This week I finally finished updating the prospect section of the blog after neglecting it over the last year. There may yet be some guys on that list who are no longer on Swift Current’s list and some players who are on the list that I don’t yet have there. I’ll make changes when I discover those omissions. It’s a pretty exciting group of young players either way.
I don’t think I’ve seen a list this balanced in my time as the broadcaster in Swift Current. There’s future top scoring threats like Stotts, Barlage, Prokop and Baker. They have gritty two-way guys who can score like Blocker, Dyck, Mole and Sokoloski. There are high end defensive prospects like Alexander, King, Bernard-Docker and Martini. They also have some depth in goal scattered throughout age groups from 18-year-old Kreitz to 17-year-olds Brkin and Doyle with 16-year-old Hofer showing real potential and a 15-year-old provincial champion in Poulter.
That’s just naming some guys who pop to mind right away. There doesn’t appear to be a particular weakness on their list right now. Of course if potential alone won championships running a sports team would be a lot easier.
The recent WHL Bantam Draft marked the 11th consecutive year the Swift Current Broncos have turned to Jamie Porter to make the call on their future as their head scout. In recent years he has kept that title while also being promoted to assistant general manager and director of player personnel.
Having Porter in that role for this long as well as seven years with Mark Lamb as Coach/GM and a long tenure for many on the scouting staff gives Swift Current among the best levels of front office consistency in the WHL. They’re produced several top junior players and NHL prospects in that time and made the playoffs in 8 of the last 11 years.
That doesn’t mean they’ve been perfect. They haven’t won any championships during this run and of course there will be hiccups in drafts and for small market teams sometimes players who will decide to bypass you. You’re always going to hear some fans say drafting isn’t good enough so how accurate is that? How are things looking for Swift Current? (Draft lists stolen from scbroncos.com)
NOTE: Other than a mention of Colby Sissons I didn’t include listed players. It’s also a responsibility of the scouting staff of course but I didn’t examine that as part of this process. There are certainly some guys there like Jordan Peddle, Tanner LeSann, Andy Blanke, both Gordon brothers and Sissons to name a few who were difference makers from that process as well.
|1||6||Cody Eakin||Forward||Winnipeg, MB|
|2||26||James Martin||Defence||Winnipeg, MB|
|3||47||Brad Hoban||Forward||Victoria, BC|
|4||68||Joel Rogers||Defence||Abbotsford, BC|
|4||69||Rodger Craig||Forward||Red Deer, AB|
|5||96||David Greyeyes||Defence||Marcelin, SK|
|6||108||Taylor Vause||Forward||Calgary, AB|
|6||110||Andrew Breker||Goalie||Muenster, SK|
|6||125||Dillon Wagner||Forward||Duffield, AB|
|7||131||Travis Tilley||Forward||Neepawa, MB|
|8||152||Jarryd ten Vaanholt||Forward||West Vancouver, BC|
|10||194||Brendan Algeo||Defence||Calgary, AB|
The first draft after Porter took over sees a significant level of success. Cody Eakin has to be one of the best Broncos in recent history and they nabbed him 6th overall. James Martin had a strong junior career and is still bouncing around the AHL and ECHL. Brad Hoban played five full seasons in the WHL and scored 20+ goals twice. Joel Rogers played four solid WHL seasons before concussions derailed his career. Rodger Craig never played in the WHL but was good enough to play four years in the NCAA on scholarship. David Greyeyes didn’t work out but still managed to play 10 games in the WHL. Taylor Vause battled diabetes during his junior career and was still a productive player before becoming Swift Current’s captain and one of the best players in the league as an overage. Dillon Wagner spent four solid seasons in the WHL as a gritty two-way forward. Jarryd ten Vaanholt ended up having a solid Junior A career and played Division 3 NCAA hockey. When you look at the talent level of even the lower picks here it’s hard to call this draft anything but a big hit. Six of the ten players ended up having significant WHL careers.
