A day after winning the title of “Smartest WHL Club” with their 2016-2017 WHL Scholastic Team of the Year award, the Victoria Royals were hoping for some genius picks of their own at the WHL Bantam Draft. Only time will tell how many of these draft picks will turn into quality junior players, but for these players picked, it was a positive step in the direction of becoming a professional hockey player. Of course, if you were not picked in the WHL Bantam Draft, it doesn’t necessarily mean your career is dead. Players like Jamie Benn (Kelowna) and Jarome Iginla (Kamloops) were not drafted and they have done just fine.
Without further ado, let’s go over how the Royals did in the 2017 WHL Bantam Draft.
The Royals did not have a 1st round pick, having traded it back in 2015 in a trade that saw them acquire forward Alex Forsberg from the Saskatoon Blades. The trade turned out to be Forsberg (who had 116 points in 101 games as a Royal), a 2015 3rd round pick (Goaltender Dean McNabb, who has played 2 minutes of WHL action in his career so far) and a 2016 4th round pick (Forward Tarun Fizer, who is a promising rookie option for 2017-2018) for a 2017 1st round pick (10th overall, Forward Kyle Crnkovic) and the rights to Brayden Dunn (who at 19 is yet to play in the WHL).
It’s doubtful that the Royals GM, Cameron Hope, regrets making that trade two years ago, as Forsberg was an excellent player for Victoria in his season and a half, and the draft is somewhat of a crapshoot.
32nd Overall – LW DALLON MELIN – Camrose Red Wings Bantam AAA (AMBHL)
6’2 – 177lbs – Camrose, AB
2016-2017 Stats: 36GP – 23G – 39A – 62PTS
Royals Player Comparison: Ryan Peckford (31st Overall in 2014)
A big power forward, Melin should continue to grow as he plays at least one more season in Alberta before making the jump to Victoria in either 2018-2019 or 2019-2020. As a 15-year-old, he’ll most likely be playing for the Camrose Red Wings Minor Midget AAA team, a club he played with briefly this past season with some success. He compares with Ryan Peckford as a draftee, as both played in the Alberta Major Bantam Hockey League with similar numbers. Peckford is currently ranked in the top 100 for the 2017 NHL Draft, so the Royals should be very happy if Melin follows that path as well.
52nd Overall – D KADEN REINDERS – Grand Prairie Storm Bantam AAA (AMBHL)
5’11 – 170lbs – Grand Prairie, AB
2016-2017 Stats: 33GP – 4G – 15A – 19PTS
Royals Draft Pick Comparison: Mitchell Prowse (35th Overall in 2015)
Billed as more of an offensive, powerful skater, Reinders offensive improvement from 2015-2016 to 2016-2017 is promising, but his 16-year-old year and the step up from Bantam to Minor Midget will be extremely important in how the Royals view him as a prospect. There is definitely potential though, or the Royals wouldn’t have used a third round pick on him. He could project into a smaller Mitchell Prowse type, but Prowse’s best season was the one after his draft year, so the pressure is on Kaden.
54th Overall – C TY THORPE – Rink Hockey Academy Bantam Prep (CSSBHL)
5’11 – 149lbs – Winnipeg, MB
2016-2017 Stats: 30GP – 13G – 29A – 42PTS
Royals Draft Pick Comparison: Brayden Dunn (76th Overall in 2013)
A potential two-way, playmaking center with some young leadership abilities, Thorpe doesn’t have the kind of offensive numbers you might hope for, but if he can bulk up, perhaps he could turn into a solid shutdown center at the WHL level. It’s not a promising comparison, as Dunn fizzled once he hit Minor Midget and could never crack a lineup in this league, but Thorpe can exceed those expectations if he doesn’t miss a stride when he makes the jump past Bantam.
69th Overall – F ALEX BOLSHAKOV – Seattle Sno-King U-14 T-Birds (PCBHL)
6’0 – 175lbs – Seattle, WA
2016-2017 Stats: 49GP – 36G – 16A – 52PTS
Royals Draft Pick Comparison: Chris Wilkie (67th Overall in 2011)
Not much is known about Bolshakov, as the Seattle native does not have an Elite Prospects page and it took a bit of digging to nail down some concrete numbers. The Royals seem to think he has all the tools to be a power forward in the WHL and by all accounts looked dominant in his league this past season. His comparison, Chris Wilkie, was drafted around the same spot 6 years ago and ended up as an NHL draft pick in 2015 (Florida, 6th Round). Wilkie chose to take the NCAA route instead and it seems to be working out for him, so we will have to wait and see if Bolshakov follows that path as well.
93rd Overall – C TY YODER – Camrose Red Wings Bantam AAA (AMBHL)
5’9 – 170lbs – Camrose, AB
2016-2017 Stats: 28GP – 31G – 35A – 66PTS
Royals Draft Pick Comparison: Matthew Campese (49th Overall in 2012)
The second forward taken from the Camrose Red Wings, Yoder played center to Dallon Melin’s left wing, and they were both productive together so this could be a smart pickup by Cameron Hope in the 5th round. He was voted by his teammates as Camrose’s best forward, so is the only reason that he fell so far versus Melin was his size? The comparison, in this case, is forward Matthew Campese, who put up similar offensive numbers and was a similar size in his draft year (although Campese played Bantam AA, not AAA). The hope is that Yoder has a stronger WHL career, as Campese only has 21 points in 130 games over five seasons, with only 15 games played in Victoria.
