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The Charlottetown Islanders’ brass believes they have landed a pair of young hockey players who can help boost their offensive production.
They selected Jakub Brabenec and Matous Mensik Tuesday at the Canadian Hockey League import draft. Both forwards played for the Czech Republic at the world under-17 hockey challenge in in Medicine Hat, Alta., and Swift Current, Sask., in 2019.
“Both kids have big, big upside,” Isles’ head coach and general manager Jim Hulton said. “Jakub is the skilled centreman everybody needs and Mensik is a big, strong powerful kid.”
The Isles scored the sixth-fewest goals (197) in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in 2019-20 and their top scorer, Nikita Alexandrov, will turn pro in 2020-21.
Brabenec, who turns 17 on Sept. 11, will be one of the youngest players eligible for the 2021 NHL draft as the deadline is Sept. 15.
“I am truly happy and thankful to be able to join Islanders’ family,” he said via text message. “I'll do everything … I can to be the best on and off the ice. I am so excited to start a new chapter of my life in Charlottetown.”
The six-foot, 154-pound centre needs to fill out but his skill level and speed are undeniable.
“He’s a playmaker and has very, very good skating,” said Hulton, suggesting his wheels would be four out of five. “That was one of the big things that jumped out when we watched the video on him. We think he is more of that skilled, playmaking centre we’re looking for in both the now and into the future.”
Brabenec played 65 games in 2019-20 for seven teams, including a pair of international assignments.
“I think I am very reliable, coachable, smart and really hard-working player,” he said. “I also think I am a good teammate and friend. I would do everything … in my power to help my teammates and coaches on and off the ice.”
The Brno native had 12 goals and 22 assists for 34 points in 15 games in the Czech under-16 league but also played in the under-20 league and in the men’s league with former NHLers Peter Mueller, Tomas Plekanec and Martin Erat.
“Some of our NHL sources have verified that they really like his upside,” Hulton said. “They think he’s got a high ceiling in terms of where he can get to, given his natural skill level.”
Mensik, who turns 17 on July 19, is a six-foot-two, 194-pound left-shot right-winger.
“He’s a big kid already,” Hulton said, referencing Justin Gill as a comparable due to his size and game. “He plays a North American style, up and down, direct to the net game.”
He had 11 points in 19 games for Karpat in Finland this season.
The import draft is always a bit of a crapshoot, but even more so this year with the coronavirus (COVID-19 strain) pandemic leaving some teenage players unwilling to come to North America.
“We've had confirmations from both guys that they will be here,” Hulton said.
Brabenec is represented by the same agent that Alexandrov and Filip Chlapik had. It provided the Islanders with a comfort level.