Red Deer Minor Hockey and the Bantam AAA Rebels were mighty proud after the WHL Bantam Draft.
When the draft concluded at the Sheraton on Thursday, a total of seven players were selected from Central Alberta and six of them played in the Alberta Bantam AAA Hockey League for Red Deer.
“That’s why we do it. I’m just proud of them and all their hard work. It’s amazing to watch them realize their dreams and that’s the best feeling a coach can have. It’s pretty incredible for them,” Bantam AAA Rebels head coach Justin Jarmolicz said Thursday in a phone interview.
“There’s a learning curve and they all grow at different speeds. All those boys, they sure trended in the right direction all the time. It was always up. Couldn’t be prouder.”
Tees native Drew Sim was the first local player selected 46th overall by the Vancouver Giants. The six-foot-one, 220-pound netminder played this season at the OHA Edmonton in the Canadian Sport Schools Hockey League. Sim was also the goalie who backstopped Team Central to a win at the Alberta Cup last weekend.
His goalie partner in that tournament, Colby Knight was picked by the Edmonton Oil Kings in the fifth round, 92nd overall. Knight, from Red Deer County, played for the AAA Rebels this season and notched 2.68 goals against average and .895 save percentage.
Charlie Wright, also from Olds went to the Saskatoon Blades in the fourth round. The 14-year-old defender had two goals and 19 points in 36 regular season games, but broke out at the Alberta Cup with seven points in five contests.
The Oil Kings went back to the well in Red Deer in the seventh round when they selected centre Jayden Henderson. The Sylvan Lake native put up 17 goals and 12 assists in 36 games for the AAA Rebels in 2017-2018.
Bosten Lajeunesse of Red Deer was picked by the Lethbridge Hurricanes in the eighth round, 161st overall. Myles Hilman of Blackfalds was picked in the ninth round, 185th by Prince Albert. Eckville’s Zach Burns rounded out the pack in the ninth round, 194 overall.
Jarmolicz added that it’s great for Red Deer and Minor Hockey in Central Alberta to be recognized with so many players selected.
“The draft means a lot to these boys but it’s not the be all and end all. Whether you get drafted or not, it’s early in the journey,” he said.
“We (as a coaching staff) just want to improve their skill set and awareness and give them the tools to make them more successful so an opportunity like the draft can be realistic for them.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story identified Colby Knight as from Olds. Knight is from Red Deer County. The Advocate regrets the error.