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Claimed:Russian Support Arrives in Ottawa [Reviewed]


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Grigory Kopralkov handles the puck in his Ottawa Lynx debut.


OTTAWA, ON — The 12-hour required wait had just finished, but Steve Smeall called a press conference to announce where his newest client would be playing.

The busy general manager of the Riga Reign was one of the few executives allowed by the VHL to have another player join the league, and it didn’t take long for Smeall to find his second client.

Ilya Kopralkov, Riga’s starting goaltender, is Smeall’s current VHL client and the older brother of the newest client for the Toast Player Agency, defender Grigory Kopralkov.

“Grigory has immense potential,” said Smeall. “I’m really excited to be given the opportunity to help guide his career and I’m excited to see what can come from this opportunity.”

As one of the second player newcomers to the VHLM, Grigory and Smeall have a lot of pressure on their shoulders to succeed, but the goal to be a top S52 draft pick is already there. Through the many players to come from the Toast Player Agency, no skaters have been part of any VHL Entry Draft first round.

“Steven Smyl was a top pick,” said Smeall. “Wolfe and Hunter both fell to the second round. Kopralkov has the makings of a great defensive defenseman and it’d be a mistake for teams to let him fall that far in the draft.”

One VHLM general manager understood what Kopralkov and Smeall had set as a goal and immediately reached out to the pair the moment Kopralkov declared himself eligible for the draft. That general manager was Ottawa’s Sandor Clegane.

With lots of roster spots open to be filled, Ottawa was ready to make a push for several of the second players, and they had the money ready to be handed out. Kopralkov would end up agreeing to a contract for $500,000.

“Clegane handled everything with professionalism,” said Smeall. “I know that Grigory will be in good hands in Ottawa where he can start learning the game and hopefully develop into one of the greats of the VHL.”

Kopralkov immediately flew out to Ottawa to join the team and started playing right away on the team’s second pairing. With work, it’s expected that Kopralkov could quickly work his way up to one of the team’s top defenders when they do move on to the playoff round of the season.

While Grigory says that his game has a focus on the defensive side of the game, he’ll be required to start producing some offense at this level if Ottawa is to have a shot against Yukon or Brampton, whoever they end up facing. This could lead to Kopralkov becoming more of a two-way defender in the future.

Due to his brother, Ilya, being added to the Riga Reign via the GM rule, there is no chance that Grigory will end up in Riga after the Reign moved their first round pick earlier this season. Where Grigory ends up now is up in the air, but Smeall and Kopralkov know they’re ready to put in the work.

“We’re here to show Ottawa made a great choice,” said Smeall. “Grigory is part of something incredible for the VHLM and VHL, and it’s up to him to use the opportunity. He’s ready for this.”

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