|1||9||Christian Magnus||Forward||Saskatoon, SK|
|2||30||Taylor Ernst||Forward||Regina, SK|
|4||74||Dane Muench||Forward||Martensville, SK|
|4||78||Michael Hay||Forward||Winnipeg, MB|
|5||96||Allistair Chapman||Defence||Calgary, AB|
|6||118||Gui Glasspoole||Forward||Calgary, AB|
|7||140||Patrick Coady||Forward||Stettler, AB|
|7||149||Andrew Sullivan||Forward||Calgary, AB|
|8||162||Brody Luhning||Defence||Lumsden, SK|
|9||184||Zach Habscheid||Defence||Chilliwack, BC|
As much as the 2006 draft was a home run the 2007 didn’t work out. Magnus was a solid WHL forward if not ever really a guy who drove play. Other than him most of the rest of the draft class had cups of coffee at the WHL level. Sullivan played a season and a half before giving the sport up. Luhning played 30 games and is still playing CIS. Habscheid had a few seasons in the WHL and USHL elsewhere. Guys like Ernst, Mench and Hay played some games but didn’t get very far. It’s a display of the ups and downs of drafting 15-year-olds.
|1||12||Reece Scarlett||Defence||Sherwood Park, AB|
|2||34||Austin Smith||Goaltender||Calgary, AB|
|3||64||Graeme Craig||Defence||Red Deer, AB|
|4||78||Adam Lowry||Forward||Calgary, AB|
|5||100||Josh Derko||Forward||Sherwood Park, AB|
|6||122||Nicco Digiovannantonio||Forward||Clavet, SK|
|6||125||Nathan Zimbaluk||Defence||Regina, SK|
|7||144||Preston Amundson||Forward||Edmonton, AB|
|8||166||Michael Lazo||Forward||Winnipeg, MB|
|9||188||Clayton Chingee||Forward||Prince George, AB|
Here the Broncos are back on track with a defenceman in the first round who was an anchor for them over four seasons before turning pro. Scarlett was playing big minutes at 16, their top d-man at 17 and one of the better guys in the league by his last season. Austin Smith never strung it together in the WHL over two seasons but had a solid run in Junior A after. Graeme Craig put five solid seasons together in the league and captained Saskatoon before earning a pro contract. Lowry was one of the best Broncos in recent history and the MVP of the league. Derko hit hard, skated hard and played a strong two-way game that made him a captain in Lethbridge. That’s a very good success rate with actual WHL players in that top five pick run. Unfortunately they didn’t pluck any hidden gems in the last few rounds but that draft is absolutely a hit.
|1||15||Evan Richardson||Forward||Nanaimo, BC|
|2||37||Shea Howorko||Forward||Regina, SK|
|4||81||Sutton Olson||Forward||Deloraine, MB|
|6||125||Matthew Allen||Defence||Coquitlam, BC|
|6||127||Arthur Gordon||Forward||Edmonton, AB|
|7||147||Ashton McLeod||Defence||Claresholm, AB|
|8||169||Michael Fredrick||Goaltender||Lethbridge, AB|
|8||175||Colten Cassidy||Defence||Leduc, AB|
Any draft is going to be hurt when your top pick doesn’t commit. Richardson is the only example of that occurring over the last 11 years so it’s hardly an epidemic here. Supposedly he was quite close to coming here on a couple of occasions and it just never happened. That hurts. Especially when their second round pick Shea Howorko had his career derailed by concussions before we ever found out what he was capable of. Call it the cursed draft. Olson, Gordon, McLeod and Fredrick all had decent to good runs in Junior A but never ended up playing at the WHL level. Just like the first two drafts the next two were one up and one down.
|1||11||Dillon Heatherington||Defence||Calgary, AB|
|4||70||Josh Sinatynski||Forward||Fort Saskatchewan, AB|
|4||71||Zac Mackay||Forward||Swift Current, SK|
|4||78||Landon Bow||Goaltender||St. Albert, AB|
|4||81||Bobby Zinkan||Defence||Calgary, AB|
|6||121||Denis Bosc||Defence||Dufresne, MB|
|8||155||Nathan Bandet||Forward||Regina, SK|
|8||165||Matthew Gelinas||Forward||Calgary, AB|
This draft is sort of a make the most out of what you had scenario. The Broncos didn’t have a 2nd or a 3rd round pick and still managed to snag a few impact players. Heatherington was an anchor on the blue line basically his whole four year career and a 2nd round NHL draft pick. Mackay played three full seasons with his hometown team and provided strong two-way play on a checking line that helped generate some very strong home records over his run. Bow turned out to be the first successfully drafted and homegrown goalie for the Broncos since Travis Yonkman in 2003. Zinkan and Bosc both spent a season in the league as depth guys. Gelinas ended up in Tri-City for a season as a depth player. Still this is the start of improvement in the later rounds finding guys who could play in the league.
