The WHL holds their annual Bantam Draft on Thursday in Calgary. The Broncos will again be hoping to add to their young core with a high-end prospect. They pick four times in the first three rounds including the 5th overall selection in the 1rst round.
So what are they looking for?
I’ve been doing my best to keep track of the prospects on Swift Current’s list throughout the season. The Broncos don’t publish their complete list anywhere so there might be some players missing from what I’m reporting. That said, you can still tell that the strength of the organization is on the blue line.
That probably seems obvious given the fact that the Broncos picked d-men with each of their three 1rst round picks over the last two years. Dillon Heatherington is already showing signs of developing into a force at the WHL level. He is be joined by 2011 2nd overall selection Brycen Martin and 13th overall selection Zach Gonek.
That’s not where the blue line depth ends. 2010 draft pick Bobby Zinkan picked up his point production towards the end of the season with 8 points in his final 9 regular season games and 5 in 6 playoff games. He (along with Martin) was also a 2nd Team All-Star at the Macs. Meanwhile, listed player Stefan Danielson put up 12 points in his final 9 regular season games and was one of the Albert Midget AAA leading playoff scorers with 9 points in 10 games. Late round 2011 pick Vktor Dombrovskiy played for Team BC at the U16 tournament and has already received a commitment to play Junior A for Langley in the BCHL next season. The cupboards are full on the back-end.
The level of talent among defensive prospects could really make training camp interesting as Swift Current can bring back every single d-man they had on the roster last season. Some veterans could feel a strong push out the door unless they come ready at the end of the summer.
The Broncos also have some decent depth of prospects in goal. Of particular note, Landon Bow was among the leaders in the Alberta Midget AAA league. However, it’s hard to know if any of those guys will ever develop into regulars at the WHL level. Mark Lamb hinted that would be a position they are targeting for an elite talent. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them try to trade up late in the first round or early in the second if they can target one of the top goalies.
Ultimately I think we all suspect the Broncos will be looking for an elite forward with their top pick this year. There are some interesting guys coming down the pipe up front. I don’t know how many of them will end up being top end scorers, but a good number of them should play in the league. The guys that stand out would have to be Denis Bosc (playing well on a bad team in Junior A at 16), Zac Mackay (point per game in Midget AAA at 16), Dakota Odgers (not far off a point per game in Midget AAA at 15) and late round 2011 pick Cameron Hughes (point per game in Alberta Midget AAA at 15). Hughes would have to be considered the surprise of the group, although Jamie Porter told me when he picked him that Hughes only slipped as far as he did due to injury in his draft year.
That doesn’t mean I’m ruling out anyone else on the list. Sutton Olson had a strong playoff (9 points in 10 games) so maybe the veteran midget talent was finding his form as he graduates. Cavin Leth and Jordan Wittman both had very good moments in their first midget seasons, but both need to work on their consistency when they likely return to Midget AAA next season. Chris Koukis showed he was a goal scorer in training camp before continuing that trend in midget (13 goals vs. 3 assists), and small forward Jake Debrusk put up some good numbers (over a point per game) in Minor Midget AAA.
Where is the hole? Elite skill. The Broncos don’t have any “1rst round” and especially Top 10 level forward talent in their 95 or 96 age groups. That means they really need to add one in their 1997 age group. They are looking for the franchise forward type player and with a second straight year picking in the top 5… now is the time to get it.
Western Elite Hockey Prospects lists eight forwards in their top ten for the 2012 WHL Bantam Draft. There is every reason to believe one of those eight forwards will be a Bronco on Thursday. The only thing we know for sure is that Matt Barzal is the consensus #1. As you learn quickly in the CHL… that doesn’t mean he’s absolutely going to Seattle… but he should be the top pick. After that it seems like there is still much in the air.
