Latvian Hockey News Report

By Didzis Rudmanis

Posts Tagged ‘NHL Entry Draft

Pelss talks about his own past

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Once Edmonton Oilers had picked Latvian forward Kristians Pelss in the seventh round of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, a lot of people wondered, who is this kid. As months passed and Pelss arrived to Edmonton, some of them were resolved, but not a lot about his earlier days was learned. We now offer not only some background info about the player, but also a small conversation with Pelss.

Kristians has began 2010-11 by posting a goal and adding a single assist in 10 games for the Edmonton Oil Kings of the WHL.

Pelss, who was born in Preili, for the first time stepped on ice in Daugavpils, where he began his junior career. At the age of 16 he managed to earn a spot on the DHK Latgale team, which played in the Belarusian league – a professional league, comparable to British Elite Ice Hockey League, French Ligue Magnus or even Austrian EBEL. In 2009-10, when DHK Latgale, due to financial problems, returned to playing in Latvian league, which currently is a half-professional league, Pelss joined Dinamo Juniors Riga, the farm club of KHL’s Dinamo Riga.

Pelss statistics:

GP G A P PIM
2008-2009 DHK Latgale Belarus 31 3 4 7 17
DHK Latgale-2 Latvia 22 9 11 20 24
Daugavpils U20 Latvia U20 8 3 9 12 16
Latvia U18 WJC-18 D1 4 0 1 1 6
2009-2010 Dinamo Juniors Riga Belarus 46 6 3 9 28
Latvia U18 WJC-18 6 2 1 3 0

Kristians also did not mind answering us a couple of questions about his earlier days of his hockey career.

Who encouraged you to start playing hockey?

– When I was eight years old, my father took me to Daugavpils, where at that time an arena had been recently opened, and already before my first practice he bought me a full equipment – by then I never once had skated, but I learned that fairly quick and I really enjoyed it. Before turning to ice hockey, for several years I attended Judo lessons.

Do you consider yourself an alumnus of Metalurgs Liepaja or Daugavpils hockey school? After all, you have spent reasonable time in both of the cities.

– Despite the fact that I gained a lot also during my time in Liepaja, I am without a doubt an alumnus of Daugavpils hockey school, because that is where I started to play and that is where I grew up as a hockey player.

When you returned to Daugavpils, you had just turned 16 years old – did you expect to make the roster of DHK Latgale, who played in the Belarusian league, straight away?

– No, but prior 2008-09 I was coached by Jurijs Agureikins, who let me practice and play together with one up to three years older players than myself, which I am truly thankful to him.

How did you feel, when, being 16 years old, you started playing among professionals?

– Straight away I felt the difference between junior and professional hockey. Still, at least in my opinion, I got used to the professional hockey pretty fast, as my teammates helped me a lot, often saying what I ought to do in different situations.

What relationship do you have with Vitalijs Hvorostinins? [Hvorostinins also comes from Preili and now plays for Val-d’Ior Foreurs in the QMJHL]

– Well, I could say that he is my best friend – we grew up together and for a longer time played together. Also now we regularly talk to each other on Skype, encouraging one another and that really helps, when you don’t see your friends too often.

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Three Latvians drafted in the CHL Import Draft (updated)

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Today Latvian forwards Kristians Pelss, who was drafted into the NHL by Edmonton Oilers three days ago, and Vitalijs Hvorostinins, as well as defender Ricards Berzins(Richards Berzins), were drafted during the CHL Import Draft. Pelss was picked by the Edmonton Oil Kings of WHL #19 overall, while Hvorostinins was selected by Val-d’Or Foreurs #30 overall, but Berzins was picked by Owen Sound Attack #58 overall.

Let me just remind you that last season Pelss played for the Dinamo-Juniors Riga in the Belarusian league. Pelss, who learned the game of hockey in Daugavpils, scored nine points in 48 games last season. He also played in the U18 IIHF World Championship in Minsk, where was one of the Latvian national team leaders, although managed to score only two goals.

