The Red Deer Rebels will have a big chance to upgrade its prospect pool at the conclusion of the 2019-20 WHL season.
The league announced Thursday, based on a lottery that the Rebels will have the first overall pick in the inaugural WHL U.S. Prospects draft, which will take place on March 25.
“We were fortunate enough to win the lottery and you’re going to take a good player, then we’ll see where it goes from there,” said Rebels owner, GM and head coach Brent Sutter.
“You’re hoping that individual will come and want to play in Red Deer. Shaun (Sutter), he’s getting prepared for it.”
The new draft will consist of two rounds and give teams the opportunity to pick American players from the 2005 age group.
According to a WHL press release, players from Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming are eligible.
Also in the release, the league indicated that players not selected in the 2020 WHL U.S. Prospects Draft are still eligible to be selected in the 2020 WHL Bantam Draft on May 7.
Sutter added that knowing this draft was coming, the Rebels staff has had more conversations with American scouts to get a better handle on the top players.
He also added that he likes the idea of the new U.S. draft and believes that with their picks, it’s important to select a player that can be a big piece– a top-six forward, top-pairing defencemen or number one goalie.
“Those other holes in your lineup, if their role is not that then you can have a Canadian kid do that,” Sutter said.
“We’re looking at a real good player and will see what happens from now to the draft.”
Scouts will also get a chance to watch the top U.S. 2005-born players in the WHL U.S. Challenge Cup from Feb. 20-23 in Seattle, Wash. The 12-team tournament will feature top-rated U.S.-born players from seven teams in the Pacific Northwest to compete against five of the top-rated bantam teams from the province of B.C.