Erik Brannstrom was selected by the Vegas Golden Knights with the 15th overall pick in the 2017 NHL Draft. Unlike many of the other top picks, Brannstrom has been playing in the Swedish Hockey League, a professional hockey league without any age requirements. In other words, he’s been playing against grown men while Cody Glass, Nick Suzuki, Nic Hague, and most of the other picks have been playing against kids.
The expectation for Brannstrom, if he doesn’t make the NHL team, was for him to play this season in North America, likely in the AHL. That may have changed early this morning morning when a new option opened up.
Interesting: The Brandon Wheat Kings just drafted 2017 15th overall pick Erik Brannstrom (VGK) in the CHL import draft. Not sure if that's the first option for him next season or if they'd prefer him in the AHL, but safety net there to ease him into North America if needed.
— Chris Peters (@chrismpeters) June 28, 2018
The CHL Import Draft is a yearly draft in which Canadian junior teams can select eligible non-North American born players to potentially add to their rosters for the upcoming season. Brannstrom was the 44th pick to the Wheat Kings.
His mind is not on the CHL though.
No, I wouldn’t say that (it was on my mind). Obviously, my goal is to play for the Vegas Golden Knights next season so we’ll see after that what happens. -Erik Brannstrom
He seemed a bit surprised he had even been selected.
The likelihood of Brannstrom making the NHL roster out of camp still remains fairly low. With the selection of Brannstrom in the CHL, there are now three options of where he could play in the likely event he’s not on the 23-man Golden Knights roster.
Option A: Return to Sweden and play with HV71
- Pros: Continue to play in a professional league against men
- Cons: Continue to play on a larger sheet of ice than NHL regulation size, unavailable to Golden Knights until season is completed
Option B: Go to the AHL and play for the Chicago Wolves
- Pros: Play professionally against men, be available (waiver exempt) to the Golden Knights all season long
- Cons: Playing time may be limited, paid for by VGK
Option C: Go to the CHL and play for the Brandon Wheat Kings
- Pros: Play on NHL regulation-size rink, play against many top NHL draft picks
- Cons: Playing against all players under the age of 22, possibly too talented to continue developing as a defenseman, unavailable to Golden Knights until season is completed
Option C doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense, and if it were any team other than the Wheat Kings it would (and probably should) be laughed off as the CHL team taking a shot in the dark hoping he’d have a change of heart. However, because it’s Brandon, which is owned by Golden Knights assistant general manager Kelly McCrimmon, the option has to be taken seriously. Clearly, the Wheat Kings took Brannstrom for a reason and odds are a conversation with McCrimmon occurred before the selection.