Six of those eight forwards come from BC. If the Broncos stay away from the west coast and concentrate in their usual hot spot of Alberta they would end up with Nick Merkley or Giorgio Estephan. Each of the last three first round picks from Swift Current come from Alberta. I don’t think it’s a sure thing they will go that way again. They are not going to rule out a whole province (BC) because of trouble with one first round prospects (Richardson) recently. The Broncos are doing their homework and that includes making sure a player is willing to relocate to hockey’s heartland.
Here is a last look at the stats for Broncos prospects this season. If you notice we are missing anyone we should have listed leave a comment or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
- F Denis Bosc (95) MJHL – Steinbach Pistons (52: 12-9-21)
- F Jarett Zenter (93) SJHL – Melfort Mustangs (25: 10-11-21) *2 goals in 6 AJHL games
- F Ryan Bloom (93) AJHL – Drumheller Dragons (35: 17-28-45)
- F Evan Richardson (94) BCHL – Powell River Kings (48: 19-36-55) *committed to play NCAA **9 points in 15 playoff games
- F Trevor Cameron (92) BCHL – Surrey Eagles (31: 4-14-18)
- G Danny Todosychuk (94) BCHL – Vernon Vipers (6-3, 3.20, 0.895%)
- G Steven Myland (94) PIJHL – North Delta Devils (6-4, 2.92, 0.923%)
- F Sutton Olson (94) Manitoba Midget AAA – Southwest Cougars (39: 8-14-22) *9 points in 10 playoff games
- F Riley Welsh (96) Manitoba Midget AAA – Eastman Selects (44: 11-12-23) *4 points in 3 playoff games
- F Cavin Leth (96) Saskatchewan Midget AAA – Notre Dame Argos (42: 7-12-19) *3 goals in 8 playoff games
- F Dakota Odgers (96) Saskatchewan Midget AAA – Yorkton Harvest (43: 19-17-36)
- F Brendan Hopkins (94) Saskatchewan Midget AAA – Saskatoon Blazers (28: 6-5-11)
- F Zac Mackay (95) Saskatchewan Midget AAA – Swift Current Legionnaires (35: 12-23-35) *played 6 games in the WHL
- F Jordan Wittman (96) Saskatchewan Midget AAA – Swift Current Legionnaires (42: 9-8-17) *played 2 games in WHL
- G Landon Bow (95) Alberta Midget AAA – St Albert Sports Raiders (9-3-2, 2.57, 0.911%)
- D Brycen Martin (96) Alberta Midget AAA – Calgary Buffaloes (25: 6-11-17) *played 3 WHL games **5 points in 6 youth Olympic games
- D Bobby Zinkan (95) Alberta Midget AAA – Calgary Northstars (25: 2-11-13) *played 4 games in the AJHL and 1 in the WHL **5 points in 6 playoff games
- F Mathew Gelinas (95) Alberta Midget AAA – Calgary Royals (34: 4-9-13)
- D Stefan Danielson (95) Alberta Midget AAA – Red Deer Rebels (24: 4-19-23) *played 1 game in the AJHL **9 points in 10 playoff games
- D Tyler Haiste (94) Alberta Midget AAA – UFA Bisons (25: 3-11-14) *played 1 game in the AJHL*
- F Cameron Hughes (96) Alberta Midget AAA – CAC Edmonton Canadians (32: 8-23-31)
- D Viktor Dombrovskiy (96) BC Major Midget – Vancouver NE Chiefs (36: 3-11-14) *committed to Langley in BCHL next season **4 points in 2 playoff games
- G Alec Dillon (96) BC Major Midget – South Island Thunderbirds (1-10, 5.81)
- F Chris Koukis (96) NAPHL – Pursuit of Excellence (43: 13-3-16) *2 goals in 5 playoff games
Minor Midget AAA
- F Jake Debrusk (96) Alberta Minor Midget AAA – SSAC Bulldogs (26: 13-20-33) *6 points in 5 playoff games
- D Zack Gonek (96) Alberta Minor Midget AAA – St. Albert Flyers (31: 10-11-21) *91 PIMs **played 4 Major Midget AAA games
- D Cole Bevan (96) Midget A1 – Cloverdale Colts (31: 4-13-17)