|1||2||Brycen Martin||Defence||Calgary, AB|
|1||13||Zack Gonek||Defence||Sturgeon County, AB|
|2||24||Dakota Odgers||Forward||Spy Hill, SK|
|2||39||Cavin Leth||Forward||Taber, AB|
|3||46||Jordan Wittman||Forward||Stewart Valley, SK|
|5||104||Alec Dillon||Goalie||Victoria, BC|
|7||134||Chris Koukis||Forward||Redwood City, CA|
|7||137||Jake Debrusk||Forward||Edmonton, AB|
|8||156||Victor Dombrovskiy||Defence||Burnaby, BC|
|9||178||Cameron Hughes||Forward||Edmonton, AB|
|10||200||Riley Welsh||Forward||Oakbank, MB|
|10||213||Cole Bevan||Defence||Surrey, BC|
Here is an interesting draft. Perhaps the most bizarre first round in recent history. Of the top five picks only one (Jake Virtanen) spent his whole junior career with the team that drafted him. 12 of the top 22 players drafted were either traded or didn’t wind up playing significant time in the league. The Broncos started with Martin who was a consensus top three pick at the time and has had a good junior career. It’s fair to say he didn’t turn out to be a franchise guy here but his career certainly ranks ahead of the two players that followed him in the first round. Gonek was one of two first round picks over this scouting team’s run that either didn’t play in the league or hardly did so he didn’t work out. Odgers ended up traded but has been a reliable and gritty forward in the WHL. Leth was again a reliable and gritty forward who has proven he can move up in the lineup when needed and helped lead Seattle to a WHL final. Dillon was blocked by Laurikainen and Bow in Swift Current, but he has outplayed his draft position here as a NHL pick by LA who had good runs in the BCHL and USHL before running into injury trouble with the Oil Kings. DeBrusk is the home run of the draft and likely the biggest home run the Broncos have had in recent history as a 7th round pick who ended up being a 42 goal scorer, 1st round NHL draft pick and helped set the Broncos up for the future when they traded him. Dombrovskiy didn’t come here but is a good enough player he has an NCAA scholarship. Ditto for Cameron Hughes who even ended up being drafted by Boston. Bevan spent a season in the league and was a depth guy. Again the 10 and 11 drafts are showing improvement in finding some decent bets in later rounds which is tough to do. It’s maybe an uneven draft at the top but almost every player picked here amounted to something in their career. At one point or another seven of these players were full time members of a WHL roster, three have been NHL draft picks and two have earned NCAA scholarships.
|1||5||Glenn Gawdin||Forward||Richmond, BC|
|2||29||Travis Child||Goaltender||Killam, AB|
|3||51||Domenic Masellis||Defenceman||Burnaby, BC|
|3||54||Wyatt Sloboshan||Forward||Saskatoon, SK|
|4||73||Jackson Keane||Forward||Winnipeg, MB|
|5||95||Maxime Lajoie||Defenceman||Calgary, AB|
|7||139||Brandan Arnold||Forward||Dodsland, SK|
|9||183||Ryan Rothenburger||Forward||Radisson, SK|
|11||227||Kruz Listmayer||Defenceman||Winnipeg, MB|
Now we are getting into the incomplete territory of the recent drafts as we don’t yet have the full picture of what these guys are going to offer. Gawdin to me is a distinct success at 5th overall. He’s a top six forward and NHL draft pick with the chance to be one of the better players in the league as a 19-year-old. Child has proven he can be a capable goalie in the WHL. The jury is still out as to whether or not he’s a legit 45-50 game starter. Masellis showed interest in coming here early but ended up being a big defensive d-man in the BCHL instead. Sloboshan has proven he can be a top six WHL forward but in Saskatoon after being part of the Nathan Burns trade. Keane was a good Hail Mary type of pick in the 4th round and came to camp one year but ended up deciding on college hockey. Lajoie is another later round steal in line with guys like Lowry, Vause and DeBrusk. You can’t ever argue with getting a #1 d-man in the 5th round. Arnold is a gritty bottom six forward only a year into his WHL career. Rothenbuger and Listmayer are both Junior A guys who would have been depth players. Listmayer had a couple of decent runs at training camp though. No obvious misses in my mind here and a couple of big hits. Would be a dynamite draft if they had been able to get Sloboshan and Keane here. It’s still good as it is with five WHL players and likely two NHL draft picks.
