(Courtesy Marc Smith) Heading into the 2017 WHL Bantam Draft, the Moose Jaw Warriors were keeping their options open and they’re happy with how the draft day played out on Thursday.
In total, the Warriors selected nine players, led by first round pick Daemon Hunt, who they snapped up with the 15th overall pick.
“I thought Doug Gasper and his team did a real good job,” said Warriors General Manager Alan Millar after wrapping up the draft. “They trusted the process, they trusted their list, and they did lots of homework, talked to lots of coaches, interviewed lots of players, so really pleased with watching them with Doug’s leadership facilitating the process here today.
“Things fell in our favour in some areas, we’re really excited about our top-two picks, we had both players ranked very high and Daemon Hunt with his upside, size, offensive ability, complete game and compete level was a great way to start the day.”
Hunt played with the Brandon Bantam AAA Wheat Kings last season and posted 22 goals and 60 points in 36 games.
Millar said they’re very excited to add another defenceman from Manitoba.
“We continue to build from the back-end and Manitoba has been good to us, you look at Josh Brook, Jett Woo and beyond,” he said.
“Daemon Hunt was a guy that we liked all year, we know him real well, he’s going to play with our Manitoba scout Tyson Ramsay with the Brandon Midgets this year and lots of upside, grit, complete game, we project him at 18-19 to be a top pair defenceman.”
The Warriors followed up the pick of Hunt by taking right winger Peyton McKenzie out of Sherwood Park, AB. He had 16 goals and 34 points in 30 games with OHA Edmonton last season.
Moose Jaw ended up taking five forwards, three defencemen and one goaltender over the course of ten rounds.
“Today’s about putting as much talent on your list as you can, its part of the process of building your team,” said Millar. “It’s not like the NFL Draft where you’re drafting immediate needs and guys are going right into your lineup, it’s about speed, skill, hockey IQ, compete and we wanted to add as much talent to our 50-man list as we can.”
Souris, MB product Cory King in the fifth round, 98th overall, and Carey Levesque out of Carnduff in the ninth round, 191st overall, were the other two defencemen selected by the Warriors.
King posted 15 goals and 49 points in 35 games with Southwest in the Winnipeg Bantam AAA Hockey League. Levesque put up eight goals and 15 points in 29 games with the Estevan Bruins in the Saskatchewan Bantam AA Hockey League.
All of the forwards selected by the Warriors had double digit goals and averaged over a point per game this past season.
Levi Thiessen was selected 90th overall in the fifth round. He posted 27 goals and 61 points in 30 games with the Winnipeg Hawks last season.
Calder Anderson, who was Hunt’s teammate in Brandon, was taken in the seventh round, 134th overall. He had 26 goals and 79 points in 35 games with the Bantam AAA Wheat Kings.
Eatonia, Sask product Cade Hayes went to the Warriors with the 169th pick in the eighth round and posted 26 goals and 61 points in 29 games with West Central in the Saskatchewan Bantam AA Hockey League last season.
The Warriors’ final pick, 213th overall, was Brendan Kerr from Victoria. He registered 50 goals and 108 points in 41 games with the Victoria RC Kings.
In the sixth round, the Warriors selected goaltender Jackson Berry out of Chestermere, AB with the 124th pick. He posted an 11-6-3 record with a 2.07 goals against average and a 0.921 save percentage this past season with Rocky Mountain.
The Warriors have focused on building a chain of succession in net, starting with drafting Zach Sawchenko in 2012, and Millar feels that Berry will work into that nicely, along with last year’s pick Ethan Fitzgerald.
“Berry was a kid that we liked, he wasn’t at the Alberta Cup, we felt from a talent perspective that he could have been there, maybe got lost in the shuffle because he wasn’t there and a guy that we liked and were able to get a little later in the draft,” said Millar.
“We like Fitzgerald, we like (Carl) Tetachuk, a kid that we’ve listed, so that gives us three goalies in the ‘01 and ‘02 age groups and we’ll get them to prospects camp and training camp and see who performs and fits into the system.”
The Warriors made two trades on draft day, first sending their third fifth round pick to the Vancouver Giants in exchange for sixth round and seventh round picks.
“We thought our draft list wasn’t really moving around very much at that stage of the draft, so it was an opportunity to move back and add an extra pick, so it seemed to work out well for us with the way it played out after the seventh round,” said Millar.
The second deal saw the Warriors receive a 2018 sixth round pick from Victoria for 19-year-old import forward Yan Khomenko, who was acquired as part of the Nikita Popugaev deal with Prince George last season.
“Yan did a great job for us, he’s a good kid, we just felt that with our depth up front and his age that we could get him an opportunity to play in the league next season,” said Millar. “We’re going to be picking late in the (2017 CHL) Import Draft and we wanted to open up that spot and concentrate on potentially adding an 18 or 19-year-old defenceman.”
Khomenko had five goals and 11 points in 32 games with the Warriors last season.
The next step for the Warriors and their newest prospects will be the team’s 2017 Prospects Camp, which is scheduled for the first week of June at the Barkman Arena in Caronport.