Nikita Li returned to Quebec Major Junior Hockey League action this past weekend, playing in two games with the Victoriaville Tigres.
Li, selected 65th overall by the Saint John Sea Dogs in this summer’s CHL Import Draft, was picked up off waivers by the Tigres last week. Saint John originally assigned him to the United States Hockey League’s Des Moines Buccaneers but it was later discovered that he had to pass through QMJHL waivers first, allowing Victoriaville to grab the Russian forward.
Bizarre situations happen all the time with import players (hi, Quebec!), but this was a new one. Sea Dogs general manager Darrell Young said in an interview last week a unique scenario and some protesting has Li back in the league.
“We were able to put Juraj Siska on a frozen list because he didn’t play a game for us last year. That allowed us to draft two Europeans,” said Young. “Once Nikita played a game in our league – we brought him in and signed him to a card – we had two weeks from that date to drop one of the two.
“The rule simply stated that we could not trade the player because he hadn’t played a year in our league and we could not put the player on waivers because he had not played a year in our league. That’s simply how we were informed by the league and according to CHL rules. We would drop the player from our list and he would become eligible for the 2015 CHL Import Draft.
“There was an article on the Quebec Journal last week crucifying the system and the general manager in question was questioning why he couldn’t pick up Nikita Li and why he wasn’t available. The CHL rules simply stated that he couldn’t.
“After some protests, [the general manager] contacted the league hierarchy and then they approached the other two leagues, saying ‘you played a game in our league so you should eligible.’ [The league] agreed and they asked us if we were comfortable with it. Of course we said yes just because we want to see players play in the league.”
Young had nothing but nice things to say about Li, adding that he has some offensive upside and is “a hard working kid.” The Tigres take on the Sea Dogs on Dec. 10 in Victoriaville and February 18 at Harbour Station.
“If you want to play in the Quebec league then we’re not going to block you from playing in our league. We want good players in our league and we want to give kids an opportunity.”
The Tigres were forced to trade import Jan Mandat after picking up Li. Siska and Jakub Zboril will be Saint John’s imports for the season.
Photo: Marc Henwood/Station Nation