MENU

Blades draft 12 players in 2023 WHL Prospects Draft

Saskatoon, SK – The next wave of Saskatoon Blades have been drafted.

The organization welcomed 12 new players into the organization during the 2023 WHL Prospects Draft. Saskatoon made two trades early in the day to acquire additional draft picks, one that included saying goodbye to a crucial member between the pipes en route to the club’s Eastern Conference Championship run.

Saskatoon completed the “Calgary Connection” selecting three Calgary, AB born players with their first trio of picks. Alberta players make up a large portion of the draft with six total from Wild Rose Country, four from Saskatchewan including two homegrown in Saskatoon, one from British Columbia, and one from Ontario. By position, the Blades added seven forwards, four defensemen, and one goaltender.

The Blades began the day with nine picks in the top ten rounds, including the Seattle Thunderbirds first-round pick at 21st overall. The Blades added to their arsenal trading away their first-round selection to the Medicine Hat Tigers for the Vancouver Giants 29th overall pick, a 2023 fifth-round pick (97), and a 2024 second-round pick.

Trade Alert- 1080x1400

Shortly after the Blades traded 2004-born netminder Ethan Chadwick to the Everett Silvertips in exchange for two WHL Prospect Draft picks. The picks included the Kamloops Blazers 2023 second-round pick (42), and the Silvertips fourth-round selection in 2025. For a full breakdown of the trade, CLICK HERE

Trade Alert- 1080x1400

Moving down eight spots to 29th overall, the Blades selected 6-foot forward Zachery Olsen with their first pick in the draft. The 15-year-old, right-handed shot spent 30 games with Edge School U15 Prep in the Canadian Sport School Hockey League (CSSHL) this past season. Olsen registered 13 goals and 34 points in that span, along with four points in as many playoff games. The Calgary, AB product represented Team Alberta Green at the 2023 Alberta Cup, helping win the championship with three points in five games.

“He’s your prototypical power forward.” said Blades Director of Scouting, Dan Tencer, “Skates extremely well, consistent, extreme compete, and great size. His trajectory is something we’re really excited about.”

Saskatoon added another forward up front 12 picks later drafting Cooper Williams from the Calgary Bisons U15 AAA squad. The Calgary, AB. product averaged almost a goal-per-game this season in the Alberta Elite Hockey League (AEHL) with 32 goals in 33 games, finishing with 69 points. Williams showed he can come through when it matters most notching seven goals and 21 points in nine playoff games. The skilled 5-foot-11 draft pick also represented Team Alberta Green putting up two assists in five games.

“Cerebral distributor down the middle of the ice, he sees the game extremely well. He was extremely productive against quality teams all year and a driver for the Bisons offensively, and makes everybody around him better.” said Tencer.

Completing the “Calgary Connection,” the Blades added Ryley Budd between the pipes the very next pick. The Calgary Northstars netminder played 20 games this season bringing home an 8-10-0 record while boasting a .916 save-percentage and 3.34 goals-against-average (GAA). Budd played three games at the Alberta Cup for Team Alberta Red turning in a .941 save-percentage and left with a 1-2-0 record.

“Riley is an exceptional goal tender,” said Tencer, “He’s got good size, more coming, and he’s got elite work ethic and character. Riley puts the work in every day and is a great teammate. We involved our goaltending coach Jeff Harvey a lot in the decision making process at this position and Riley was a player that not only were scouts passionate about, but Harvey was also very passionate about as well. So we really feel strongly like we have a starting goal tender.”

Saskatoon sat idle in the third round and added three more players in the fourth.

First at 70th overall was 14-year-old defenceman Nathan Guenther. The Edmonton, AB. native earned 29 points in 30 games on the back end this season with Northern Alberta Xtreme U15 Prep. He stepped up in the postseason with six points in five appearances, and also had two points in five games with Team Alberta Gold at the Alberta Cup. Guenther’s older brother, Dylan, was drafted ninth overall by the Arizona Coyotes in 2021, and currently has 14 goals and 21 points on the Seattle Thunderbirds championship run.

“He’s later birthday continuing to grow lots. He brings tremendous size to the table, great skating ability, awesome hands. He shoots the puck extremely well. We’re excited about him because he’s a player on the back end that’s going to have all the tools to be a complete two-way defenceman in our league.” said Tencer.

Blade City picked forward Matthew Dowdall 14 spots later. A 2008-born with a July birthday, Dowdall scored six goals and 12 points in 24 games through the 2022-23 season with Yale Hockey Academy U15 Prep, tacking on 66 penalty minutes. The Coquitlam, BC product added 12 penalty minutes and three points in three playoff games.

“He absolutely went off at the biggest event at the end of the year at BC Cup. We liked him all year because he’s got size. Matthew skates well and shoots the puck well. Maybe a little undervalued by some teams until he got to BC Cup and put on that show. We think he’s a player that’s going to be absolutely miserable to play against, both in terms of competitiveness and his ability to beat goalies from anywhere on the ice.” said Tencer.”

