2020 WHL Bantam Draft Thoughts: Winners


With the dust settled, let's take a look at some of the WHL teams we believe had very successful drafts. While we believe many other teams had strong drafts, these are some of the teams and selections that really stood out to our group. Rest assured, if your team wasn't mentioned, that does not mean they had a poor draft by any account.

Prince George Cougars

The Cougars find themselves winners not only because of the number of picks they possessed but the players they selected. Three first-round picks afforded the Cougars the ability to select three different types of players that all project favourably when it comes to the WHL. Adding the elite offensive winger in Riley Heidt who brings exceptional skating, speed, skill, and intelligence bolsters a future first-line featuring Heidt and last year's fourth overall pick, Koehn Ziemmer. To complement these two sublimely talented youngsters, the Cougars opted for a strong, intelligent, two-way forward in Caden Brown, who captained the powerhouse Delta Green Bantam Prep team this past season. Rounding out their forward group in the first round was the selection of a relentlessly physical and offensively talented winger in Ryker Singer. These three selections bring a complement of assets to the Cougars forward corps in future years, which may allow them to be one of the more versatile and dynamic teams in the league. At 26th overall, the Cougars added one of the more complete defensemen in the draft in Bauer Dumanski. Dumanski projects to be a solid two-way contributor on the backend while bringing some much-needed physicality for the tougher games down the stretch. With their next pick, the Cougars opted to take another complementary player to their current crop of prospects in puck-moving defenceman Rylan Brown. One area of need for the organization was addressed in the 6th round, where the Cougars selected goaltender Liam Hallett. Hallett performed admirably down the stretch this season, winning big games for his West Vancouver Warriors squad and has the upside to easily develop into one of the best goaltenders in this draft class. For these reasons, and more, the Cougars turned their draft currency into an excellent draft class that should make them a very competitive team in a few years.

Seattle Thunderbirds

The T-birds were able to land one of the most prolific offensive weapons this year in Sam Oremba. The exceptionally talented skater and scoring machine that would have likely been a top-4 or -5 pick in many other drafts, but was overshadowed by a plethora of top-end talent this year. Oremba posted the highest point total (133 points) of any player in the SBAAHL in the last 18 years, surpassing Logan Barlage's mark of 125. Complementing the Oremba pick, the Thunderbirds followed up with the selection of prolific goal-scorer Brayden Dube. Dube posted a line of 74G - 56A - 130P in 36 games played. Last year's second overall selection, Connor Geekie, managed 49 goals and 37 assists in 31 games played (almost a full point-per-game less than Dube's mark). While both are very different players, it is an exceptional stat line that hopefully projects to a level of success worthy of a first-round pick. Capping off a tremendous first three picks, the Thunderbirds selected arguably the most athletic and competitive goaltenders of the bunch in Scott Ratzlaff. Like all goaltenders selected at this age, Ratzlaff will require grooming and learn to conserve his energy at times, but this hyper-competitive and aggressive goaltender showed tremendous improvement over the course of the season and oozes potential.

Spokane Chiefs

The Chiefs were missing their third-round selection this year but were able to get a tremendous amount of value in their first four picks. Saige Weinstein, selected 18th overall, projects to be another smooth-skating, two-way defenceman that the Chiefs seem to always have a plethora of. Saige brings a strong and balanced game to the defence corps with an explosive and difficult to contain transition game. In the second round, the Chiefs selected a teammate of Weinstein's in Kooper Gizowski. Kooper brings a ton of offence to the fold and loves to play physical and get in on the forecheck. Capable of creating on his own off the rush or on the cycle, Kooper has a more physically mature and demanding style of play that makes him difficult to play against. Another strong and physical forward, Jake Gudelj was selected in the fourth round. Gudelj brings a straight-line power forward mentality to his team as he uses his strength, balance, and straight-line speed to make the lives of opposing defenders miserable. A high-compete winger with limited offensive upside but a safe floor as he is already physically capable of stepping into the league. Lastly, Spokane was fortunate enough to land Tyler Chan at 100th overall, one of the best value picks in this draft. The undersized forward brings a well-rounded game and an underrated offensive upside to the table. A creative, speedy, and shifty forward that is relentless on the puck and shows no fear in battling those much bigger and stronger than him. As he grows, expect him to be a later bloomer than some of his peers and prove to outperform many of his peers selected before him.

