Sports

Langley-based Giants consider hunting players in Europe

Glen Hanlon is general manager of the Langley-based Vancouver Giants. - Postmedia/Special to the Langley Advance
Glen Hanlon is general manager of the Langley-based Vancouver Giants.
— image credit: Postmedia/Special to the Langley Advance

By Steve Ewen
Special to the Langley Advance

Hanlon, who is wrapping up his first season as general manager of the Langley-based WHL club, is contemplating a visit abroad this summer to look at players for the CHL import draft.

He says it all depends on whether he can fit in such a journey around the provincial bantam tournaments he wants to watch.

Vancouver is expected to have a top pick in the WHL bantam draft as well.

“I’m just trying to put the puzzle together,” said Hanlon, whose hockey resume includes stints coaching in Belarus, Slovakia, and Switzerland.

“I’m trying to juggle it all. If I go, I do have a couple of friends to travel with. I know how to get around over there. I know how to do everything over there.”

Under former GM Scott Bonner, the Giants were like most WHL clubs and didn’t travel to scout European players.

They, instead, relied heavily on relationships with agents to land players.

For instance, the majority of import players with the Giants during the past decade have been clients of Edmonton-based player representative Gerry Johannson.

That includes right-winger Michal Repik and centre Mario Bliznak, who were mainstays with Vancouver’s 2006 WHL championship side and their 2007 Memorial Cup title winners.

Right-winger Radovan Bondra and defenceman Dmitry Osipov, the Euros that Vancouver started the season with, are both part of Johannson’s stable now as well.

Bonner, oddly enough, now works for Johannson – after resigning from his post with the Giants after last season.

The Giants are assured of at least one pick in the import draft, which goes in late June.

They’re playing one Euro shy of the league maximum two down the stretch after trading Bondra (Prince George Cougars) and Osipov (Brandon Wheat Kings), and only bringing back winger Bartek Bison (Prince George) in return.

Bison, 18, is age eligible to play again for the Giants next season.

Going to Europe would give Hanlon extra insight into the import draft.

It may give him the chance to create a connection with a player.

He admits, though, that having a strong relationship with an agent or two is also paramount. It further adds to the chances that the player in fact arrives.

Because Osipov is a 20-year-old this season and could have played minor pro, Vancouver was permitted a pick in last summer’s import draft and allowed to carry three imports for a limited time.

They took winger Filip Zadina with the fourth-overall selection in the import draft. They didn’t have ties to his agent, and Zadina opted to play in the Czech men’s league this season.

“If you have somebody you trust, it makes a difference,” said Hanlon.

As for the bantam draft, Hanlon says that the Giants are looking to add to their skill level most of all.

Players from the upcoming bantam draft won’t be eligible for full-time duty until the 2018-19 season.

The Giants had two first-round picks in last May’s bantam draft and took a defenceman, Bowen Byram, at No. 3, and a goalie, Trent Miner, at No. 20.

Hanlon, who wasn’t with the Giants during last year’s draft, said the biggest difference between scouting for the NHL and the WHL is projecting size.

“That’s the higher risk,” said Hanlon, the former Vancouver Canucks goalie who went on to become an assistant coach with the Canucks and then a head coach with the Washington Capitals.

“If he’s a highly skilled player at 14, he’s not going to lose that. If he’s a great skater at 14, he’s not going to lose that. If he’s like a Brendan Gallagher, with that grit and work ethic at 14, he’s going to have it at 17.

“When you see somebody who’s had a lot of success and he’s been taken later in the WHL draft, it’s generally someone who has had a growth spurt.”

In the meantime, the G-Men are back on the ice tonight and tomorrow night. Friday at 7:30 they play the Kamloops Blazers on what they're dubbing "Bad Blazer Night." Then Saturday, they play the Red Deer Rebels, puck drops at 7 p.m.

- Steve Ewen writes for the Vancouver Sun
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