|1||12||Tyler Steenbergen||Forward||Sylvan Lake, AB|
|2||34||Cole Johnson||Forward||Marwayne, AB|
|3||56||Matthew Parsons||Defence||Middle Lake, SK|
|5||93||Jacob Thomas||Defence||Edmonton, AB|
|5||100||Hunter Lorenson||Goaltender||Edmonton, AB|
|7||144||Owen Seidel||Forward||Seafair, BC|
|9||188||Dalton Angeltvedt||Defence||Provost, AB|
|10||210||Brandon Biro||Forward||Sherwood Park, AB|
|11||232||Ryan Sokoloski||Forward||Winnipeg, MB|
|12||248||Matthew Stanley||Defence||Balmoral, MB|
Now we are really getting into the incomplete stage. Steenbergen has shown he can be a top six forward after a tremendous second half this season that could even get him drafted. Johnson is the ultimate incomplete at this point after two season ending surgeries. I believed at the time he was a good pick and hopefully he is able to turn into one. Parsons didn’t make the league at 17 and was traded. Thomas had a good 17-year-old season in midget and the jury is out on him. Lorenson didn’t work out in Swift. Seidel made the team and was traded to Seattle after leading the BC Major Midget league in scoring at 16. That’s pretty good for the 7th round. Biro has had two very strong Junior A seasons and is committed to play NCAA. Sokoloski and Stanley are both signed with the Broncos but spent their 17-year-old seasons in Junior A so again the jury is still out. Once again though the Broncos are getting players in the late rounds that are pushing for roster spots which they hadn’t had lots of in the early drafts of this era.
|1||12||Dominic Schmiemann||Defence||James River Bridge, AB|
|5||91||Tyler Oakenfold||Right Wing||Calgary, AB|
|5||100||Tanner Mole||Left Wing||Winnipeg, MB|
|6||122||Ben Kellogg||Right Wing||Edmonton, AB|
|7||144||Kyle Dronyk||Defence||Edmonton, AB|
|7||153||Solomon Seibel||Defence||Kamloops, BC|
|8||166||Josh Baker||Centre||Edmonton, AB|
|9||188||Curt Doyle||Goaltender||Kamloops, BC|
|10||210||Noah King||Defenceman||Winnipeg, MB|
Like 2010 this was going to be a make the best of a bad situation type draft if it worked out. That year they had no 2nd or 3rd round pick but three in the 4th round. In 2014 they didn’t pick in the 2nd, 3rd or 4th. These guys were all 16 last year so all we can do is examine arrows at this point. Schmiemann appears to line-up well with 2010’s pick (Heatherington) in that he should be a fixture on the Broncos blue line for years to come. Mole and King were both big parts of the Manitoba Midget AAA champions (along with 2015 1st round pick Riley Stotts) this season. Mole moved to pivot and was a monster in the playoffs. King is a guy the Broncos expect to push for a spot on a stacked defensive group despite being a 10th round pick. Baker had a strong scoring season in midget last season and could perhaps be an option to fill a scoring role. Seibel played against older guys in a strong Junior B league in BC and could also make a push on D. There are some good arrows in this draft despite having so few top picks. It’s impossible to know how it will turn out.
