The Moose Jaw Warriors feel they landed a couple of big building blocks for the future Thursday.
Moose Jaw Warriors
The Warriors used their first two picks on defencemen and they hope the smooth skating duo of Josh Brook and Marcus Kichton will be patrolling their blue line for years to come.
"At the top of the draft it certainly made sense to take a defenceman if everything was equal," said Warriors GM Alan Millar.
"To be able to land a couple of cornerstone defencemen for our franchise moving forward in Brook and Kichton made a lot of sense depth-wise, but it was also the way the chips fell over the first 25 picks as well."
The Warriors selected Brook fourth overall and then grabbed Kichton from Spruce Grove, Alta. with the fourth pick of the second round. Kichton is the younger brother of former Spokane Chiefs standout Brenden Kichton.
Of the Warriors eight picks, four were defencemen — including three of their first four selections. Only three of their 10 selections a year ago were defencemen.
After selecting Brook and Kichton, they used their fourth selection to draft six-foot-three defenceman Brandon Armstrong from the Okanagan Hockey Academy. The also took Evan Haimila from St. Albert with their final pick in the 10th round.
The Warriors are happy with their 1998-born forward group — which includes Brett Howden, Noah Gregor, Blake Bargar and Ryan Bowen — and felt they could afford to address the defence with some of their higher picks.
"It made sense from a depth perspective," said Millar.
The Warriors also added some size. Half of their picks were listed as being 6-2 or 6-3. Head scout and assistant GM Rob Maclachlan said they weren't looking for size specifically in the draft, it just worked out that way.
"If Brayden Point is sitting there we're drafting him. You have to take the best player," said Maclachlan who said that in some cases that were expecting to get a smaller player and had them selected just before they picked. It just so happened that the next player on their list was a player with above-average size.
"It turned out that our draft was bigger, but we didn't plan it that way," added Maclachlan. "There will probably be some people who think we finally got our (act) together and drafted some bigger guys, but it was just the way it worked out."
In the third round, the Warriors looked to the Arizona Bobcats program and selected right winger Brayden Watts. In the ninth round they added his teammate Patrick Rush.
Watts is originally from Bakersfield, Calif. and Rush is from Anchorage, Alaska, but the Warriors are building a strong pipeline with the Bobcats program. The Warriors had three 98-born players who played with the Bobcats last season — Bargar, Dylan Dix and Jake Garman — and had three more who attend training camp last season.
Millar said that they weren't targeting the Bobcat players specifically when looking to the U.S.
"We were looking at different options all of the way along," said Millar. "Watts was a guy that we really liked. He's 100 per cent committed to playing in the Western Hockey League. He reminds us of Tanner Eberle in some sense. He's a very competitive player. Rush is big and he's raw and we think he has some potential.
"We had guys on our list from Minnesota and Colorado and a number of junior teams. In some cases we came close to drafting them, but it just turned out that the guys who were on the board were Bobcats. It's a good fit. We like the program down there. We know the people well. We like their development model and we think we added a couple more good prospects there."
In the fifth round the Warriors grabbed Chase Stephenson from the Alberta champion Lloydminster Heat and then added Codey Beaulieu from the Winnipeg Warriors in the seventh round.
All told the Warriors are pretty satisfied with their day's work.
"There's a real good balance of skill and size," said Millar. "I like that we were able to get some really strong pieces on our back end in this draft. I like our hockey IQ. I like the fact that we added some depth with big guys. We added some good solid defencemen and some potential power forwards."