SAGINAW, Mich. – Prior to the 2017 CHL Import Draft on Wednesday, Saginaw Spirit General Manager Dave Drinkill announced that European players Markus Niemelainen and Filip Hronek will not return to the hockey club for the 2017-18 season.
“We would like to thank Markus and Filip for their contribution to the Saginaw Spirit organization,” said Drinkill. “Both players played an integral role as part of our team. We wish them the best of luck in their future endeavors.”
Niemelainen, 19, will return to his home country of Finland and play for HPK in Liiga (Finnish Elite League). Niemelainen was the Spirit’s first round pick, 18th overall in the 2015 CHL Import Draft. The Edmonton Oilers selected Niemelainen in the third round, 63rd overall in the 2016 NHL Draft. In two seasons with the Spirit, Niemelainen had four goals and 32 assists in 124 career OHL games. Internationally, Niemelainen was a Gold medal winner at the Under-18 Ivan Hlinka Tournament during the 2015-16 season.
Hronek, 19, will be graduating to play pro hockey either with the American Hockey League’s Grand Rapids Griffins or their parent club, the National Hockey League’s Detroit Red Wings. After a sensational 61-point season with the Saginaw Spirit, Hronek was called up to the Griffins immediately following the Spirit’s season ending. Hronek appeared in two playoff games and the Griffins went on to win the Calder Cup Championship. The 6’0, 170-pound Defenseman captained the Czech Republic’s Under-20 team at the 2017 World Junior Championship in Toronto and Montreal.
With both European roster spots open, the Saginaw Spirit will select 10th and 70th in the 2017 CHL Import Draft held on Wednesday, June 28 at 11:00 am (ET).
To follow along with the picks, visit www.chl.ca/importdraft.
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