Victoria Royals GM Cam Hope quipped about the possibility of a Crunk-Fronk combination next year on a line.
Whether newcomer Jiri Fronk will join returning forward Taylor Crunk to form part of a colourfully expressive name line remains to be seen. What is for sure is that the Royals went for immediate impact in the 2013 Canadian Hockey League European import draft Wednesday by taking the 1994-born Fronk from the Czech Republic with the 31st overall pick.
Selecting a 1994- or 1995-born performer would have allowed a player to stay longer with the Royals before aging-out, but it would have also meant a longer development curve.
Hope said the Royals considered a younger player who could “grow together with our 1995 and 1996 group.”
But there was a gaping hole in the roster with productive 20-year-old forwards Alex Gogolev and Jamie Crooks aging-out at the end of the Western Hockey League season.
“We had an immediate need [for an older forward who can produce right away] with Gogolev and Crooks departing,” said Hope.
“Although we may have to say good-bye to him in one year or maybe two, Fronk is a good skater and smart player. That’s the kind of player who is successful in the WHL. He was on our radar the whole time.”
He fell to the Royals largely because, that of the 78 players selected, only seven were 1994-born like Fronk as most teams went for longer-term prospects born in 1995 (37 drafted) or 1996 (34 drafted).
The six-foot-four, 200-pound Fronk — who had 10 goals, 24 points and 18 penalty minutes in 40 games last season for the KLH Chomutov U-20s — certainly won’t go unnoticed on the ice.
“Jiri is a big body and highly skilled,” noted Hope.
And he’s already had pro experience with a one-game call-up last season to Chomutov Piratiof of the top-level Czech Extraliga.
The 60 CHL major-junior teams in the WHL, OHL and QMJHL drafted based on inverse order of won-lost records within each league during the 2012-13 season. The rotation went WHL, followed by OHL and QMJHL.
The WHL’s Vancouver Giants had the first overall pick and opted for blueliner Dmitri Osipov from Russia, who was also the first overall pick in the Kontinental Hockey League junior draft.
Each CHL team is allowed to carry two European imports on the roster. With the Russian Gogolev graduating, the Royals had an import slot open for Fronk to occupy. The other is taken by starting Victoria goaltender Patrik Polivka, also from the Czech Republic.
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