Warriors’ top-three picks excited following Thursday’s draft

Moose Jaw, SK — The Moose Jaw Warriors had an exciting start to the Western Hockey League’s 2023 Prospects Draft on Thursday.

The team selected two defenceman and a local forward with their first three picks in the draft, adding defenceman Aaron Sawatzky in the first round, Will Degagne in the second and Moose Jaw’s Carson Deichert in the third round.

Deichert said it was a dream come true to be selected by his hometown team.

“I couldn’t even believe it, I was just so excited,” Deichert said on Thursday at the Moose Jaw Events Centre.

“I was really hoping Moose Jaw was going to pick me.”

Deichert made his first appearance at the Hangar since being added to the Warriors’ organization when he met Head coach Mark O’Leary and General manager Jason Ripplinger on Thursday.

“It means a lot to me to stay in Moose Jaw and it’s just an amazing feeling,” he said.

With the 16th overall pick in the first round, the Warriors went with a defenceman for the third straight year, following Connor Schmidt in 2022 and Marek Howell in 2021.

Sawatzky said he’s looking forward to being a part of the long list of defencemen that have played for the Warriors.

“I’m very excited to joining them,” he said. “I’ve played with Connor Schmidt a few times and I’m really excited.”

Sawatzky was one of the top two-way defenceman in Thursday’s draft. He posted 10 goals and 38 points in 33 games this season with the Airdrie Xtreme U15 AAA team in the Alberta Elite Hockey League.

The five-foot-11 defenceman said he gained more confidence offensively this past season.

“I’m a two-way defenceman, solid all over the ice, I move pucks up fast, quick transitions and solid defensively,” he said.

Sawatzky helped Airdrie to the AEHL U15 championship with a goal and eight points in nine playoff games.

He also won the league’s top defenceman award and was named a first-team all-star.

“We had a great year, winning provincials and getting a medal in every tournament we played and as an individual, I thought I developed really well as well,” Sawatzky said.

The Warriors took Degagne with the 38th overall pick in the second round, although the team had him projected as a first round defenceman.

The Saskatoon product said he was excited to hear his name called.

“Pure enjoyment, that’s for sure, definitely a dream come true,” he said.

In 30 games with the Saskatoon Generals U15 AA team, Degagne finished with 13 goals and 35 points during the 2022-23 season in the Saskatchewan AA Hockey League.

“I like to be an offensive defenceman,” Degagne said. “I like to make plays in my own zone, I transition the pucks up quick, I’m a nice, fast, agile player,” he said.

Degagne said he feels he’s improved the most through his hockey IQ over the past season.

“I’ve definitely just grown as a smarter player,” he said. “I just want to keep progressing.”

Deichert drew the Warriors’ eye after posting 21 goals and 58 points in 28 games with the Moose Jaw Warriors U15 AA team.

He also had the chance to play up an age group, registering a goal and four points in four games with the Warriors U18 AA team.

The five-foot-nine forward sees himself as a playmaker.

“Bringing forechecking, backchecking, I play hard no matter what kind of situation we’re in,” he said. “Just go out to work hard no matter what, just bringing it all out for the team.”

Deichert said he can’t wait to step foot on the ice as a Warrior.

“It’s going to be amazing if I can,” he said. “It’s always been something that I’ve been dreaming of since I was younger and it’ll be amazing to play in the WHL with Moose Jaw.”

The Warriors made 10 selections in total during Thursday’s WHL Prospects Draft. Click here for more.

All the drafted players are expected to make an appearance at the team’s training camp in late August.

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