Kamloops Blazers

The Blazers have done a fantastic job of retooling on the fly while acquiring valuable draft capital over the last two seasons. After what appears to be a strong 2019 draft class, the Blazers were handed a couple of gifts at this year's draft and extracted a ton of value from their selections. At 19 and 27, the Blazers were able to acquire two exceptionally talented players out of the West Vancouver Academy, Kaden Hammell and Grayden Slipec. Both players could be found in many evaluators' top-15 rankings, but their draft stock may have been hit due to issues stemming from the West Vancouver Academy. The Blazers staff compared Kaden Hammell to a Shea Theodore type of player, a versatile defenceman that can excel in a variety of situations while being a physical, mobile play driver, and sometimes a riverboat gambler, on the backend. Hammell already boasts a 6' frame and has an exceptional upside that could make him a number one defenceman down the road. Grayden Slipec shockingly fell out of the first round and was a no-brainer decision for the Kamloops brass. Slipec is one of the most difficult players to contain in this draft class as he can beat you in a variety of ways. Slipec has one of the most accurate shots in the draft, complemented by exceptional vision, creativity, puck skills, and elite hockey sense in all situations. The Blazers continued to stockpile under-valued skill guys in their subsequent picks, landing a relentless and skilled undersized forward in Luke Korte who plays a complete game with a motor that few can keep up with, and a well-rounded two-way defenceman, Ryan Michael, who played in the shadow of Tanner Molendyk most of the season. The Blazers then took a flyer on the only NCAA-committed player in this year's draft, Kai Matthew in the 5th round. Kai is a mature physical specimen and already plays a pro-style game, which would have made him a certain first-round pick should he have committed to the WHL route. The Blazers not only added to already stocked cupboards with some signings but should they convince either last year's first-round pick Connor Levis or Kai Matthew to commit to the WHL, the team appears to be on its way to becoming a powerhouse once again.

Kelowna Rockets

In a disappointing season that resulted in the cancellation of the Memorial Cup tournament, the host Kelowna Rockets' management did a tremendous job of preserving their first- and second-round picks, not giving them up for short-term help. In Lorne Frey's last draft as Assistant General Manager and Director of Player Personnel, the Rockets took a big swing on the highly skilled forward from St. George's Academy, Andrew Cristall. Cristall led a middling team in scoring with 80 points in 27 games played. What made this number all the more impressive, was the fact that the team's second-leading scorer, Arjun Bawa, played 3 more games but had 39(!) fewer points. Cristall brings an absolutely elite skillset to the table with his puck skills, vision, and hockey IQ, once he adds strength and improves his skating, he could be one of the best players to come out of this stacked draft class. The Rockets then used their second-round pick on excellent offensive defenceman, Caden Price. Price brings stellar mobility and offensive production to the Rockets, after posting 55 points in 31 games for the Saskatoon Generals Bantam AA squad. Given time to develop his two-way game, Price will be a capable and versatile defenceman in the WHL with excellent offensive upside. Using the third-round pick the Rockets acquired from Spokane in the Leif Mattson trade, the team selected another exceptional skater in Marcus Pacheco. Pacheco was one of the fastest skaters in this year's draft class and spent the season refining his two-way game for OHA Edmonton Bantam Prep as he logged heavy minutes in all situations. The centerman plays a simple north-south game with an accurate shot and strong offensive skills. As Pacheco's two-way game becomes a habit, he will be able to focus on diversifying his offensive arsenal to become a more potent attacker both on the rush and on the powerplay as he matures in the WHL.