118th Overall – D NOAH LAMB – Camrose Red Wings Bantam AAA (AMBHL)
5’7 – 161lbs – Camrose, AB
2016-2017 Stats: 31GP – 5G – 27A – 32PTS
Royals Draft Pick Comparison: Damian Gorecki (149th Overall in 2014)
The third and final player that the Victoria Royals selected from the Camrose Red Wings number 1 Power Play unit, Noah Lamb is described as a two-way defenseman and has offensive tendencies. Having three prospects in the system who will play at least two seasons together (they probably grew up playing together as smaller children though) could pay great dividends later on if they can make the Royals. The comparison is Damian Gorecki, a smaller offensive defenseman who put up solid numbers, but again played in Bantam AA and not AAA. He never made the Royals and is now looking to play College hockey somewhere after graduating High School.
142nd Overall – D MICHAEL BENNING – St. Albert Sabres Bantam AAA (AMBHL)
5’7 – 154lbs – St. Albert, AB
2016-2017 Stats: 36GP – 10G – 33A – 43PTS
Royals Draft Pick Comparison: Matt Hellickson (98th Overall in 2013)
Michael Benning is the brother of Edmonton Oilers defenseman Matt Benning, the son of former NHLer Brian Benning, and the nephew of former NHLer and current Vancouver Canucks GM Jim Benning. The Bennings have had wonderful hockey careers, which could be excellent news for the Victoria Royals. The older Bennings both played in the Western Hockey League with great success, but the fact that the youngest Benning dropped all the way to the 7th round may have to do with what his brother did: college hockey. It’s very likely that this Benning may never play a game and follow in his brother’s footsteps, because Matt had success going that route. If not, the Royals will get a steal in the 7th Round. It was hard to find a similar player that the Royals drafted, but somebody like Matt Hellickson, who was highly touted but went the College way.
164th Overall – D DYLAN HEWLETT – Port Moody Panthers Bantam A1 (PCAHA)
5’10 – 175lbs – Port Moody, BC
2016-2017 Stats: Not Available
Royals Draft Pick Comparison: Keegan Randell (171st Overall in 2014)
Not much is known about Dylan Hewlett, but the Royals call him a physical defender who moves the puck well. More will be known after he plays this next season with the Port Moody Panthers, but Victoria seems to like this guy so who knows.
For the second year in a row, the Royals take an American defenseman in the later rounds. Not much is known about Mark Gordon either, but he can play either forward or defense, and had a good showing at the North American Hockey League Future Prospects 2017 Tournament. Like Mitchell Becker, there is a good chance that Royals fans will never see Mark Gordon in a Victoria jersey. That American college pull is too strong.
202nd Overall – C/RW CARTER LONEY – Rink Hockey Academy Bantam Prep (CSSBHL)
5’7 – 126lbs – Winnipeg, MB
2016-2017 Stats: 30GP – 12G – 17A – 29PTS
Royals Draft Pick Comparison: Dawson Frank (160th Overall in 2014)
It’s hard to overlook the 126 pounds, however there is a good chance of a growth spurt in his future. Loney may make the WHL one day, but it could take him a little longer than other players taken before him in the draft. Loney was described as a smart, playmaking center, but it’s safe to say that the upcoing 2017-2018 season is going to be very important for Carter Loney’s career as a hockey player. Could turn into a player for the Royals because small players can succeed in the league (like Matthew Phillips) but it would take a special skill set for that to happen.
230th Overall – F NATHAN MORGAN – Calgary Royals Bantam AAA (AMBHL)
5’8 – 165lbs – Calgary, AB
2016-2017 Stats: 36GP – 23G – 22A – 45PTS
Royals Draft Pick Comparison: Lach Hadley (188th Overall in 2015)
Nathan Morgan led the Royals in points this past season, but there must have been a reason why he fell all the way down to the 11th round. The Royals describe him as a “hard-working forward who plays an all-around game” so maybe that explains it. Like most of the forwards taken at the age of 15, if he can hit a growth spurt, perhaps he can turn into the next Carter Folk, or another quality bottom 6 forward in the WHL. I don’t know what that would mean for his professional hockey career, but Morgan is still young, right?
252nd Overall – D ANDREW RAMSEY – Arizona Bobcats 14U AAA (USHL U-15)
5’11 – 179lbs – Scottsdale, AZ
2016-2017 Stats: Not Available
Royals Draft Pick Comparison: None
Another Arizona Bobcat and the 6th last pick in the draft, this was a no-risk pick by Royals GM Cameron Hope. It’s likely that Ramsey will never make the jump to Canada and play in the WHL, but if he is convinced to, he may be the most successful 12th round pick in Victoria Royals history. Like every defenseman that they picked in this draft, Ramsey sounds like a gifted offensive defenseman who can move the puck.
The Royals loaded up with 12 players over 12 rounds, and there are some promising picks in the bunch, especially if a few of them can be convinced to come play in Victoria over the College hockey route.