In a sort of full circle, Czech international Robin Sapousek has gone from adversary to teammate with Brayden Schuurman and Kalem Parker of the Victoria Royals. Sapousek skated with the Czech Republic this spring when it beat Canada, with Schuurman and Parker, 6-5 in overtime in group play in the 2022 world U-18 championship tournament in Germany.
Sapousek, a six-foot centre from Karlovy Vary Jr. club, was taken seventh overall by the Royals in the Canadian Hockey League import draft held Friday. He played for the Czech Republic in both the 2022 world U-18 championship in Germany and the 2021 U-18 Hlinka-Gretzky Cup in Alberta.
“We are getting a player with international pedigree at the U-16, U-17 and U-18 levels who can step in and contribute right away,” said Royal head coach and GM Dan Price.
“He is very versatile and will be a great addition at either centre or wing and on the power play and penalty kill.”
Sapousek is ranked 125th among European skaters for the 2022 NHL draft.
The first 10 players selected overall were all either from the Czech Republic or Slovakia, including first overall Slovak centre Adam Sykora by the Medicine Tigers of the WHL, as many of the players from the European hockey powerhouses are choosing to stay on that continent for their development.
“The Swedes and Finns tend to stay because they can make money,” said Price.
European hockey is based on the soccer model where junior players come up in the academies of club systems and can turn pro with those clubs at any age. Also this year, Russians and Belarussians were not eligible due to the world situation although players from those nations already on CHL teams are grandfathered and can stay on rosters.
The import draft was conducted by the 60 CHL teams in the WHL, Ontario Hockey League and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. The leagues selected in rotation, in order from the lowest-placing teams from last season on up.
Each CHL team is allowed two import players. Royals forward and world junior championship tournament player Keanu Derungs has returned to Switzerland to play pro hockey. The Royals are now settled in the import slots with Sapousek and returning Danish forward Marcus Almquist.