Moose Jaw Warriors

Despite only having three selections in the top 125, the Warriors managed to knock their first three picks out of the park while strengthening their prospect pool down the middle. Brayden Yager fell into the Warriors' lap after Prince George opted to take a more sure commitment in Riley Heidt. Brayden Yager, one of two forwards to play Midget AAA for the Saskatoon Contacts this season and one of three players to apply for exceptional status, is a complete two-way center with elite speed and hockey sense that leads most to believe he has a very high floor and will surely be a true number one center, built to play in the WHL. In the second round, the Warriors selected another player close to home in Ben Riche of the Balgonie Prairie Storm Bantam AA squad. Riche is another strong centerman with great speed and character.  Riche drove play for his squad using his speed, strength, balance, and poise with the puck all while being one of the most consistent 200-foot players in this year's draft class. The Warriors then addressed goaltending, selecting uber-athletic and talented goaltender in Jackson Unger from the Calgary Bisons. Unger brings more tools than most goaltenders his age and should be able to easily develop into the future backbone of a strong Warriors team.

Next week, we will feature some of the top prospects in next year's draft class and where you can follow their development this upcoming season.

2020 WHL Bantam Draft Thoughts: Value Picks


Part Two of our WHL Draft analysis includes some of our evaluator's favourite picks in the draft and provide reasons they might go on to better WHL careers than peers selected ahead of them.  While these are but a few selections that could pay huge dividends, this is a testament to how deep a draft class this year's crop of kids were.  Here are just some of our favourite picks:

You can click on the player's name to be directed to their profile page.

Brayden Abbott (Manitoba Scout)

Joey Lies - Center (133rd Overall, Round 7, Swift Current Broncos)

  • Size, he is enormous
  • Elite shot
  • Power forward
  • Good speed and power but skating requires improvement for next level
  • Good two-way game
  • Fantastic potential just needs to do the necessary work on his development

Phil Dietz (Oregon Scout)

Matteo Fabrizi - Defenceman (31st Overall, Round 2, Red Deer Rebels)

  • Built like a man (6'3" and 220lbs!)
  • Heavy shot
  • Physical and heavy on the walls and at the net-front
  • Good skating and mobility for size
  • Good puck skills
  • Tough to play against
  • Potential diamond in the rough and a great fit with Red Deer

Adam Goodwin (Alberta Scout)

Thomas Matte – Forward (200th Overall, Round 10, Moose Jaw Warriors)

  • Huge frame, physically gifted at 6’3, 190 lbs.
  • Great hands
  • Good skating needs improvement though
  • Shows flashes of high-end skill
  • Very natural ability to play the game at both ends can score and distribute
  • Compete level is inconsistent, needs to use his size and physicality more frequently
  • Could be a case of learning how to use his body to his advantage

Matthew Paszkiewicz – Forward (173rd Overall, Round 8, Everett Silvertips)

  • Creative and skilled offensively
  • Great shifty skater, knows how to maneuver through traffic
  • Fantastic hands, chance creator
  • Undersized at the moment, only 5’5 and 130 lbs.

Benjamin Stokes – Forward (101st Overall, Round 5, Tri-City Americans)

  • Pure shooter/goal scorer (34 goals in 32 game)
  • Fantastic skater with the puck uses his edges well
  • Positions himself well to shoot
  • WICKED RELEASE on his shot
  • Trigger man on the PP
  • Attitude might be a problem, had some poor body language and shaking his head at teammates when he didn’t get the puck in certain situations
  • Pure offensive player, not much engagement in own zone

Aiden Oiring – Forward (58th Overall, Round 3, Winnipeg ICE)

  • Dynamic offensive player, unreal hands
  • Elite speed, edgework, and agility
  • Can score from any angle
  • Creates a ton of chances for linemates, fantastic vision
  • Leading scorer in AMBHL (28 goals, 45 assists – 73 points in 32 games)
  • Wins a ton of faceoffs
  • Doesn’t shy away from contact and goes to the dirty areas
  • Plays in all situations
  • Was the captain
  • Not sure if you would consider Round 3 a true steal but in my opinion this kid’s only weakness right now is his size (5’4, 130 lbs.)
  • If he was bigger I think he would’ve been a first-rounder easily