Vitalijs Hvorostinins, just like Pelss, learned the game of hockey in Daugavpils and, instead of Pelss, Hvorostinins played in local DHK Latgale last season, scoring 23 (9+14) points in 30 games. He also played several games for the Daugavpils U18 team.

Ricards Berzins spent previous season with HS Prizma/Pardaugava 92 in the Latvian U18 league and did not make the Latvian U18 national team. In 2008-09 he also played 20 games for Latvian league club HS Prizma/Hanza Riga. Before this draft, his name was rather unfamiliar around the Latvian hockey community.

The highest-ever drafted Latvian player in the CHL Import Draft was Agris Saviels, who was the number one draft pick in 1999. He was picked by Owen Sound Attack. In a more recent history, Kaspars Daugavins was the third overall pick in 2006. He was chosen by Toronto St. Michael’s Majors of OHL. Last year Daugavins made his debut in the NHL, playing a single game for the Ottawa Senators.

Karlsson flying to Calgary, instead of Riga

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Although two weeks ago Dinamo Riga official homepage announced that there is a mutual agreement between the club and 1.98m tall Swedish goalie Henrik Karlsson, after his rights were traded to Calgary Flames during the draft yesterday, he has already announced that he will push himself to the limits, in order to make the team.

“I am really excited that I am going to be a Calgary Flame,” said Karlsson for Flames homepage. “I had heard some rumours about being traded a week ago but I didn’t think too much about it.”

Karlsson is expected to be the back-up goalie for the 33-year-old Miika Kiprusoff, as Vesa Toskala’s four million contract has come to an end. According to Flames homepage, Henrik didn’t seem too worried that Kiprusoff is able of playing 70 up to 75 games a season.

Chronology of Henrik Karlsson and his relation to Dinamo Riga:

  • June 14 – Dinamo Riga announces that there is a mutual agreement and Karlsson will play in Riga.
  • June 14 – The same day Karlsson’s agent Joakim Perssondenies the information released by Dinamo.
  • June 22 – There are reports that Persson is working his sleeves out, in order to negotiate with the Sharks.
  • June 26 – During the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, Karlsson’s rights are acquired by the Flames.
  • June 27 – Karlsson announces that he is going for his dream, the NHL.

Tomas Surovy joins Dinamo Riga

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It has been confirmed that the 28-year-old Slovakian forward Tomas Surovy has signed a one-year contract with Dinamo Riga of the Kontinental Hockey League.

The previous season Surovy began in his native Banska Bystrica club, but soon enough he moved to Sweden, where scores 23(10+13) points in 48 games for Skelleftea.

In 2001 Tomas was drafted in the NHL, when Pittsburg Penguins selected him #120 overall. Up to 2006 Tomas played for both Pittsburgh Penguins and their AHL affiliate – Scranton Penguins.

He then returned to Europe, playing 2006-07 in Lulea, while between 2007 and 2009 he also remained in Swedish Elitserien, playing for Linkopings HC.

Oilers pick Pelss

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After three “empty” draft years for the currently 12th highest ranked country in the IIHF rankings, 1992-born forward Kristians Pelss has been selected by Edmonton Oilers #181 overall. Last season Pelss played for the Dinamo-Juniors Riga.

Pelss, who learned the game of hockey in Daugavpils, scored nine points in 48 games last season. He also played in the U18 IIHF World Championship in Minsk, where was one of the Latvian national team leaders, although managed to score only two goals.

Pelss is not the first Latvian player drafted by Edmonton Oilers – in 1993 Oilers picked Aleksandrs Kercs, who then played five games for the club in 1993-94.

Latvian players had not been drafted in the National Hockey League since 2006, when Senators chose Kaspars Daugavins, but Thrashers picked Arturs Kulda. Both made their debuts in the league last season.

Latvian hockey community does not expect another three years to pass, until the next Latvian is selected during the NHL Entry Draft, because 1994-born center forward Zemgus Girgensons, according to some North American draft analysts, is believed to be picked during the first or second round of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. Being 16 years old, he also played at the U18 World Championship in Minsk.

Another perspective 1994-born player is defender Kristaps Bazevics, who will play for AIK J18 in the Swedish U18 Elite league next season. He will turn 16 only in August.