The first player the Brandon Wheat Kings wanted to cross the pond and join the squad this fall should be in the Wheat City when the Western Hockey League team’s rookie camp opens Aug. 28.
Finnish forward Marcus Kallionkieli is expected to join the team this season after signing his transfer card. Brandon selected the six-foot-two, 195-pound Vegas Golden Knights prospect 22nd overall in the Canadian Hockey League’s import draft on June 27, but it’s rarely a sure thing the players sign.
"It’s a lot of talking and you got to make sure you’re doing the right things for him," Wheat Kings general manager Darren Ritchie said at the club’s press conference on Thursday.
"He’s going to be a good player for our team. He’s a big guy, right shot that we need and he’s a big body and has a really good shot. He’ll fit in really well with our top six."
Kallionkieli was one of two players Brandon selected in the import draft. The Wheat Kings followed up by selecting Russian forward Vladislav Firstov 82nd overall. Brandon was allowed two selections without having to give up import goalie Jiri Patera, who is returning for his overage season.
Kallionkieli played with the Sioux City Muskateers in the United States Hockey League last season, recording 29 goals and 54 assists in 58 games. He was named to the league’s all-rookie team.
While Ritchie hopes to see the 18-year-old become a force in the Western Hockey League, he’ll stay patient.
"It’s going to take some time. Any time a European player comes to Canada it takes time," he said. "We’re lucky enough with Marcus, he played last year in the USHL so he’s going to have a little bit of familiarity with North America, but our league’s different. It’s going to take some time and we’re going to help him along the way.
"There’s no pressure on this guy, we just want him to come in and be a player like the rest of our guys and our guys are going to help him become a Wheat King and we just want him to come here and enjoy the experience."
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