The Red Deer Rebels were content sitting out of the opening round of the 2019 WHL Bantam Draft.
Brent Sutter and the Rebels Brass made quick work in the second round at the Cambridge Hotel and Conference Centre, moving up nine spots to make their first pick in the draft.
Red Deer decided a move was necessary and they swapped the 31st pick overall for the Brandon Wheat Kings 23rd selection and took right shot defenceman Hunter Mayo of Martensville, Sask.
“Part of the process with players we target, not having a first round pick… we often communicate with them and ask them to communicate with us to get a feel if anyone has interest,” said Rebels assistant GM Shaun Sutter.
“We knew there was a team in front of us that had communicated to the family that they were probably going to take him, so we moved in front of that team to pick him. We really like Hunter.”
In Bantam AA last year with the Martensville Marauders, Mayo had 42 points in 28 games. The five-foot-nine, 173-pound defenceman was one of the top-rated rear guards from Saskatchewan.
The Rebels looked to bulk up on the blueline again at 38th overall, picking Jace Weir, a six-foot-1, 165-pound defenceman of the North Zone Kings in British Columbia.
”We drafted two defencemen with our first two picks that could skate and move the puck, but they’re guys that are real hard to play against. They have a lot of leadership and they’re guys that when the other team plays against them, they know when they’re on the ice,” Sutter said.
Overall, the Rebels picked 11 players, four forwards, five defenceman and two goalies. That included four players from Saskatchewan and two American-born products.
“With not having a first-round pick, you often wonder how it’s going to go. You play the waiting game. There wasn’t a lot of right shot defenceman, what’s the thing your always kind of looking for as an organization? You look at your team now, where it’s at and things we lack,” Sutter said.
With their only pick in the third round, Red Deer picked five-foot-seven, 159-pound forward Carter Anderson of the Rink Hockey Academy Bantam Prep team. Anderson, a Thompson, Man. native recorded 17 goals in 29 games last season.
— RINK Hockey Academy (@RHAnationals) May 2, 2019
In the fifth round, Red Deer took their first Alberta-born player. They picked goalie Justen Maric of the OHA Edmonton Bantam Prep team. He had 11 wins on the year to go along with a 2.37 goals against average and .915 save percentage.
“Unique situation, wasn’t at the Alberta Cup and I think that kinda hurt his draft standing. The whole year, he’s been one of the best goalies. So we get one of the best goalies in the fifth round, which is great value,” Sutter added.
With their 114th overall selection, the Rebels went back to Saskatchewan and picked Parker Lalonde of Aberdeen, Sask. He played for the Warman Bantam AA Wildcats.
Jhett Larson was the Rebels eighth-round selection. Larson was the third player from Saskatchewan picked by the Rebels. He split time last year between the Hounds Bantam AAA and Midget AAA group. With the Bantam group, he had seven goals and 17 points in 27 games and grabbed five points in six games.
The last five picks for the Rebels included defenceman Kody Norberg (ninth round, 181), forward Michael Valdez (ninth round, 185), forward Declan Cosford (10th round, 207), goalie Merik Erickson (11th round, 229) and defenceman Logan Wright (12th round, 229).
“Valdez is from Colorado, he’s one of the best American forwards in the draft. You take a long shot on a guy, if you get him it’s a home run, you roll the dice on that one, but he’s an elite player,” said Sutter.