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Brampton - The Brampton Battalion of the Ontario Hockey League selected a centre and a goaltender with its two picks Tuesday in the Canadian Hockey League’s Import Draft.
The Battalion used a first-round pick, 26th overall, to take centre Jonathan Johansson of Sweden. With their second-round pick, the Troops tabbed goaltender Dennis Saikkonen of Switzerland.
“Going into this draft, we had three needs,” said Stan Butler, Battalion director of hockey operations and head coach. “We needed an experienced defenceman, we needed a top-two-line centre and we needed a goalie. We achieved two of those three goals, and we had only two picks. There weren’t a lot of high-end defencemen available who would come over. I was happy with what we got.”
Johansson, a left shot who measures six-foot-three and 188 pounds, played last season with the Frolunda Indians junior team in his native Gothenburg, scoring 18 goals and earning 12 assists for 30 points in 31 games while accumulating 14 penalty minutes. He turns 19 on Wednesday.
“It’s going to be a great experience,” Johansson said via telephone. “I think it will really help me develop. The smaller ice means the game is a lot tougher. I hope to be a goal scorer, and I think I can be a defensive centre too. I like to play a physical game too.”
Johansson was ranked 15th among European-based skaters by the National Hockey League’s central scouting department for the NHL Entry Draft held last Friday and Saturday at Los Angeles. He said he was disappointed not to be chosen.
“I thought I would go in the fourth or fifth round. I hope some NHL scouts see more playing over there. I will be working on my speed over the summer. I need to get quicker feet.”
Butler consulted three NHL head scouts before making the pick.
“Two of them really liked him, and one was indifferent. But I thought we could use a top-two-line centre. We have Sam Carrick back, and we need another guy among our top six forwards. Bringing in a guy his age is a good fit. He’s a big guy.”
Johansson boasts international experience. He failed to earn a point in six games at the 2009 World Under-18 Championship in North Dakota but led his team with three goals in four games at the World Junior A Challenge last November at Charlottetown.
“Reports about his play in the World Junior A Challenge were pretty good. He has some good international experience and he comes out of Frolunda, which is one of the top junior programs in Sweden. It’ll be a different game over here for him on the smaller ice. It was tough for him not to get drafted, and I think he wants to come over and show the NHL guys what he can do.”
Johansson is the second Swede taken by the Troops in the CHL Import Draft. Defenceman Alexander Eriksson, a first-round pick in 2007, played 66 games over two OHL seasons, recording one goal and 14 assists for 15 points before graduating after the 2008-09 campaign.
Saikkonen, who turns 18 on Nov. 27, is a native of Bern who played 29 games last season for his hometown team in the Swiss Junior League. The six-foot, 148-pounder also competed for Switzerland at the 2009 Ivan Hlinka memorial tournament in the Czech Republic and Slovakia and at the 2010 World Under-18 Championship in Belarus.
He is the first Swiss native and first goaltender selected by the Battalion in the CHL Import Draft. While the Troops’ second choice nominally was No. 83, the number of teams passing before a second selection made Saikkonen, who holds Swiss, Swedish and Finnish citizenship, the 67th player taken.
“Where we were picking in the draft allowed us to look for some depth in goal,” noted Butler. “We thought about taking a forward, but I feel we have some good young forwards whom we want to give a chance to make our team. To get a goalie who has international experience at the under-16, under-17 and under-18 levels is good too.”
The Battalion moved down three spots in the draft before taking Johansson. The Troops swapped their first pick, 23rd overall, to the Windsor Spitfires in exchange for the 26th selection, which Windsor had acquired Monday from the Kingston Frontenacs.
The Battalion and Spitfires also traded picks in the 2011 OHL Priority Selection, with the Troops getting a ninth-rounder and Windsor a 15th-round selection.
“We’re still trying to get some picks back from the trades we’ve made over the last few seasons,” said Butler. “We took the same guy at 26 that we would have taken at 23. I was confident Jonathan would be there, since I don’t think a lot of people thought it was 100 percent certain he’d be coming over.”
The CHL Import Draft sees the order of selection rotate among OHL, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and Western Hockey League clubs, using the inverse order of standings from the regular season. Teams may trade picks only within their own league.
The Prince George Cougars of the WHL selected Slovakian defenceman Martin Marincin first overall.