2015 WHL Bantam Draft Preview: Defensemen
This is Ryan Nugent Hopkins (yes I know he is a forward). The Nuge is one of the few players that managed to live up to the hype. Not only was RNH an elite NHL prospect and eventual 1st overall selection, he also entered his major junior career under an immense spotlight. After dazzling scouts two years in a row at the Western Canada Bantam Championships, Nuge was taken first overall in the 2008 WHL Bantam Draft by the Rebels. The case of Nugent-Hopkins has historically tended to be the exception rather than the rule. The WHL bantam draft is extremely unpredictable and often top picks never see playing time with the team that chose them. Entering the 2015 draft, the Hurricanes once again have a top pick. What options will be available to GM Peter Anholt when he goes to make his selections?
We look first at defence…
Last week the WHL completed its 2015 bantam draft lottery. The Spokane Chiefs won and will pick first overall. The Hurricanes secured the second overall pick for the second year in a row. Last year the team used their first round selection to draft centre Jordy Bellerive of the North Shore Winter Club. Bellerive, like Nugent-Hopkins before him, led his club to a Western Canadian Bantam Championship, playing an integral role in the teams’ success. Bellerive is a very exciting prospect and signing the skilled pivot is likely top priority for GM Anholt as the 2015 draft looms.
Once again there are some sensational draft eligible talents available to be chosen by the Canes. More specifically, the 2015 draft looks to be filled with top-end blueliners. This is by no means an exhaustive list, and I personally have never seen any of these prospects play, but until the draft gets closer this is a start.
TY SMITH – LD – DELTA BC
A rangy defensemen playing for the Delta Hockey Academy in Delta, BC. Smith (LD, 5’11, 155 lb) has shown very well at a number of tournaments. Scouts were particularly impressed with his work at the John Reid Memorial Tournament in St. Albert this past January. Smith was a big part of his team winning the tournament. He was named “Best Defencemen” and “Tournament MVP”. Since I have never seen him play I can’t say much more than that. He is highly regarded for a reason.
If the Canes were to draft Smith it isn’t hard to envision him developing alongside the likes of Ethan King and Connor Rokosh. It is possible that he is still around with the second selection but also likely that Spokane will take him first overall.
JETT WOO – RD – WINNEPEG MB
A big right-handed defensemen out of Winnepeg. Jett (RD, 6’0, 190 lb) is known as an exciting, if not somewhat on the edge, player. While not as polished as Smith, Woo has a reputation for excitement. He is not being talked about in the same “sure fire” way as Smith (based on the reports I found), but is a rare find as a RD and a team will likely roll the dice on some of his rough edges. Based on the limited scouting reports I could find, I am not positive Woo would be an exact fit for the Canes’ defensive core but I would be thrilled to have him in Lethbridge all the same. By all accounts he comes from great roots and has good character. He is also billed as a great skater, always something to look for in top flight defensive prospects.
For more info on Woo, check out this great article by Scott Taylor of Game on Magazine.
CALEN ADDISON – RD – BRANDON MB
Another fantastic prospect based out of Manitoba. Addison (RD, 5’9, 162 lb) plays for the Brandon Wheat Kings of AAA WPG. Addison has shown great offensive ability. In 13-14, he posted 56 pts in 27 games. He has also received praise for his ability to control the pace of a game over sixty minutes. Addison has the potential of an elite power-play quarterback. This past season (14-15), Addison recorded 20 power play goals. Twenty goals. Let that sink in. This guy is for real in the offensive zone. His final stat line for the season stood at 76 pts (45, 31) in 31 games.
If Anholt feels the need to bolster his D-core for the future there are a number of fantastic options available. Two of these three players will be left off the board after Spokane’s first pick (possibly all three if the Chiefs choose one of the forwards). I don’t have much to add to the conversation because I haven’t seen any of these players in-person. That being said, I think we can speculate on possible scenarios.
The direction Anholt goes may be dictated by the end result of his quest to secure Bellerive. IF (and it is a big if following the Pilon, Duke, Erkamps, Yak, Sam Mac, disaster) Anholt can get commitment from Bellerive, he may feel
relieved confident about his centre depth chart (Jaeger White, Tyler Wong, Zane Franklin), allowing him to select a high profile defensemen knowing there is great potential up the middle. This would be plan A in my books. If he can’t get Bellerive signed (God help us all (please Jordy)), Anholt has to think about drafting the best centre available and hope he can lock him up.
Regardless of your stance on the Hurricanes and the (extremely public) division about ownership, I think we can all agree it would be a massive win for the franchise and hockey fans in the city to have Bellerive sign. Anholt has some big decisions to make this spring. It is a very interesting time to be a hockey fan in Lethbridge.