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Spokane Chiefs

Spokane Chiefs defenseman Filip Kral selected in fifth round of NHL draft

Spokane Chiefs defenseman Filip Kral was selected in the fifth round of the NHL draft Saturday by the Toronto Maple Leafs, No. 149 overall. (Larry Brunt / Courtesy photo)
By Kevin Dudley For The Spokesman-Review

The second and final day of the NHL draft saw another Spokane Chiefs player drafted as the Toronto Maple Leafs drafted defenseman Filip Kral 149th overall in the fifth round Saturday.

Kral, from the Czech Republic, was the Chiefs’ Rookie of the Year this past season. Spokane’s other drafted player, defenseman Ty Smith, was taken in the first round, 17th overall, by the New Jersey Devils on Friday.

Puck-moving defenseman Kral isn’t afraid to join the rush in the offensive zone and can be depended on to create offense from the point.

Those traits clearly pleased the Toronto scouts. Tim Speltz, the former general manager of the Chiefs, is now a scout for the Maple Leafs and still makes Spokane his home. Speltz was at plenty of Chiefs games throughout the season, and the team clearly saw something in Kral.

Former Chiefs head coach Mike Babcock is also Toronto’s head coach.

Kral was one of two import players for the Chiefs this past season. He played in 54 games for Spokane, totaling nine goals and 26 assists. He represented the Czech Republic at the World Junior Hockey Championships.

Kral joins a Maple Leafs team that is trending up. The Leafs made the playoffs the past two seasons but could not get past the first round in either year. They boast Auston Matthews, the top draft pick in 2016, as well as a bevy of young players such as Mitch Marner and William Nylander.

No other Chiefs were drafted. Forwards Eli Zummack and Hudson Elynuik were possibilities but did not hear their names called. Zummack was seen as a possible late-round pick, while Elynuik’s potential draft position was a little harder to pinpoint.

Elynuik re-entered the draft after failing to sign a contract with the Carolina Hurricanes, who drafted him in the third round in 2016. Players that re-enter the draft are typically drafted all over the board.

The last Chief to be re-enter the draft was defenseman Brenden Kichton, who went in the seventh round to Winnipeg in 2013 after not signing with the New York Islanders, who originally drafted him in the fifth round in 2011.

Elynuik completed his 20-year-old season this spring, meaning his junior career is over. He is a free agent and has options, whether it’s with an NHL team’s training camp roster, a minor league team or a Canadian college, should he choose to continue his hockey career.

Zummack is entering his 18-year-old season this fall and can still be drafted in next summer’s draft.

Looking way ahead, forward Luke Toporowski has been listed as a possible early-round draft pick next summer. Toporowski completed his 16-year-old season for the Chiefs last year.