The Moose Jaw Warriors didn’t the lottery Wednesday, but they’re still confident they can hit the jackpot when the Western Hockey League holds its annual bantam draft.
The Regina Pats won the WHL’s draft lottery and moved up to the second overall pick in the bantam draft which will be held on May 2. That meant that the Warriors retained their fifth overall pick in the first round. They will have the seventh pick in each subsequent rounds — excluding those picks they have already traded — based on the regular season standings.
“We went in at five and fully expected that in all likelihood we would end up at five. We’re quite comfortable with that,” said Warriors general manager Alan Millar.
Now Millar, along with assistant GM hockey operations Rob MacLachlan and his scouts, will begin to finalize their draft lists.
“As we prepare for the final crunch here with the provincial camps, I think Robert and our staff think that the top end of the draft is really strong. I think they’re very comfortable at five players deep,” said Millar. “It’s just a matter of how the five play out for us and then what happens ahead of us.
“I think everybody is confident that we’re going to add a very good prospect to our organization.”
The WHL also announced a number of Eastern Conference award finalists and it was a good day for Warriors defenceman Morgan Rielly. He was named the Eastern Conference finalist for the Bill Hunter Memorial Trophy as the WHL Defenceman of the Year. Rielly was also named a first-team all-star.
Warriors star rookie Brayden Point was edged by Prince Albert’s Leon Draisaitl for the rookie of the year nomination. Draisaitl, a 17-year-old German import had 58 points in 64 games this season. Point, 16, finished with 57 points in 67 games with the Warriors.
This year’s bantam draft features a number of pretty impressive high-end players.
Tyler Benson from the SSAC Lions in Edmonton jumped to the top of a lot of scouts’ lists after a superlative season in the Alberta Bantam Hockey League.
Benson had 57 goals and 146 points in 33 games in arguably the best bantam AAA league in Western Canada. To put that in perspective, Point had 102 points in 33 games in the same league in his draft year.
Sam Steel (Sherwood Park, Alta.), Nolan Patrick (Winnipeg), Brett Howden (Winnipeg) and Jaeger White (Burnaby Winter Club) are also highly rated forwards. Howden and White are the younger siblings of Quinton Howden and Torrin White respectively. Defencemen Kale Clague (Lloydminster, Alta.) and Dante Fabbro (Burnaby Winter Club) are also expected to be early selections.
The Warriors entered the draft lottery with a 85.7 per cent likelihood that they would pick fifth. The odds that they would move up to third was 9.5 per cent.