Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Wheat Kings Prep for Bantam Draft

It's likely the biggest day of the off-season for Western Hockey League teams.

The annual bantam draft takes place Thursday in Calgary, with the Brandon Wheat Kings holding the 12th overall selection.

Drafting 15-year old players isn't an exact science but the Wheat Kings have, traditionally, had a lot of success in building their team with the draft.

"It's watching the players, evaluating the players, monitoring their improvement because a big part of this process," said Brandon general manager Kelly McCrimmon on Tuesday, "It's not just about how identifying how good a player played on a given night, the art of it is trying to figure out how a player is going to progress from that point on."

Brandon does not have a second round pick, having dealt it to Saskatoon as part of the Darian Dziurzynski deal in October, but at least one pick in every other round and six picks in rounds 4-6 (two in the fourth, one in the fifth, three in the sixth).

"You have to count on doing a good job with your high picks and the teams that then are able to still find players in later rounds I think are teams that are able to acquire depth in an age group," said McCrimmon, "Those are the teams that have a lot more flexibility as those players get a little bit older."

Ryan Pulock (7th Round, 2009), Mark Stone, (5th Round, 2007) and Brenden Walker (12th Round, 2007) are some recent examples of players selected in the middle to late rounds of the Bantam Draft that have gone on to become star WHL players and McCrimmon adds that finding players that weren't drafted at all that they list are also important.

"Your work isn't done when the Bantam Draft is over," said McCrimmon, "You have to continue to follow players."

This is Year 23 year of the bantam draft and McCrimmon says there's been two major changes since the first one in 1990.

"There are far fewer secrets...you could find players that other teams weren't aware of, if you go back 10-15 years," said McCrimmon, "The other thing is just the awareness level of the players. They know so much more now in terms of what the Bantam Draft is, the Western Hockey League, our education package and everything that goes along with playing in the league."

While the Bantam Draft takes place Thursday, the WHL doles out its 2011-2012 awards on Wednesday during a luncheon in Calgary.

Brandon Wheat Kings' captain Mark Stone is one of the finalists for the Brad Hornung Trophy as the league's Most Sportsmanlike Player.

Everett Silvertips' defenceman Ryan Murray is the Western Conference nominee.

The last Wheat King to win the Most Sportsmanlike Player award was Cory Cyrenne in 1997-1998.

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