Logan Dochuk – Defenseman (115th Overall, Round 6, Kelowna Rockets)

  • Incredibly smooth-skating, two-way defenseman
  • Natural, effortless stride
  • Skating allows him to recover from mistakes
  • Moves the puck up the ice by both his skating and passing ability 
  • Good size at 6’0", but needs to fill out a bit
  • Blocks shots, great defensive awareness
  • To me, just seems like a solid, reliable top 4 defenseman at the next level
  • Going to Kelowna is a good fit with how they develop countless top-level d-men

Brent Hoshowski – Forward (188th Overall, Round 9, Victoria Royals)

  • Well-rounded offensive player (18 g, 17 a, 35 points in 31 games)
  • Can score and make plays
  • Likes to be physical, likes to mix it up with opponents (96 PIMs)
  • Goes to the dirty areas, goes to net to score
  • Willing to battle for space and possession
  • Doesn’t wow you with anything but just solid all-around, reliable player
  • Could easily be a top 9 forward at the next level who can play in all situations 

Zach Moffat (Director of Scouting)

Kai Matthew - Winger (107th Overall, Round 5, Kamloops Blazers)

  • Mature playstyle ready-made for the WHL
  • Strong, balanced winger
  • Great skating (speed and explosiveness)
  • Strong off the rush or in the cycle
  • High-end puck skills
  • Good finish
  • Fell solely due to being the only player in the Draft with an NCAA commitment, otherwise, he is easily a first-round talent

Tyler Chan - Center (100th Overall, Round 5, Spokane Chiefs)

  • Great skater
  • Good motor
  • Great hockey IQ
  • Very-good playmaker (vision, controls play from half-wall)
  • Strong two-way game and excellent in battles
  • Size and lack of prolific scoring numbers contributed to his availability in the fifth round

Rhett Ravndahl - Defenceman (83rd Overall, Round 4, Portland Winterhawks)

  • Excellent hockey IQ
  • Strong defender
  • Good mobility, size, and range
  • Strong down low, on walls, and box-outs in front
  • Heavy point shot
  • Not a world-beater offensively, but the potential to be a strong shutdown guy

Grayden Slipec - Center (27th Overall, Round 2, Kamloops Blazers)

  • Very-good playmaker
  • Outstanding puck skills and deception
  • Ability to beat you with a shot or pass
  • High-end hockey IQ
  • Underrated two-way game
  • Easily a top-15 prospect in this draft, it is criminal he fell this far.

Matthew Wood - Forward (41st Overall, Round 2, Regina Pats)

  • Elite scorer
  • Good size and frame
  • Good compete
  • Very-good awareness and anticipation
  • High-end offensive potential
  • Skating needs work but has the ability to take it to the next level

Kaden Moore (British Columbia Scout)

Marcus Pacheco - Center (49th Overall, Round 3, Kelowna Rockets)

  • High-end skater
  • Smart two-way player
  • All situations guy
  • Very-good puck skills
  • This pick could literally and metaphorically burn the WHL for years

Luke Korte - Left Wing (52nd Overall, Round 3, Kamloops Blazers)

  • Tenacious, fast winger
  • High-ceiling
  • Great puck skills
  • Great playmaking
  • Johnny Hockey with a bigger motor
  • Was available in round 3 due to current size - 5'1"


Stay tuned for part three where we look at the potential winners of this year's draft!

WHL Bantam Draft

2020 WHL Bantam Draft Thoughts: Round 1


Two days have passed since the much anticipated WHL Bantam Draft and it did not disappoint. Over the next couple of weeks, we will break down our thoughts on the draft and which teams might have hit big and which teams might have missed.

