With the 130th pick of the NHL Draft, the Sharks selected defenseman Karlis Cukste.
Cukste is a very solid player, standing at 6’2” and already 203lbs. The large defenseman also has a bit of a scoring touch, often scoring at a point-per-game rate while playing internationally for Latvia.1.
Cukste is only the third Latvian player the Sharks have drafted in their history. The first was Sandis Ozolinsh, drafted in the franchise’s inaugural draft in 1991 at 30th overall. The other drafted Latvian was Victor Ignatjev, in the 11th round of 1992.2.
He plays for HK Riga, the Russian Junior Hockey League affiliate of the KHL’s Dinamo Riga. Former Shark Sandis Ozolinsh served two separate stints as captain of Dinamo Riga, and is among the franchise’s scoring leaders.3.
Cukste scored seven goals and eight assists for 15 points in 56 games for HK Riga this past season, which is very good for a 17 year old defenseman.4.
Not only does Cukste play for HK Riga, it’s his hometown as well. He shares his birthplace with Sharks fan favorite goalie Artus Irbe. Riga is the capital city of Latvia, and home to more than one third of the country’s population.5.
One of the top young players for Latvia, Cukste represented his country in multiple international tournaments during the 2014-15 season. As part of Latvia’s U18 team, he scored four goals and five assists in just seven games. As part of the U20 team, he scored one goal and four assists in 10 games.
Follow him on Twitter at @Karlislabs