If you were following along with the 2019 CHL Import Draft in June, you may have noticed something extremely uncommon partway through the first round. With the 24th selection, the Quebec Remparts picked Yu Sato of Japan. While countries like Finland, Russia, Sweden and Switzerland are commonly represented in the draft, Japan is not. Six weeks later Sato has signed with the Remparts and will be suiting up for head coach Patrick Roy this season.
Sato, 17, is eligible for the 2020 NHL Entry Draft and if selected would become just the third Japanese-born player ever picked. Defenseman Hiroyuki Miura was selected by the Montreal Canadiens in 1992 but never appeared in an NHL game, while goaltender Yutaka Fukufuji was picked by the Los Angeles Kings in 2004 and played four games for them in 2007. There was also the infamous Taro Tsujimoto incident in 1974, when Buffalo Sabres GM Punch Imlach created a fictional Japanese player to select in the late rounds as a joke.
The young Remparts forward however is no joke. Sato played last season in Finland’s junior system and dominated, something he’d done in Russia’s junior league the year prior. If he can find some success in Quebec under Roy this season, perhaps there will be a new name added to the history books next June and potentially the first Japanese NHL skater a few years after that.