|1||10||Riley Stotts||Centre||Winnipeg, MB|
|2||32||Owen Blocker||Centre||Dugald, MB|
|3||54||Ethan Martini||Defence||Trail BC|
|5||92||Josh Prokop||Forward||Edmonton AB|
|5||98||Jacob Bernard-Docker||Defence||Canmore AB|
|8||164||Maxwell Struss||Defence||Spruce Grove AB|
|9||186||Quinton Waitzner||Forward||Victoria BC|
|10||208||Matt Allardyce||Forward||Saskatoon SK|
|11||230||Ethan Regnier||Forward||Prince Albert SK|
|12||252||Dominic Turner||Forward||Calgary AB|
Again at this point we have nothing but arrows to look at a year after this draft. From all indications Stotts is a true talent who should probably make the team at 16. Some fans expect to see him in a featured role right away but that doesn’t happen for many 16-year-olds at this level. If he gets there it would likely be by earning promotion from the bottom six over time. He for sure appears to be a top flight young player. Blocker is a gritty forward who put up 10 points in 12 playoff games in Midget AAA and I thought had a very strong camp here last fall. Martini has developed well enough to earn a commitment from Trail to play in the BCHL at 16. There’s no concern yet about him going that direction it’s just a good place for him to play if he doesn’t make a stacked blue line here this season. Prokop was tied for 4th in league scoring among CSSHL Elite 15s last season. Bernard-Docker was a point per game defenceman in an injury shortened season. Struss made Midget AAA in Alberta as a 15-year-old. Waitzner was a point per game player in CSSHL varsity this season. Reginer made Midget AAA (in Swift Current) as a 15-year-old. Turner put up big offensive numbers in Minor Midget AAA with 46 points to finish 26th in league scoring. The numbers for this draft class are very promising. We have no idea at this point how it will turn out.
So we look back at ten years of drafting and your mileage may vary. Early on it seemed like the drafts were inconsistent. 2006 and 2008 produced some very good talent that played big roles here, but 2007 and 2009 came up mostly dry. From that point forward it seems to me the talent evaluation has continued to improve. 2010 produced a #1 defenceman, a #1 goalie and a checking line centre despite not having 2nd or 3rd round picks. 2011 had some misses but offered talent all throughout the draft along with a 7th round home run. 2012 produced a #1 centre, #1 defenceman and a possible #1 goalie along with a top six forward and bottom six forward to boot. 2013 has already produced a top six forward in Steenbergen and a few guys who have played parts of seasons in the league. Colby Sissons was a list player from that draft and is already a top four defenceman. It’s way too soon to judge that draft and especially anything from 2014, 2015 or 2016. That said the players in those drafts do seem to be showing some real potential.
There is no team in the league that is going to have more than a mixed bag in their drafting. Some have more hits than others of course. Lorne Frey is justifiably revered for his ability to find players and he’s had his share of misses too. From what I can see here there hasn’t been an unproductive draft in Swift Current since 2009 and it seems like as time has gone on they’ve done a better job finding potential in later rounds. Lamb took over as GM after the 2009 draft and I think they’ve generally had at least solid drafts that whole time. 5 out of their last 8 eligible 1st round bantam picks were drafted in the NHL and another of them has a chance this year.
Different fans will have their own take on the draft record. It’s easy to second guess decisions years later. I mean it’s simple to say you should take John Qunneville in the 1st round of 2011’s draft when no one nabbed him until the 3rd. There is always room for improvement. I do think this review should at least serve as a reasonable counter-point to anyone who says the Broncos have done a poor job drafting. It also indicates to me a scouting staff that has been more consistent over their tenure with the organization. They’re experienced and have spent over a decade figuring out what works and doesn’t work in seeking out the right players for this organization.
Eight playoff appearances in eleven years is a record more than a few organizations wish they could have had. At the same time the Broncos have only been out of the first round once over that span and haven’t been able to contend for a championship. Naturally under those circumstances there is room for improvement throughout the organization in every capacity. That’s no different than the great majority of teams. The good news is this appears to be a scouting staff that has shown improvement as they’ve gained experience. There is no reason to believe they can’t continue to do that with two first round picks at their disposal in both this year’s completed draft and next year.