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What Could Have Been: The 2009 SICHL Entry Draft

by Matt MacInnis | May 28, 2017, 10:17 PM ET

Every year the SICHL Entry Draft shapes the fortunes of franchises for years to come.  But in 2009, a sequence of events took place that could have resulted in the two remaining teams of the 2017 season looking different.

Leading up to the draft, the Vancouver Island Norsemen were very keen on a Russian defenceman who had played the season with the Drummondville Voltigeurs, Dmitri Kulikov.  But with their highest pick sitting at 18, they knew they weren’t likely to be able to wait for him.

In the end, the Norsemen found a willing trade partner who held a pick that they were confident was high enough to land their guy.  The Norsemen went all-in, sending stellar defenceman Brooks Orpik, the 59th overall pick and a 2010 4th rounder to the Stockholm Cougars.  And then they waited.

It was all for naught.  In a surprising move, the Ants used the 10th overall pick on Kulikov, stunning the Norsemen.  Just a few moments later the team, scrambling, ended up calling out the name of Ryan Ellis, a diminutive from the Windsor Spitfires.

GM MacInnis was quoted in a news story at the time as saying:

“There was another guy on the board we were hoping to bring into our system, but that’s the way the draft works,” said MacInnis. “At the end of the day we’re very excited to bring such an exceptionally talented player into the Norsemen family. Ryan Ellis was one of the most skilled players available in the Draft and I think anytime you come away with an asset like that you have to be happy.”

Today, MacInnis still remembers Draft Day 2009:

“We really thought when we moved Orpik that we were virtually guaranteed to land Kulikov with that pick.  We were super high on him at the time. And then the Fire Ants took him. I recall shouting a bunch of bad words.  And then cursing Geoff King, the brains behind the Ants draft strategy.  And then yelling even more bad words. It wasn’t a great scene.”

 

8 Years Later…

So far in their young careers, there is ample evidence to suggest that the Fire Ants made the right pick, especially when you consider that #11 pick Scott Glennie (Kansas City Krunch) has been a bust.

Both players remain with the teams that drafted them, but Kulikov has had a significantly greater impact on the Fire Ants than Ellis has for the Norsemen.

Kulikov has played in 418 SICHL games compared to just 165 for Ellis, who just completed his second real season with the club. 

Kulikov is considered the better SICHLer this season, having tallied a stellar 45 points compared to just 18 for Ellis, who was a healthy scratch at times this season.

In the playoffs, Kulikov has 9 points in 17 games this season, along with a total career post-season points. Ellis’ playoff performance is outpacing his regular season play, with 7 points in 10 games and a plus-5 rating, despite missing 7 games with a knee injury.

 

The Future

Ryan Ellis is expected to take a huge step forward as he is showing signs of becoming the upper tier blueliner scouts that he would one day be.  Kulikov has begun to see his play taper off, and may need a change of scenery to recapture some of the promise he showed out of the gate of his SICHL tenure.  

Post Script

The trade that brought Ellis to Vancouver Island worked out OK for the Stockholm Cougars, and could have been even better had they not moved on from Orpik so quickly.

Brooks Oprik played two seasons with the Cougars before being dealt to the Acadia Golden Bears, where he just finished a contract. 

The team used the 59th pick in 2009 to draft Swedish netminder Anders Nilsson, who remains with the franchise today in a depth role and appears to be continuing a slow but steady development.

The 2010 4th round pick ended up being the 97th overall selection, which the Cougars used to select Taylor Aronson. He made his SICHL debut this season, but doesn’t look like he’ll stick in the big leagues.

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