This is the year of the defenceman as far NHL draft prospects from Western Canada go and it will be a banner draft for the Moose Jaw AAA Generals.
Ryan Murray and Derrick Pouliot are both local midget AAA graduates and both are expected to be first round picks. A third former General, Ashton Sautner from the Edmonton Oil Kings, is also likely to be drafted.
“To have two guys projected in the first round is pretty exciting,” said Ray Wareham, the Generals head coach.
“People walk in your dressing room and see those names up there and I think it speaks volumes about the program,” added Wareham referring to the team’s wall of fame. “A lot of people have put in a lot of time and effort into turning it into what we have now. There will be a lot of happy staff (Friday) night. I think it’s a feather in everybody’s cap.”
Murray, a six-one, 195-pound White City product, is one of the most NHL-ready players in the draft. The Everett Silvertips captain, stepped into their lineup during the playoffs as a 15-year-old affiliate and began playing top-four minutes and earning power play time.
Murray has had a similar learning curve throughout his career. He has played for the under-18 national team — including being their captain — on three occasions, has played at the world juniors and the most recent IIHF world championships.
Murray and Pouliot both only spent one season in Moose Jaw — which was still known as the AAA Warriors — but each player attended their spring camp as 14 year olds and immediately turned heads.
“We’ve had some pretty good players come through our system. And some of them have gone on to do some pretty good things, but it’s hard (to make it),” said Wareham. “When I saw these two I just knew that there was a chance for them — if they stayed injury-free and on the right track — to make it. They were that good.”
That being said Wareham didn’t necessarily see Murray being in the mix to go first overall. But once he got to know Murray and Pouliot better he knew their mentality and attitude would help them make the most of their obvious athletic gifts.
“They both knew what they wanted and they weren’t going to be held back. You can’t teach that stuff,” said Wareham. “Both of them are great kids and they both have great families.”
Pouliot was ranked 12th amongst North American skaters in Central Scouting’s final rankings. The 5-11, 191-pound Portland Winterhawks defenceman had 59 points in 72 regular season games and helped his stock even further with a strong post-season that saw him tally 17 points in 22 games on the Hawks’ run to the WHL final.
autner was a Bantam teammate of Pouliot’s in Weyburn. While Pouliot went first overall in the WHL’s Bantam draft, Sautner had to wait another 161 picks before Edmonton took him in the eighth round.
Sautner spent two years playing under Wareham and is ranked 92nd amongst North American skaters by Central Scouting.