First off, I hope you all had a terrific Fourth of July weekend – if it was half as good as mine was, then I’m sure that you did. Last week I left you off just after a minor letdown with the NHL Entry Draft, but with the CHL Import Draft following closely in its footsteps. As I mentioned, I had one Russian player who it seemed would be picked up by a WHL team with their Round 1 selection. Little did I know, by the conclusion of the First Round of the Draft Tuesday night, that player would not be taken…but Kuchin would.
The experience of going through an Import Draft is much, much different than that with the NHL Draft. With the former, you’re way more selective with which team your client ends up with, so instead of watching the draft board hoping to see your boy’s name called, you’re anxiously hoping his name doesn’t pop up until you want it to. When you have a client that isn’t expected to be a top-ten pick, and with ten minute gaps between each team’s selection, your day will stretch itself into a very long one. It seemed as though the club I had been speaking with over the previous two weeks would be a solid fit, but they weren’t slated to pick until late in the First Round. But things started to get interesting for me in a hurry when pick #47 rolled around and I noticed that the Sudbury Wolves (OHL) had taken Kuchin.
I should clarify that I wasn’t surprised that Kuchin was taken – it’s just how early he was selected that was the shocker. See, earlier in the season, I had been heavily marketing Kuch to the CHL teams, knowing that playing Major Juniors was the next logical step in the progression of his career. In the Spring, however, Kuchin and I made the decision that he should skate with the Chicago Steel for another year in 2010-11. Kuch hadn’t played for the same coach or team for two years in a row since he was a boy, and we felt that making a commitment to the Steel would help quiet any remaining rumors going into the NHL Draft about him having an attitude problem. At the same time, as you know last month Kuchin came back to Chicago to skate with the Steel during their Final Camp, and we were both impressed with the talent that the Steel had in place for the upcoming season. In conjunction with the verbal commitment we had given the guys at the Steel, after Final Camp, I sent out emails to all the CHL teams participating in the Import Draft letting them know that Kuchin was going to be playing in Chicago this Fall, and that drafting him would be a waste of a pick (and the $2,000 charge that each Import selection comes with). Regardless, I knew that three teams in particular were very interested in Kuchin, and would probably take a chance on him with the hopes that they could draw him away from Chicago. After Kuch was passed up in the NHL Entry Draft, I knew that the Canadian teams would feel as though the odds of them getting him up to Canada were even stronger. But still, in a situation like that, you’d figure a team would use their First Round pick on more of a sure thing and take a flier on Kuchin with their Second Round selection. To stay on theme with my work -usually the unexpected outcome is the one I get.
Not more than two minutes after the pick was made, I got a call from one of the Steel coaches. “Scott, we’re following the CHL Draft online and just saw Kuch got picked in the First Round…what’s the deal?” I was asked.
“I know, I know,” I responded. “Don’t worry about it – I told you before this week that I wouldn’t be surprised if a CHL team took a chance on [Kuchin] and [Sudbury] must really think they can get him after [the NHL Draft]. Sudbury hasn’t contacted me yet and there’s no way they have Kuchin’s cell number. I’ll get a hold of Kuch, and after I talk to him about all this I’ll get back to you guys.”
So back to the Draft – remember, I was still waiting to see if my other kid got picked up. About 30 minutes before the team I expected to take him was slated to pick, I gave their GM a call on his cell.
“Hey, just calling to check and make sure things are still running smooth and that you’re still planning on taking my boy.”
“Well Scott, we actually had two others players fall a little farther than we expected, so I think we’re going to have to take them and pass on your kid.”
Ugh. Alright well here we go – time to scramble and see if I can get somebody to pick him up in the Second Round. Unfortunately with the CHL, those players considered “Imports” can only sign with a team if they are selected by a team in the Import Draft, so if he doesn’t get picked up, he can kiss his chances of playing Major Juniors this season goodbye. I sentdout emails to about 15 teams that I think could use a defenseman like him and immediately follow them up with phone calls to the guys whose cell numbers I have. Round Two is already underway and most teams merely pass on their picks by now, leaving barely any time at all to work with. In the end, I’m able to get a handful of guys on the phone, but none of them seem ready to take a chance on a player who, to be honest, doesn’t have many scouting reports out on him. In the end, my kid goes undrafted, so that leaves me with only more work trying to find him another spot in a different Canadian or American Junior league. Oh well – it’s part of the job.
