The Red Deer Rebels picked Gracyn Sawchyn with the first overall selection in the inaugural WHL U.S. Prospects Draft on Wednesday. (Photo courtesy of Red Deer Rebels)

The Red Deer Rebels picked Gracyn Sawchyn with the first overall selection in the inaugural WHL U.S. Prospects Draft on Wednesday. (Photo courtesy of Red Deer Rebels)

Rebels pick Gracyn Sawchyn first overall in inaugural WHL U.S Prospects draft

The Red Deer Rebels went to a well-known hockey institution for their first pick in the WHL U.S. Prospects Draft.

The brand-new, two-round draft, featuring 2005-born players who live in the Western United States was conducted on Wednesday from the WHL office.

With the first overall pick, the Rebels selected Gracyn Sawchyn out of the Shattuck-St. Mary’s hockey program in Minnesota, that has produced a number of NHLers, including Sidney Crosby, Nathan McKinnon and Jonathan Toews.

Sawchyn, a five-foot-eight, 130-pound, right-shot forward was originally born in Edmonton and recorded 32 goals and 83 points with the Shattuck-St. Mary’s Bantam Tier I team.

Red Deer Rebels assistant GM Shaun Sutter said from the moment it was announced they would have the first overall selection, Sawchyn was their choice.

“If Gracyn was a Canadian player, who would be a lottery pick. He’s got high-end hockey sense, vision, skill, so he’s got a real good skill set,” Sutter said.

“He’s a guy that makes other players better and is a really good playmaker and real good offensive ability. When you’re picking first overall, this is a player that comes with that kind of pedigree.”

The teen also has ties to the WHL and Western Canada, as his dad is a scout for the Vancouver Giants and has several family members living in Alberta and B.C. The Sawchyns moved to Minnesota three years ago, making Gracyn eligible for the U.S. draft this year.

“He’s a highly-sought-after player that we feel really fortunate to be a position to pick him,” Sutter said.

“Now we get to work on building a relationship. We’ve obviously been doing that for a while, it’s rare you see a team pick a player and then right away, the player is wearing their jersey. We’re ecstatic to pick him.”

With the final pick in the new American prospects draft, the Rebels went back to Minnesota, selecting Aidan Willis of Farmington.

The five-foot-10, 168-pound left-shot forward posted 32 goals and 42 assists in 43 games with the Lakeville South Bantam AA Cougars. Sutter said Willis’ family had shown some interest in the WHL and the Rebels Minnesota area scout John Perpich was begging for the team to take Willis.

“He’s a skilled guy. Gritty. Can go through you or around you. Skates well, can really shoot the puck,” Sutter said.

“With this being a new draft, there’s a dynamic– do you take the best player or the players who are most interested? We feel pretty fortunate that we got two good players that are also interested versus players that may never show up in Red Deer.”

Sutter was also quick to credit Perpich for his scouting reports on both players that the Rebels picked in the newly-formed draft.

“John is down there and does a real good job for us and puts in a lot of work and watches these kids all the time,” Sutter added.

“He obviously saw Gracyn Sawchyn play, with him playing at Shattuck. He’s a big part of our U.S. scouting front and he really likes Aidan Willis as a player and he was a guy that John was pounding the table for.”

The last American the Rebels drafted and who came north was forward Austin Pratt. They selected him in the fourth round, 75th overall in the 2014 WHL Bantam Draft.

A Lakeville, Minnesota native, Pratt also played at Shattuck-St. Mary’s and in his Bantam year recorded 30 goals and 73 points in 65 games.

Both Sawcyhn and Willis aren’t eligible to play for the Rebels until the 2021-22 WHL season.



Email sports tips to Byron Hackett

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Rebels

Just Posted

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney arrives at the 2021 budget in Edmonton on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta launches COVID vaccine lottery with million-dollar prizes to encourage uptake

The premier says the lottery will offer three prizes worth $1 million a piece, as well as other prizes

Dharmesh Goradia, and his daughter Vidhi and wife Chaitali, at the 2017 festival for the Godess Durga, held at the Golden Circle. (Photo contributed)
Draft curriculum misses the mark for central Alberta Hindu society

Meeting scheduled with Alberta Education officials

Air Canada planes sit on the tarmac at Pearson International Airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Wednesday, April 28, 2021. Air Canada says it will recall more than 2,600 employees who were furloughed during the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Alberta’s tourism sector hurt by COVID-19 pandemic: ATB Financial

Between border closures, public health measures and hesitancy to travel, Alberta’s tourism… Continue reading

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

A man wears a face mask as he walks by a sign for a COVID-19 vaccination site in Montreal, Sunday, May 16, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Canada paid a premium to get doses from Pfizer earlier than planned

OTTAWA — Canada paid a premium to get more than 250,000 doses… Continue reading

The Kamloops Indian Residential School in Kamloops, B.C., is shown in this 1930 handout photo. HO — Deschatelets-NDC Archives
Calls grow for Ottawa to review settlement decisions for residential school survivors

Lawyer Teri Lynn Bougie still cries when she talks about the final… Continue reading

Syringes are readied at a COVID-19 mobile vaccination clinic for members of First Nations and their partners, Friday, April 30, 2021 in Montreal. Most of the federal contracts for COVID-19 vaccines allow for Canada to donate some of its doses to other countries or international aid organizations and in at least three cases, for the doses to be resold.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canada’s vaccine contracts allow for doses to be donated, in some cases resold

OTTAWA — Most of the federal contracts for COVID-19 vaccines allow for… Continue reading

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, responds to the report on the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, in Vancouver, on Monday June 3, 2019. As stories of the horrors of residential schools circulate after the Tk'emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced it had located what are believed to be the remains of 215 children, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said he feels a connection with the former students. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Two sides of the same coin: Ex-foster kids identify with residential school survivors

VANCOUVER — As stories of the horrors of residential schools circulate after… Continue reading

A woman sits and weeps at the scene of Sunday's hate-motivated vehicle attack in London, Ont. on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. Four members of a family in London, Ont., are set to be buried today. The public has been invited to help celebrate the lives of Talat Afzaal, 74, her son Salman Afzaal, 46, his wife Madiha Salman, 44, and their 15-year-old daughter Yumna Salman.THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Geoff Robins
Funeral to be held today for London family killed in attack

LONDON, Ont. — Four members of a Muslim family killed in what… Continue reading

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United States President Joe Biden listen to United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson deliver opening remarks at a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, United Kingdom Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau to discuss foreign policy with G7 leaders at second day of summit meeting

CARBIS BAY, CORNWALL, ENGLAND — Foreign policy is on the agenda for… Continue reading

Most Read