Kelowna Rockets shore up defence in CHL import draft

Rockets nab Czech d-man

The Kelowna Rockets have dipped into the Czech Republic for a defenceman in Tuesday's CHL import draft.

The Rockets, selecting 24th among the teams spanning the three major junior leagues in the country, took a flier on a big defenceman who has missed time the past two seasons due to injury.

Kelowna selected 6'3", 203 pound rearguard Michael Krutil.

Injuries limited the 18-year-old to just 70 games over the past two seasons.

This past season, he appeared in eight games with HC Stadion Litomerice (Czech2), recording an assist and two penalty minutes. He also played one game for HC Sparta Praha (Czech).

Despite limited action, Krutil is ranked 27th among European skaters per NHL Central Scouting for the upcoming 2020 NHL draft.

Krutil will join countryman Pavel Novak on the Kelowna roster.

Each team in the CHL is limited to just two European imports at any time.

The Rockets were able to make a selection during Tuesday's draft after releasing 19-year-old forward Jonas Peterek last week.

Kris Mallette named assistant for Under-17 Challenge

New gig for Rocket coach

Kelowna Rockets head coach Kris Mallette may be doing a bit of moonlighting later in the fall.

Mallette, who replaced Adam Foote behind the Kelowna bench near the end of last season, has been named an assistant coach for one of Canada's entries at the World Under-17 Challenge.

He was one of eight WHL personnel named to positions for the annual tournament.

Mallette will serve as assistant coach for Team Red. Chris Lazary, head coach of Saginaw in the OHL will serve as head coach of Team Red.

Kelowna native Jason Smart was named to the scouting staff.

The annual under-17 tournament is scheduled to be played in November in Summerside, PEI.

That could change depending on where the sport stands in the fall due to COVID-19.

Meantime, 113 players, including 35 drafted by WHL clubs, were invited to a virtual summer camp ahead of the event.

The players will be split into six teams for the week-long virtual camp, participating in a variety of sessions with a focus on player development through online education.

No members of the Kelowna Rockets were selected to the camp.

WHL concludes AGM with hopes of playing full 68-game schedule

WHL eyes Oct. 2 return

The Western Hockey League is hoping to be able to play a full, 68-game schedule whenever it is allowed to safely return to the ice.

The league joined others around the world by suspending operations in early March due the COVID-19 pandemic. A week later it cancelled the balance of the regular season and, eventually the playoffs and Memorial Cup, scheduled for Kelowna.

The league unveiled its return-to-play protocol Wednesday, following conclusion of the league's annual general meeting.

While the league has set a target of opening a 2020-2021 season Oct. 2, it also suggested that date is contingent on receiving the necessary approvals from government and health authorities in each of the four provinces and two U.S. states which host WHL clubs.

The league says it has established return-to-play task forces within each of the six jurisdictions to work with local governments and health authorities to ensure the health and safety of all players, officials, staff and fans.

The league is also working with local governments to determine how many fans will be allowed to attend league games.

"The WHL is a spectator-driven league and the welcoming back of WHL fans is vital to a successful return to hockey for all 22 WHL member clubs," the league stated in a news release.

Kelowna Rockets president Bruce Hamilton previously told Castanet it would be foolish to start playing if teams were guaranteed to lose money the minute they opened the doors.

In other news out of the AGM, Hamilton was re-elected as chairman of the board for another two-year term. Hamilton is the longest service chairman in league history, serving in the role from 1998 to 2004, and from 2008 to the present.

The league also announced member clubs have contributed more than $28 million for players education since establishment of the league's scholarship program 26 years ago.

Under the program, for every season a player plays in the WHL, they receive a guaranteed, full-year WHL scholarship including tuition, textbooks and compulsory fees to a post-secondary institution of their choice.

Over 26 years, more than 6,400 former players have taken advantage of the scholarship program.

Kelowna Rocket defenceman on radar for 2021 world juniors

Korczak off to virtual camp

Kelowna Rocket Kaeden Korczak will take the first step toward a possible spot on Canada's entry at the 2021 World Junior Hockey Championship.

The Kelowna defenceman was one of 41 players invited to take part in a virtual summer development camp at the end of July.

Korczak established career highs with 11 goals and 38 assists in 60 games this past season.

He was one of 10 defencemen invited to attend the camp, including five from the Western Hockey League.

“We are excited to begin preparations for the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship with this group of 41 players and our full staff at our online camp, as we believe we have a good mix of veteran leadership and young talent that are eager to represent Canada during the holiday season,” said Scott Salmond, senior vice-president of national teams for Hockey Canada in Hockey Canada's release.

The camp will focus on player development through online education.

The 2021 world juniors will run Dec. 26 through Jan. 5 in Edmonton and Red Deer.

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