The Red Deer Rebels had a busy day at the 2020 WHL Bantam Draft.
Red Deer added nine new players to the organization, including five players in the first 50 picks of the draft. They picked four centres, three defenceman and two wingers during Wednesday’s festivities.
While Kalan Lind and Talon Brigley led the way, Red Deer also added some serious talent in the mid-to-late rounds of the draft Wednesday.
“When you have five picks in the top 50, you know you’re going to get some good players. Even some of the players we picked in the later rounds,” said Rebels assistant GM Shaun Sutter said.
“Our (scouts) do a great job of getting around and seeing everybody. That’s where your hard work pays off. A lot of teams felt like they had the best draft in the Western Hockey League, that’s the way it always goes on draft day. We feel really good about not only the players we got but the people we got, too.”
In the second round, 24th overall the Rebels picked Sylvan Lake product Brigley, while also locking down Matteo Fabrizi and Arjun Bawa in the round.
Fabrizi is one of several hulking defencemen Red Deer went with in the draft. At just 15, he’s already listed at six-foot-three, 222-pounds. A St. Albert product, he suited up for 23 games in the Canadian Sport School Hockey League with the Yale Lions Bantam Prep team.
“He’s a big guy, huge. He can skate, move the puck and he looks like a pro,” Sutter said of their 31st overall pick.
“Smart player, he’s a guy that we gave a first-round grade to the whole year. To get him in the second round, we felt that was a steal. We felt there were a lot of good defencemen in this draft, but he’s a really good player.”
Bawa, a centre from North Vancouver, B.C., played with the St. George’s School Bantam prep program last season and recorded 41 points in 30 games. His dad Robin, also played in the WHL and had a cup of coffee in the NHL with four different teams.
“He’s a tall, lanky guy and he’s already grown a ton this year, I think he’s almost six-foot-two. Weighs 170 pounds. He’s a bigger body who’s got skill and is smart, sees the ice. Only going to get better and better,” Sutter said.
“he’s got a high ceiling and he’s another player that has some lineage.”
In the third round, 50th overall Red Deer picked Luke Ashton from the Burnaby Winter Club. Ashton, 15, is six-foot-four and 191-pounds. He posted three goals and 22 assists in 29 games with the BWC bantam prep group last year.
“He’s another player with pro upside,” Sutter added.
Red Deer didn’t have a selection in rounds four, five and six, then added right winger Ryan Arnold of St. Albert with its seventh-round pick (143 overall). Sutter pointed to other successful seventh rounders like Jaxsen Wiebe or Braden Burke.
“We’ve had some luck in that round, so we were pretty happy to pick Ryan Arnold,” Sutter said, adding they had him pegged as a third-round talent.
They picked centre Carson Brine of Arcola, Sask. in the eighth round (160) and in the ninth round (182), Red Deer picked up another winger in Ben Roulette.
With their final pick of the day, Red Deer grabbed defenceman Boston Harkness, who is going to play under the coaching of former Rebel Jeff Smith in Estavan next year.
“He’s a big body that’s going to be smart and he’s got a brother that’s six-foot-eight, so he’s going to keep growing. He’s got a real high ceiling,” Sutter added.
All the players Red Deer picked in the 2020 WHL Bantam Draft aren’t eligible to play in the league until the 2021-22 season.