It wasn’t a matter of if he’d be drafted but rather how high.
Lacombe’s Daxon Rudolph was poised to be picked early in the 2023 Western Hockey League Prospects Draft last Thursday but as it turned out he didn’t have to wait long.
In a historic draft for the Prince Albert Raiders, the franchise out of northern Saskatchewan selected the defenceman first overall. The Raiders owned the first, second, and seventh overall picks taking forwards Riley Boychuk second and Ty Meunier seventh.
On Monday they made it official by signing Rudolph to a WHL Scholarship and Development Agreement.
“It feels amazing,” Rudolph told The Advocate. “They’re a great program that’s had lots of success, especially recently. Ryder Ritchie won the WHL Rookie of the Year so I’m in good hands in Prince Albert.”
“[Boychuk] is a very smart player. I think we both play the game at a high level which will work great alongside Meunier at seven. They’re high-skill forwards and I’m really excited to work with them in the near future.”
The selection made him the first Albertan to go first overall in the WHL Draft since 2019 when the Winnipeg Ice took St. Albert’s Matthew Savoie. He’s also the first-ever top overall selection to be from central Alberta.
The P.A. Raiders have had plenty of recent success winning the WHL Championship in 2019. Rudolph said that makes it all the more exciting.
“Everyone wants to win, right? So being a part of that will be special,” he added.
Rudolph will be joining a pretty deep defensive lineup in P.A. and hopes to contribute once he’s old enough. He described himself as an offensive defenceman who likes to set up his teammates and is a good leader.
“The will to work and the will to win is a big part of who I am. I think I’ll fit right in perfectly there in Prince Albert,” he said.
“I’m looking forward to getting started.”
Rudolph played the 2022-23 season with the Northern Alberta Xtreme U15 Prep notching 17 goals and 33 assists for 50 points. He also led his team to the Canadian Sport School U15 Prep Western Championships in March and scored the game-winning goal in overtime of the finals.
Before Rudolph played for the Xtreme, he was a blueliner for the U15 AAA Red Deer Rebels during the 2021-22 season.
Head coach of the Rebels Justin Jarmolicz said he wasn’t surprised at all to see him get selected first.
“Early on last year, you could tell he was the best defenceman in his age group in the West. Then he grew and he just got better and better,” Jarmolicz said.
“I’m really proud of him. He made everybody that surrounds him proud and he’s a good kid with high character.”
The Rebels also had plenty of their own players get selected in the draft including defenceman Dermot Johnston to the Prince George Cougars, defenceman Dallin Antos to the Kelowna Rockets, forward Easton Daneault to the Lethbridge Hurricanes, forward Nash Nicolay to the Portland Winterhawks, and forward Kohen Lodge to the Saskatoon Blades.
“The first reaction is that I’m always so proud and happy for them. All the hard work that they put in all year paid off for them.”