#1: Connor Bedard (Regina Pats)

To no one's surprise, Bedard, who had signed with Regina prior to the draft was selected at the one spot.

#2: Riley Heidt (Prince George Cougars)

After Bedard, Prince George took aim at one of the two Saskatoon Contacts players who both rumouredly applied for exceptional status. Though the big, fast centerman Brayden Yager appeared to be the consensus two pick in the draft, it is possible the Cougars took the player they felt was best suited for their organization and most likely to sign. When choosing between the two Saskatoon players, there is little separating their projected development and some would argue that the elite winger, Riley Heidt, has a higher ceiling.

#3 Brayden Yager (Moose Jaw Warriors)

A no brainer decision for the Moose Jaw Warriors. One of the best prospects to come out of Saskatchewan in quite some time, the Warriors didn't have to venture far to add a high-end center prospect. Through three picks the WHL Bantam Draft saw the top-three players available selected.

#4 Lukas Dragicevic (Tri-City Americans)

One of the top-two defensemen in the WHL Bantam draft and a can't miss prospect. Lukas' father, Milan, played four of his 240 career WHL games with the Americans and was also an Assistant Coach for them for four years. Tri-City went with a bit of familiarity and arguably the best defenceman in the draft. Both Lukas and Tanner Molendyk broke Luke Prokop's CSSHL record for points in a season by a defenceman.

#5 Tanner Molendyk (Saskatoon Blades)

Another fantastic two-way defenseman. Despite rumours of NCAA potentially in his future, Colin Priestner and his crew are confident in their program and couldn't pass on the best player available and potential franchise defenceman.  Shortly after the draft, it was confirmed on Twitter that Tanner intends to sign with the Blades.

#6 Kalan Lind (Red Deer Rebels)

A bit of a surprise out of Red Deer was the selection of Kalan Lind with two large and in charge Alberta defensemen on the board. However, this is not a reach for a player of Lind's skillset. An intelligent and prolific goal scorer, Kalan is a more highly-touted prospect than his older brother Kole was at this age. Lind displays the potential to be a game-breaking scorer and number one center.

#7 Sam Oremba (Seattle Thunderbirds)

Seattle landed the guy that the team had on their draft board for quite some time. An elite skater with an unbelievable offensive skillset that tries to impact the game in every zone.  A continued sign of teams prioritizing speed and skill in this year's draft.

#8 Andrew Cristall (Kelowna Rockets)

With Lind and Oremba off the board, the Rockets took a big swing at a prospect with an elite offensive skillset and high ceiling. Despite most people having Cristall outside of their top ten due to the depth of the draft and the Cristall's need to improve his strength and skating, the Rockets weren't afraid to pick their guy. Fans of the Rockets could be praising this pick in years to come.

#9 Austin Zemlak (Victoria Royals)

Victoria grabbed an elite athlete and, depending on who you talk to, underrated prospect. Austin Zemlak screams top-pairing potential as a two-way defenceman with a very well-rounded game. Despite raw in some areas and Mazden Leslie still on the board, Zemlak could be one of the best defencemen the organization has ever seen.

#10 Mazden Leslie (Vancouver Giants)

I'm not sure Barclay Parneta foresaw Mazden Leslie dropping to the Giants at ten. From the beginning of the season until the end, Leslie was largely considered a top-eight prospect. The Giants secured a big, physical, and offensively inclined defenceman. Though Mazden will need to continue to work on the smaller details and defensive zone play, the Giants landed a big fish at ten.

#11 Reid Andresen (Medicine Hat Tigers)

A surprise pick as the Tigers have traditionally gone 6' or taller in their defence corps for a long time. However, the Tigers opted to take a skilled, under-sized, offensive defenseman. A great puck transporter and powerplay quarterback with a competent two-way game.

#12 Oliver Tulk (Calgary Hitmen)

A safe, and solid pick for the Hitmen. Tulk features a subtle and unbelievably effective two-way game with a high-offensive upside. A great skating, a cerebral, two-way playmaker with the ability to control the game when the puck is on his stick. A low floor, high-ceiling pick.

