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Vladimir Kuznetsov picked first in CHL Import Draft

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Russian forward Vladimir Kuznetsov, a prospect for the 2016 NHL Draft, was selected by the Acadie-Bathurst Titan of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with the first pick of the Canadian Hockey League Import Draft on Tuesday.

The 6-foot-2, 189-pound right wing had seven goals and five assists in 43 games with Yekaterinburg in Russia's Junior League this season. He also had one point in six games to help Russia win the gold medal at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.

"We are very excited to select a player like Vladimir," Titan general manager Sylvain Couturier said. "He is a big and strong winger with skill. Being 17 years old, it fits exactly with our age group. The future is continuing to look really good for our organization."

With the second pick, the Saskatoon Blades of the Western Hockey League selected Czech defenseman Libor Hajek, a prospect for the 2016 draft. The 6-foot-1, 196-pound left-shot defenseman spent the majority of last season with Brno's team in the Czech Under-20 League, and had one goal and 10 points in 44 games. At 17, he also had one point in 17 games with Brno in the top Czech Professional League.

"We're absolutely thrilled to be getting a defenseman of this caliber to come to Saskatoon," Blades coach and general manager Bob Woods said. "He is a big, hard-nosed shut-down [defenseman] that has a ton of international experience and we feel playing in Saskatoon will help us solidify our defense over the next years and help him achieve his goal of being a top NHL draft pick a year from now."

The Sudbury Wolves chose Russian right wing Dmitri Sokolov with the third pick. The 2016 draft prospect had 13 goals in 29 games with Omsk's team in Russia's Junior League. He also led Russia to a gold medal at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge with six goals and nine points in six games. And at the 2015 IIHF World Under-18 Championship he had five points in five games.

"Sokolov had an outstanding U17 World Challenge tournament in Sarnia last November and he instantly became a priority player for us," Sudbury GM Blaine Smith said.

Four players picked in the 2015 NHL Draft were picked in the top 15 of the import draft. With the eighth pick, the Vancouver Giants of the WHL selected right wing Radovan Bondra, a fifth-round pick (No. 151) of the Chicago Blackhawks. At No. 9 the Flint Firebirds of the OHL picked defenseman Vili Saarijarvi, a third-round pick (No. 73) of the Detroit Red Wings. At No. 10 the Chicoutimi Sagueneens of the QMJHL picked center Dmitry Zhukenov, a fourth-round selection (No. 114) of the Vancouver Canucks. At No. 15 the Peterborough Petes picked right wing Jonne Tammela, a fourth-round selection (No. 118) of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

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