So back to the Kuchin situation. After the Draft concluded, I got a call from the guys at Sudbury. I had spoken with them a few times throughout the past Winter and knew they had come down to see Kuch play last season. They basically confirmed what I had thought – after the NHL Draft, they felt as though they’d be able to convince Kuchin that the CHL was the way to go. They had pitched me their idea of where they saw Kuchin fitting on their depth chart a few months ago and it seems as though they hadn’t waivered on their ideal plan for Kuchin. It sounded like it’d a great fit for Kuchin this season, but I needed to get a hold of him before I could give Sudbury any kind of indication of his interest.
I was able to get a hold of Kuch late Wednesday morning. As expected, I was getting a lot of questions from him and his family. We spoke for about 30 minutes and came to the consensus that the tough decision had to be made – Kuch would be heading to Sudbury for the 2010-11 season. After not getting selected in the 2010 NHL Draft, he just didn’t want to end up in this same position this time next year. While a large part of him wanted to stay in Chicago for another season, he knows he needs to take his game to the next level, and feels as though Canada’s the best way to do that. And how can I disagree?
I called the coaches at the Steel immediately after Kuch and I got off the phone, and while the news I delivered wasn’t what they wanted to hear, the guys definitely showed a lot of class and told me that they only wish the best for Kuchin.
Next order of business – get a hold of Zhamnov to let him know about the Draft and see what we needed to do in order to get a transfer card from Vityaz. I would have liked to have had this all sorted out before I told the Steel he wasn’t’ coming back, but at the same time, I have a lot of respect for those guys and didn’t want to lead them on when we’d already made up our mind. I got Zhamnov on the phone right away, and fortunately he let me know that getting the transfer card for Sudbury shouldn’t be a problem. Another good sign – it sounds as though Vityaz will be willing to sponsor my Business Visa for my trip. Alex wanted to confirm everything with the owner later today, and we have a conference call scheduled for tomorrow morning to get all this sorted out.
With everything settled with Kuchin’s situation for the moment, it was back to the two other Russians I began working for after the Chicago Steel camp. Both were now looking for spots on Junior teams in North America, although the younger of the two could also possibly fit in nicely with a U18 AAA team. As usual, it was back to my phone, making calls to just about every Junior contact I had, and a handful of AAA programs as well.
By Friday afternoon, I had a couple solid leads, but most of the teams wanted to see the kids on the ice this coming weekend – needless to say, a minor problem seeing as both boys are in Moscow and one was already away at training camp with his Russian Junior team. I sent both boys’ mothers messages on Skype and hoped that I’d hear something back soon. If we were going to act on this, it had to be now.
As I mentioned last week, Saturday was Lindsey’s birthday, so during the day we decided to head up to the Illinois State Beach with her sisters, little brother, and best friend for a nice day of relaxing by the lake. Of course, while soaking up the sun, I received a message from one of the boys’ mothers through the Skype application on my iPhone. It’s amazing how convenient technology can make things at times (although I’m sure many people don’t find working on a day off convenient, but us agents don’t really have days off). I was able to chat with her for a bit and let her know what was going on. She let me know that she was going to look into flights and that I should get a hold of her at some point later today. Unfortunately, I forgot to ask whether her son had a single- or multiple-entry Visa when he came to Chicago last month. If it was only a single-entry one, we can forget about booking a ticket for later this week.
With most guys in the industry taking the Fourth of July off, after my brief Skype chat on the beach, I was able to relax and enjoy the remainder of an absolutely perfect weekend with Lindsey and our friends. Overall, I couldn’t have asked for a better couple of days. It sure is nice to feel as though things are clicking in every facet of my life right now. Sure, I know there will be more speed bumps along the way, but for now I’m just going to continue to work hard and enjoy all that God’s been throwing my way lately.
On my plate for this week, in no particular order, is getting a transfer card for Kuchin, finalizing his deal with Sudbury, finding these Russian boys a team for 2010-11, trying to get an AHL PTO (tryout contract) offer for a former KHL player, and getting to work with some of my minor pro clients. Speaking of whom, we just got Matt’s contract offer in from Dayton, so I’m going to have to get in touch with the coaches there as well.
As you can tell, I have another busy week ahead of me. But as I know I’ve said before – busy is good. For any of you currently studying for the Bar Exam, I know that this is the point where most applicants start to freak out about sitting for it. Let me tell you from experience, though, that there’s really no need to jump off a bridge – as long as you continue to study diligently you’ll be fine…and at least now, the finish line is in sight. And as for the rest of you, I hope you enjoy another great week ahead. Keep the comments and questions coming on the Facebook Fan Page – you guys have really been on a roll lately and the level of interaction is exactly what I was hoping for when I launched it. Take care and until next week…it’s time to hit the showers.