#13 Quinn Mantei (Brandon Wheat Kings)

Somewhat a surprise pick given the players still on the WHL Bantam Draft board. The Wheat Kings went with another excellent skating, puck transporting defenceman.  An adequate two-way presence that excels in transition and at speed.

#14 Zach Benson (Winnipeg ICE)

The ICE added the leading scorer from the CSSHL. An undersized centerman with great IQ and playmaking ability.  Crafty and creative, the ICE adds yet another high-skill, high-ceiling forward to their fold. While Benson was likely the best player available on Winnipeg's board, the team didn't draft a defenceman until the 8th round in 2019, and not until the 4th round in this year's draft, while they added a ton of forward talent to their prospect pool. Lambos and Prosofsky are now full-timers, but the organization seems a little light when it comes to 2004 and 2005 born defencemen. They may likely look to make a swap down the road with the assets they have at forward.

#15 Terrell Goldsmith (Prince Albert Raiders)

Prince Albert goes big. Goldsmith appeared to be an underrated prospect in this year's draft. Great mobility for his size and significantly improved over the course of the year. Goldsmith projects as a very solid two-way defenceman with size and versatility.

#16 Cole Miller (Lethbridge Hurricanes)

A higher-end prospect coming into the season after an exceptional first-year bantam season in Edmonton. Cole established himself as a big, solid skating center with some offensive upside. However, this season, Cole produced fewer points and points-per-game than last year while playing on the same team. This would have potentially lowered his draft stock with many teams and there were some excellent alternatives on the board still. Time will tell if Lethbridge knocked this out of the park or struck out.

#17 Caden Brown (Prince George Cougars)

A solid, two-way, leader. Prince George selected the exceptionally intelligent, skilled, two-way forward. Despite some knocks on his skating and a lack of explosiveness and top-end speed, Caden is able to make up for that with his excellent anticipation. A future leader for the Cougars locker room.

#18 Saige Weinstein (Spokane Chiefs)

The Chiefs get a solid, two-way, puck-moving defenceman. The bread and butter of the Chiefs for years and years, they add to their prospect pool with a solid puck transporter, capable of making an impact at both ends of the ice.

#19 Kaden Hammell (Kamloops Blazers)

Considered a top-ten talent by many except WHL teams, apparently. A high-upside offensive defenceman with good wheels and size. Compared to Shea Theodore, Kaden has a lot of room for development to refine his all-around game, however, he should not have been available at this spot, a testament to this draft class, perhaps. The Kamloops Blazers may have found gold.

#20 Dawson Seitz (Edmonton Oil Kings)

Limited by injuries this season, Dawson Seitz may have been one of the more difficult prospects to project and compare against his peers. However, Edmonton was confident enough to select him with their only pick in the first three rounds. A strong, two-way center with decent speed and puck skills, time will tell if Edmonton hoodwinked the league.

#21 Brady Birnie (Swift Current Broncos)

A potential reach, many were concerned that Birnie's offensive output this season was highly inflated by Sam Oremba (7th overall). Swift Current is in the process of rebuilding and may have reached a bit to get a guy that fits their culture and organization moving forward. A very intelligent player with creativity and elusiveness to his game. He undoubtedly showed great chemistry with one of the most talented players in the draft, which could bode very well for the next level.

#22 Ryker Singer (Prince George Cougars)

Prince George made their third(!) selection of the first round of the WHL Bantam Draft at number 22. They opted to round out there other two picks with a rambunctious winger with high-skill and tenacity. There are a lot of aspects of Ryker's game that makes it miserable for opposition to play against. If he's not beating you on the scoresheet, you're feeling his presence physically and behind the play. He will need to reel in his discipline at the next level but brings jam that complements the skill, leadership, and two-way play they selected earlier.


Stay tuned for our next piece where we look for value and evaluate which teams may have done the best job on draft day.