EAST CENTRAL — The three local Junior A teams made selections for their franchises’ futures in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League’s annual Bantam Draft last week.
On May 31 in Nipawin, the SJHL’s 12 squads picked 70 2004-born players in a six-round format. Both the Nipawin Hawks and Melfort Mustangs chose seven players, while the Broncos picked five.
These players will spend at least the next season playing in the midget AAA, or perhaps the prep school ranks, before making it to the SJHL. Many Junior A players don’t crack SJHL rosters until their 18-year-old seasons.
“The biggest thing is that it is not going to happen overnight. … Everyone develops at a different pace,” said Rick Oakes, the Mustangs’ director of players, who noted the players need to maintain their confidence and keep working hard to continue to develop.
The Mustangs, who went to the SJHL finals last season, grabbed four forwards and three defencemen in the draft.
“We were happy with our selections,” Oakes said. “We are very optimistic about the kids we got.”
The team was particularly pleased to pick Tisdale’s Connor Hvidston ninth overall. The forward had 27 goals and 57 points in 31 games for the North East Bantam AA Wolfpack last season. Oakes praised him as an all-around player.
“He sees the ice very well. He is a very strong playmaker. He can score,” he said, emphasizing the team is happy to get a high-quality local player.
Hvidston was a seventh-round pick of the Swift Current Broncos in the Western Hockey League Bantam Draft. Oakes said the team felt it was worth taking a risk on Hvidston.
Melfort added another local product in hometown forward Zackery Somers. He was second to Hvidston in scoring on the Wolfpack with 43 points, including 24 goals.
In regard to the Mustangs’ draft picks, Oakes said the squad took character kids with strong work ethics who like to compete. He said those are the types of players head coach Trevor Blevins likes.
The Mustangs’ second round pick, 22nd overall, was Saskatoon forward Tyrus Flory, who had 30 goals and 72 points in 31 games. Regina defenceman Noah Newman was picked in the third round, 27th overall. With a pair of fourth round picks, Melfort took Regina defenceman Tyson Herron, 42nd overall, and Hunter Kannok Leipert, a forward from the Queen City, at 46. All three Regina players were teammates on the Aces. Kannok Leipert’s brother, Alex, plays for Vancouver in the WHL and is a draft pick of the NHL’s Washington Capitals.
The Mustangs wrapped up their day by getting Saskatoon Maniacs defenceman Bryton Erickson, who was teammates with Flory, 65th overall, and Swift Current forward Rhett Dekowny, 65th overall, in the sixth round.
The Hawks flew out of the draft with five forwards and two defencemen.
“We feel we got great value along with a mixture of players that will really help our team in the future,” head coach and general manager Doug Johnson said. “We won’t know exactly how the draft turned out for a few more years but the draft has been great for us so far.”
Nipawin started their day by getting Martensville forward Brayden Barnett with the last pick of the first round. He had 23 goals and 46 points in 29 games for his hometown Marauders bantam AA team.
“Brayden is a 6-foot-2, 180-pound, mobile physical power forward,” Martensville head coach Shaun Priel said. “He’s a good skater with good hands and has a heavy shot. Brayden played wing on our first line, powerplay and penalty kill. He’s a great teammate with a great work ethic.”
Johnson said, “We discussed if we had the first overall pick who would we take and his name came up more often than not talking with our scouts so we were extremely excited he was available with the 12th overall pick.”
In the second round, 31st overall, the Hawks picked up Regina’s Carter Wickenheiser. The Regina Pat Blues forward had 20 goals and 40 points in 31 games.
Through trades, Nipawin loaded up in the third round. The team had four picks and took two forwards and two defencemen. Their choices were Saskatoon defenceman Cole Barry, 31st overall; Dayne Feicht of Swift Current, 33rd; Griffin’s Cooper Walbaum of the Weyburn Wings, 34th; and Saskatoon blue liner Brett Leonard, 36th. In the sixth round, the Hawks got Drake’s Ty Sundholm, a forward, 69th overall. Nipawin passed on the very last pick of the draft, 72nd overall.
Heading into his first full season leading the Broncos, head coach and general manager Scott Barney said the team’s scouting staff is very high on all five of the team’s picks. All of them wore a letter last season.
In addition, the Broncos also auto-protected a trio of talented hometown products in forwards Tyler Lindal (23 points with 15 goals in 31 games) and McLaren Paulson (20 points) and defenceman Brody Mortensen (27 points). All of them played for the Humboldt Broncos bantam AA team.
In the first round of the draft, the Broncos picked Jordan Normand of the Warman Wildcats. He had 20 goals and 44 points in 31 games.
“Jordan has a high hockey IQ,” Ryan McDonald, Warman head coach said, “He has great speed. He has great edges. His compete level is second to none. His work ethic is amazing.”
Rosetown’s Kayden Ostrom was selected in the second round, 20th overall. The forward tallied 30 points in 31 games for the West Central Wheat Kings.
The Broncos took Saskatoon defenceman Logan McCutcheon, 30th overall, and Balgonie’s Matthew Perkins, a forward, 32nd overall. With the team’s final selection, it grabbed Ryan Lepitzki, a forward from Prince Albert, 56th overall, in the fifth round.
SJHL Draft Picks
- Round 1, 2nd overall: Melville Millionaires, Nicholas Andrusiak, D, Tisdale, North East Wolfpack
- Round 1, 6th: Flin Flon Bombers, Kylynn Olafson, Lanigan, Humboldt Broncos
- Round 1, 9th: Melfort Mustangs, Connor Hvidston, F, Tisdale, North East Wolfpack
- Round 3, 35th: Battlefords North Stars, Jackson Allan, Davidson, Humboldt Broncos
- Round 4, 37th: Battlefords North Stars, Caden Drury, F, Carrot River, North East Wolfpack
- Round 6, 69th: Nipawin Hawks, Ty Sundholm, F, Drake, Humboldt Broncos
- Round 1, 9th overall: Connor Hvidston, F, Tisdale, North East Wolfpack
- Round 2, 22: Tyrus Flory, F, Saskatoon, Saskatoon Maniacs
- Round 3, 27th: Noah Newman, D, Regina, Regina Aces
- Round 4, 42nd: Tyson Herron, D, Regina, Regina Aces
- Round 4, 46th: Hunter Kannok-Leipert, F, Regina, Regina Aces
- Round 5, 58th: Bryton Erickson, D, Saskatoon, Saskatoon Maniacs
- Round 6, 65th: Rhett Dekowny, F, Swift Current, Swift Current Broncos
- Round 1, 12th overall: Brayden Barnett, F, Martensville, Martensville Marauders
- Round 2, 24th: Carter Wickenheiser, F, Regina, Regina Pat Blues
- Round 3, 31st: - Cole Barry, D, Saskatoon, Saskatoon Outlaws
- Round 3, 33rd: - Dayne Feicht, F, Swift Current, Swift Current Broncos
- Round 3, 34th: Cooper Walbaum, F, Griffin, Weyburn Wings
- Round 3, 36th: Brett Leonard, D, Saskatoon, Saskatoon Stallions
- Round 6, 69th: Ty Sundholm, F, Drake, Humboldt Broncos
- Round 1, 7th overall: Jordan Normand, F, Warman, Warman Wildcats
- Round 2, 20th: Kayden Ostrom, F, Rosetown, West Central Wheat Kings
- Round 3, 30th: Logan McCutcheon, D, Saskatoon, Saskatoon Maniacs
- Round 3, 32nd: Matthew Perkins, F, Balgonie, Prairie Storm
- Round 5, 56th: Ryan Lepitzki, F, Prince Albert, Prince Albert Pirates