Smith leads local talent in WHL draft

Joshua Smith suspected that he’d be selected in the first round of Thursday’s Western Hockey League bantam draft, but when and by whom?

Joshua Smith suspected that he’d be selected in the first round of Thursday’s Western Hockey League bantam draft, but when and by whom?

In the end, it didn’t matter.

“It’s the WHL. It’s the league you want to play in,” said the Lacombe product, who was taken 19th overall by the Prince George Cougars. “I was hoping to be drafted in the first round and anywhere would be good. Prince George is certainly as good a place as any.”

The Red Deer Rebels Black defenceman was ranked seventh by International Scouting Services for the bantam draft and was described by ISS as “a solid, reliable and punishing defender with one of the best shots you will find in this draft group; has good speed and good puck-handling skills.”

Smith didn’t argue with the ISS assessment.

“I hit a couple of rough patches during the winter, but I pulled it back together,” said the five-foot-10, 180-pound defender. “I play a physical style, but offensive too. And I think I can be a leader with Prince George.”

Meanwhile, Mike Winther of Trochu, ranked No. 3 by ISS, was taken sixth overall by the Prince Albert Raiders. Winther was the top scorer in the Alberta Major Bantam League South Division with 40 goals and 63 points in 32 games as a member of the Western Canada champion Airdrie Xtreme.

Smith, Winther and Zane Jones of Olds were the only Central Albertans taken in the draft. Jones, a left winger, went to the Chilliwack Bruins in the fifth round, 91st overall.

Brady Bakke of Red Deer, a left winger with the Rebels Black, was not selected despite being ranked No. 71 for the draft by ISS.

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