented options on the 67’s is incredibly tantalizing, and the team’s front office recognized that.
“We are very familiar with Marco, and feel that this projected first-round NHL Draft pick on July 7th would be a tremendous addition to the 67s lineup,” said general manager James Boyd.
For as great as it would be for Kasper to be in the Barber Pole next season, there’s no guarantee that he will report to the club as of right now. Leaving the SHL for the OHL is clearly a step down as one is a professional league and the other is junior, but that doesn’t mean the move is impossible. The context of the 67’s trading a productive import player to make this pick only to waste it on a player they don’t think would come is odd, so it’s likely they think there’s a good chance he reports.
It’s also important to note that since Boyd took over as the general manager, the 67’s have only had one player not report to them through the Import Draft. That came in 2020 when they selected Finnish forward Kasper Simontaival after both Nikita Okhotyuk and Marco Rossi left. That was their second pick in the draft, and was likely more of a shot in the dark. The club has made safe picks, looking for players they knew would come to Ottawa rather than always taking big swings.
While the assumption that Kasper wouldn’t want to join the 67’s isn’t unreasonable, there should be a consideration for the team’s Austrian pipeline. The 67’s have previously had Rohrer and Rossi come through, and could use those players to help sell Kasper on coming to Ottawa. Additionally, it’s worth noting that Ottawa didn’t make their second pick of the day, leaving them with no safety blanket.
The 67’s will start their season with or without Kasper on September 30th against the Oshawa Generals, before returning to the ice at the Arena at TD Place Sunday, October 2nd in their first matchup against the Erie Otters since January of 2020.
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