Through a season of scouting and projections, there is still plenty of wonder about the WHL Bantam Draft on Thursday.
Red Deer Rebels assistant GM and director of player personnel Shaun Sutter said there’s a number of different scenarios about how the first round will play out– which stems from no real consensus top pick this year.
“I don’t think there is a consensus number one. It depends what the teams picking at the top are looking for. So that will have a chain reaction even affecting us at the seventh pick. You just sit and wait and prepare for each pick as it comes up,” Sutter said.
The Rebels own the seventh pick in the draft, as well as the 16th overall selection, which they acquired in the Josh Mahura trade last year with the Regina Pats. Sutter said as of earlier this week, the team was set on selecting the best player available.
“These kids are 14, so the reality is they aren’t going to be impactful for a few years. The kids you pick at the early rounds, you do have the hope or expectation that they’ll develop to a point where they can push for a role and they’ll be a good player,” Sutter said.
The Rebels own five picks total in the first three rounds, a unique situation after the build-up to the Memorial Cup in 2016 saw them spend picks to acquire players. That could lead to an influx of talent joining the organization, or a possible trade for scoring depth up front.
“We know we’ll get a good player at seven and 16, and at 28 and two picks in the top half of the third round. We haven’t been in this situation for a while,” Sutter added.
“We’ve got some higher picks and you’re excited about adding some top end players and bringing them in to complement what we have.”
Some projections across the league have Rink Academy defenceman Carson Lambos of Winnipeg slotted first overall.
Others have Sean Tschigerl (forward, OHA Academy in Edmonton), Logan Stankhoven (centre, Yale Academy) and Jayden Grubbe (Right Wing, Calgary Bisons Bantam AAA) in the mix.
Zack Stringer, a forward for the midget AAA Lethbridge Hurricanes won bronze at the Telus Cup and was second in the entire tournament in scoring with seven goals and 11 points in seven games. He could also get a look as an early selection.
At the Alberta Cup in Spruce Grove last weekend, team Central took home the title with a 2-0 shutout win in the championship game. That garnered them some attention from scouts, including Central Alberta players like Tees native Drew Sims, a goalie at the OHA Academy or Red Deer County resident Colby Knight.
“They’re both big guys and they definitely show the signs of being good goalies one day,” Sutter said.
There are other names in the mix looking to be drafted from Central Alberta on Thursday, including Boston Lajeunesse of Red Deer and Charlie Wright of Olds, who served as captain of the Red Deer Bantam AAA Rebels.
Forward Zachery Burns of Eckville, and Fox Doell and Myles Hilman of Blackfalds and Jayden Henderson of Sylvan Lake all could hear their names called in the draft.
“It is the type of draft where there’s a layer of players and a large group of guys that are close. Teams are going to look at these guys in different ways,” Sutter added.
The Rebels selected Ethan Rowland, a centre from Calgary with their 2017 WHL Bantam Draft first round pick.
The draft starts Thursday at 8:30 a.m. and can be streamed live on www.whl.ca.