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Wednesday, 27 February 2013 09:25

Nedomlel, Laurikainen paying off big for Broncos

Written by  Brad Brown
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Where the Swift Current Broncos would be this season without Richard Nedomlel and Eetu Laurikainen is anyone’s guess.


One thing’s for sure: Head coach and general manager Mark Lamb’s wouldn’t be the craziest among them.
“We’d be in big trouble without those two players,” he said Sunday, prior to the Broncos’ 6-1 win over the Brandon Wheat Kings at the Credit Union iplex.
The third-year Czech defenceman (Nedomlel) and the rookie Finnish goalie (Laurikainen) are products of the Canadian Hockey League Import Draft and have become cornerstones of the Broncos’ push toward their first playoff berth in three years.
So it’s no surprise to hear Lamb would — in theory — support systemic changes that would make it easier for the Broncos to continue acquiring players of that caliber.
Whether those changes come to pass at all, and what exactly they consist of, will not be known until sometime after next week’s GM meetings.
Lamb was tight-lipped about a Yahoo Sports report last month that the commissioners of the Western Hockey League, Ontario Hockey League and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League were considering changes to level the playing field when it comes to the import draft.
The initial discussions allegedly included proposals to ban trading of Import Draft picks prior to and for one year after a given draft.
Under the current system, if you believe what you hear at story time around the WHL, the Import Draft has become a cash grab for some agents and club teams of top European juniors who have worked out deals ahead of the draft with a select group of teams and/or refused to release a player to the CHL until their astronomical asking price has been met.
The rumoured changes would aim to kill off the bidding war among CHL teams for these prospects and thus give smaller markets a better shot at landing that coveted game-breaker.
“If there are changes to be made it would help us for sure if it’s a real level playing field,” said Lamb. “But you look at our import players and they’re pretty high-end players. We get the players that we want.”
True, things have actually turned out pretty well for some small markets.
Prince Albert nabbed 17-year-old sensation Leon Draisaitl second overall last year, instantly filling a spot on the Raiders’ top line.
In Swift Current, Laurikainen has been sensational more nights than not for the Broncos and has the fifth-best save percentage in the WHL.
And Nedomlel overcame a painful start — no goals and minus-11 in his first 43 games — to score five times in his last 20 and help stabilize a defence that has dressed three rookie defencemen on over a dozen occasions since Dec. 5.
Nedomlel has also spent most of the season on a pairing with top 16-year-old prospect Brycen Martin, playing a mentorship role just as Reece Scarlett has done for Dillon Heatherington.
“Is it working for us?” said Lamb. “Nedomlel’s an NHL draft pick … and Eetu, his play really speaks for itself. He’s one of the best goalies in the league.”
On the other hand, Kootenay — which skipped the draft entirely in 2010 and 2011 — has seen little benefit from its two picks in 2012. And Prince George struck out on Finnish goaltender Joonas Korpisalo with the fifth overall pick last summer.
Hence the apparent appetite for change — even in Swift Current, where the draft has gone unmistakeably well in recent years.
“It’s a bigger problem than just Swift Current’s, but if all the rules are the same I think it’ll really benefit us,” said Lamb.

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