Red Deer, Alta — The Saskatoon Blades completed the 2019 edition of the Western Hockey League Bantam Draft on Thursday in Red Deer, Alberta. The Blades now have a total of 13 new prospects following the draft; six forwards, five defenseman, and two goaltenders. Five prospects are from Alberta, three from Saskatchewan and British Columbia each, one from Manitoba, and one from California.
General Manager Colin Priestner started the day with a significant trade with the Winnipeg ICE, which dictated Saskatoon’s selections in the early rounds. The Blades traded down from the 3rd overall spot to 9th overall, acquiring the 24th overall pick, and a second and fifth round pick in next year’s draft. Also going to Winnipeg was 1999 born defender, Reece Harsch, who suited up for 29 regular season games with the Blades and eight more in the 2019 playoffs.
The Blades were still able to land their guy at nine; a dynamic centre in Brandon Lisowsky from Port Coquitlam, British Columbia.
“Well Brandon is a franchise player,” stated Priestner. “He’s extremely exciting to watch, he has a relentless motor, he’s a shooter, and he must have had ten shots a game all year, he loves to score.”
Lisowsky, who recently turned 15 in April, currently stands at 5’8″ and 160lbs. He served as captain for the Burnaby Winter Club’s bantam prep team in the Canadian Sport School League this past season and tallied an impressive 61 goals and 48 assists in 53 games regular season and tournament games.
The Blades then added another B.C. born forward with the 24th overall selection in Hayden Smith from Chetwynd. Smith, a 5’10.5″ lefty, put up 24 goals and 47 points in 30 contests with the Yale Hockey Academy.
“Hayden’s a special player, he already has the size and we feel he has a very good chance to play for us at 16,” Priestner explained. “He skates extremely well, goes hard to the net, and we were surprised he was still available at 24.”
In the third round, the Blades took their first goaltender in the draft, Ethan Chadwick. The hometown product of Saskatoon was also the first of two players drafted out of Saskatoon by the Blades on Thursday. Chadwick posted an impressive .920SV% in 22 games this year with the Saskatoon Stallions. It was the third highest save percentage in the league, and highest among goalies who played 20 or more games.
Round four saw the first defenseman selected for Saskatoon; Cale Ashcroft of St. Albert, Alberta 76th overall. The 5’8″ left-shot blue-liner doesn’t turn 15 until August.
“Cale has a lot of room to grow, he’s still just 14-years-old. He’s going to be a real force once he adds some size; he competes really hard and that’s what we love about him,” Priestner said of his first defenseman taken on Thursday.
Ashcroft notched 21 points in 30 outings during his final bantam campaign with the Northern Alberta Xtreme.
Another d-man, Benjamin Saunderson, was up next in the fifth round at 89th overall. The Carberry, Manitoba product was a point-per-game player with 7 goals and 28 helpers this year for the Yellowhead Chiefs. The 5’7″ left-hander is another late birthday, not turning 15 until September 26th.
Forward Ty Daneault of Red Deer was taken with the 151st overall pick in the 7th round. Daneault scored 20 goals for the Red Deer Bantam AAA Rebels during the 2018-19 season, and added 33 assists for a total of 53 points in just 33 contests.
Nine picks later the Blades made a minor deal with the Kamloops Blazers to acquire the 160th pick in the 8th round for an 8th round pick in 2021. Saskatoon drafted their only American born player of the day in towering blue-liner Pavel Bocharov. The 5’11” native of Escondido, California, contributed 30 points in 37 games from the back end with his Los Angeles Jr Kings AAA squad.
The Blades were back on the clock for their second pick in the eighth round and grabbed another defender in 195lbs Nicholas Wolfenberg of Calgary. Already standing at 5’11”, Wolfenberg is a right-hander who spent last year with the Northern Alberta Xtreme. He had nine assists, 16 penalty minutes, and is still projected to grow.
The Blades then looked in their own backyard in the 9th round and scooped up forward Mason Bueckert. The Saskatoon native was a goal-per-game player with 31 tucks in 31 tilts this year, leading his Saskatoon Generals in scoring with 61 points. Bueckert also finished 5th in points in the Saskatchewan Bantam AA League.
Sam Callahan of Nanton, Alberta was the next name penciled onto the Blades’ list in the 10th round with the 217th overall selection. Callahan is a towering forward at 6’1″ and 172lbs, finishing the year with 41 points for the Okotoks Oilers in the Alberta Major Bantam League.
Aiden Celebrini was Saskatoon’s final defenseman taken in Thursday’s draft at 261st overall in the 12th round. From North Vancouver, Celebrini had 22 points and 24 penalty minutes in 29 games for the Burnaby Winter Club.
Saskatoon closed out the draft with 2003 born, Cash Arntsen of Swift Current. Arntsen scored 47 points in Midget AA for the Swift Current Hurricanes this year, along with 36 penalty minutes.