We’re into the month of August and only weeks away from players arriving for main camp which is set to kick off on the 26th.
We’ve already taken a look at our 2000 born players who will look to make an impact heading into their 17 year old season, the 2001 born players who will hope to crack a roster spot in their first season of WHL eligibility, and now we’re going to look at our 2002 born players who will be attending their first WHL camp in just a few weeks.
This is an exciting group of players headlined by two first round picks in the most recent bantam draft; both having already signed contracts with the Blades. So let’s jump in:
Hometown: Chestermere, AB
D.O.B: February 10th, 2002
Acquired: 1st round (10th overall) at 2017 WHL Bantam Draft
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Kyle Crnkovic (kring-koh-vick) is a dynamically skilled forward who may be smaller than most of his opponents but makes up for it with his incredible agility and foot speed. He’s the type of player when you watch him play, you can’t help but draw comparisons to Patrick Kane and Johnny Gaudreau. Kyle is extremely elusive with the puck on his stick and a stealth pick pocket without it. A quick look at his stats also show Kyle’s consistent production. Even as an underage player in his first year of Bantam, Kyle finished 4th in league scoring. He’s no one-trick-pony either, virtually putting up just as many goals as helpers in the past two seasons.
Hometown: Chestermere, AB
D.O.B: February 20th, 2002
Acquired: 2nd round (31st overall) at 2017 WHL Bantam Draft
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An elite level power forward is one way to describe Braden Plaschewsky’s style of play. He makes life tough on his opponents, relentlessly hunting down pucks in all areas of the ice. This is a kid who does not like to lose a single battle and does everything in his power prevent that. Remember Ryan Getzlaf in the playoffs this past Spring? That’s how Braden can be; a bull in a china shop with high end skill to compliment his grit. After signing with the Blades back in May, Plaschewsky says he can’t wait to get to his first WHL camp and get things going.
Hometown: Vancouver, BC
D.O.B: October 12th, 2002
Acquired: 5th round (102nd overall) at 2017 WHL Bantam Draft
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I know what you’re thinking, but no that’s not a typo and yes those are actually his stats. A smaller kid, but similar to Crnkovic in that Kalen is exceptionally talented with the puck. Not only did Szeto lead the league in points last season, he also helped lead his team to the Western Canadian Bantam AAA Championship putting up 15 points in 5 games to earn the top scorer honour at the tournament as well.
Hometown: Campbell River, BC
D.O.B: May 12th, 2002
Acquired: 7th round (137th overall) at 2017 WHL Bantam Draft
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Remember Darian Dziurzynski? Davis Frank could be the second coming of DD. An agitating forward that can back it up with tremendous puck skills. Davis is great in tight spaces and always has his finger on the trigger of a lethal shot. Davis wants the puck and will show no mercy in getting it. Loved by his team mates and despised by his opponents.
Hometown: Lumsden, SK
D.O.B: September 23rd, 2002
Acquired: 10th round (203rd overall) at 2017 WHL Bantam Draft
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Cal Caragata is a work horse who can obviously finish the job as evidenced by his 38 goals last season. He also has a late birthday but carries one of the biggest frames in his draft class, which is likely the result of also being a national champion steer wrestler. For a big kid Cal has terrific hand eye coordination, and was an absolute game breaker in bantam. He has the ability to take his game to the next level when necessary, posting 16 points in 8 playoff games this Spring.
Aidan De La Gorgendiere
Hometown: Langley, BC
D.O.B: February 22nd, 2002
Acquired: 1st round (5th overall) at 2017 WHL Bantam Draft
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Drafted at 5th overall this year, Aidan is arguably the best defenseman in his age group in Western Canada. An elite talent capable of doing everything. Skating, shooting, hockey IQ, passing, power play, penalty kill, Aidan does it all exceptionally well. His vision and anticipation make him extremely dangerous as he can cause turnovers and create plays going back the other way in the blink of an eye. When Aidan is on the ice, he dictates the play. Fans in the bridge city have to excited to have an anchor like this on the backend for years to come.
Hometown: Surrey, BC
D.O.B: May 3rd, 2002
Acquired: 2nd round (42nd overall) at 2017 WHL Bantam Draft
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Skating is the most important attribute a player can have and Kurtis Smythe is one of the best among 2002 born defensemen. His speed and agility makes him nearly impossible to get around for attacking forwards. Kurtis is a cerebral player, always skating with his head up reading and reacting to his surroundings. A responsible defender with potential to contribute offensively, but the main perk with Kurtis is his hockey sense and ability to seemingly always evade trouble and make the right play.
Hometown: Prince Albert, SK
D.O.B: January 24th, 2002
Acquired: 5th round (109th overall) at 2017 WHL Bantam Draft
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Alex Ozar is another excellent skater who had an impressive season in the Saskatchewan Bantam AA league this past year. Much like Smythe, Alex is terrific at defending 1-on-1 thanks to his agility and anticipation. Alex also has some offensive flare to his game. He lead his bantam squad in points by d-men and was 2nd in league scoring for defensemen. Alex displays great patience in getting shots through traffic from the point. Alex is attending Team Saskatchewan’s U16 Camp this summer with hopes of represent Team Sask at the Western Canada U16 Challenge Cup this Fall.
Hometown: Victoria, BC
D.O.B: May 23rd, 2002
Acquired: 8th round (159th overall) at 2017 WHL Bantam Draft
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Chase is a big body defender who captained his bantam tier 1 team in Victoria this past season. A responsible defender with a knack for breaking up plays before they become dangerous. He uses his size and strength to his advantage; think of Brent Seabrook.
Hometown: Winnipeg, MB
D.O.B: April 30th, 2002
Acquired: 9th round (181st overall) at 2017 WHL Bantam Draft
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Kyle is a smooth skater who likes to jump up in the play and get involved offensively. Not overly physical or mean, but very effective with his stick. Lamoureux has also shown the ability to quarterback a power play, and uses his skating to transition easily from offense to defense. Kyle is also said to have great dedication off the ice and is determined to take the next step.
Hometown: Rivers, MB
D.O.B: September 28th, 2002
Acquired: 10th round (206th overall) at 2017 WHL Bantam Draft
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Zach Veitch is definitely one of the bigger kids in his league, and should stand eye to eye with Evan Fiala at training camp. He’s a sound, stay at home defenseman but with 31 points in 35 outings he’s also capable of doing more than guarding the net. Veitch rarely loses a battle in the corners and often resorts to the safe play rather than the risky ones. Zach has excellent vision and has been a valuable piece to his bantam team when it comes to retrieving the puck and getting up the ice.
Hometown: Burnaby, BC
D.O.B: January 31st, 2002
Acquired: 2nd round (35thth overall) at 2017 WHL Bantam Draft
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Quick, explosive, athletic, and big. Koen MacInnes has all the tools you’d like to see in a young netminder and that’s before you look at his height. He moves side to side fluidly and reads odd-man rushes well. Perhaps his biggest advantage is his consistency. He’s cool, calm, and collected, and never comes unglued. Koen was also a major piece to BWC’s Western Canadian Bantam Championship team, earning the top goalie award and first all-star team honours.
The Saskatoon Blades open the 2017-18 WHL regular season at home on Friday, September 22nd versus the Swift Current Broncos. Game time is 7:00pm at SaskTel Centre.