 

The Blades final pick of the fourth-round was used to draft 6-foot blueliner Liam Eisnor. The 15-year-old defender netted 16 goals and 29 points in 32 games this season, wracking up 81 penalty minutes along with it. Eisnor collected four points in five playoff games, providing size and skill with his game.

“Great skating ability,” said Tencer, “He’s got great power in his game dedicated to getting better every day. So I think what you have here a player with good size and powerful tools who is so locked in, in terms of elite level drive and character.”

Going for homegrown roots in the fifth-round the Blades drafted Saskatoon, SK’s own Jack Lavallee. The 5-foot-11 defenceman recorded ten goals and 38 points in 30 contests with the Saskatoon Stallions U15 AA squad this year, adding three more points in four playoff games. Lavallee appeared in one playoff game with the Saskatoon Screaming Eagles U18 club and scored two goals. Born in raised in the Paris of the Prairies, Lavallee brings offensive skill into the organization.

“Jack is a player that’s steadily improved every stage of the year. Every time you go watch him he’s a notch better than the time before. There are periods of time this year where the Stallions were short on the back end and he stepped up and played a ridiculous amount of minutes and handled it solid. No panic in his game. He’s composed, he makes good decisions. He’s big and long, and moves well.” said Tencer.

Sticking within province the Blades welcomed Yorkton, SK forward Benjamin Bowtell into the organization. The December 2008-born forward had six goals and 27 points in 28 games with RINK Hockey Academy Kelowna U15. Bowtell found the back of the net once and dished six helpers in seven playoff games as well. Saskatoon’s had success with Yorkton products, most notably goaltender Nolan Maier who holds the WHL wins record with 121, all in a Blue and Gold sweater. Maier is currently signed with the Leigh Valley Phantoms of the AHL.

“Benjamin’s got a high skill level and when push comes to shove, nobody’s going to compete harder than he does. Right now he’s at a physical disadvantage just because he’s maturing at a different rate than some kids are. We love the tools that are there and we love the compete level. Long term, when that physical maturity catches up, he’s going to be a player you’re going to want to look out for getting deeper in the draft.” said Tencer.

Saskatoon selected Luke Senick 151st overall right from their backyard. The 5-foot-5 forward exploded for 37 goals and 58 points in 29 games with the Saskatoon Bandits U15 AA group. Senick added six goals and nine points in eight playoff games with six penalty minutes.

“Work ethic on and off the ice are nothing short of elite,” said Tencer, “His willingness to compete is, extremely high level and his skating is a massive asset and because of his willingness and consistency and compete in skating, he’s able to attack the game in all different ways.”

Two rounds later at 195th overall the organization selected forward Kohen Lodge. The 14-year-old from Red Deer, AB possesses offensive skill scoring 29 goals and 54 points in 32 games this year in AEHL. Lodge added five goals and nine points in seven playoff games, and represented Team Black at the Alberta Cup this year.

“He’s a later birthday that has a really nice level of skill,” said Tencer, ” There’s hockey pedigree in his background with his father Eric. He’s a player that sees the game really well. Really soft hands and is the type of player that will make guys around him better. Every time I went to watch him play this year he was a guy you continue to notice more and more every time. His head’s always up, making plays and as he develops, he’s got a chance to turn into a very productive player in our league.”

The Blades bolstered the back end with more size selecting 6-foot-1 defenceman Rhett Romanchuk 217th overall. The Lloydminster, AB product contributed for seven goals and 20 points in 34 games with the Lloydminster Bobcats U15 AAA team, sporting 40 penalty minutes also.

“Heavy, long body,” said Tencer, “His defensive ability that way with his length and his compete level is one thing, but he sees the ice very well.”

Saskatoon’s final pick of the day drafted 5-foot-10 forward Triston Mitchell-McElhone. In 30 games with the West Central Wheat Kings U15 AA club, Mitchell-McElhone scored 17 goals and 35 points in 30 games, along with 52 penalty minutes.

“Extremely competitive player,” said Tencer, “He won’t be out-competed and he’s going to score goals. He’s going to get through you to win a battle on the wall and work his hardest every shift. When you look back at our playoff run, those are the common factors that turn series in your favour. The willingness to compete and battle and show up every game and give it your absolute best.”

More News
WHL Community Collective: Saskatoon Blades
2 days ago
1:59
Blades fans share their favourite memories from the 2022-23 season
2 days ago
Blades unveil 2022-23 individual award winners
2 weeks ago
Blades strike deal with Silvertips, acquire two picks for Chadwick
2 weeks ago
2023 WHL Prospects Draft Preview
2 weeks ago
Blades welcome forward and defenceman in U.S. Priority Draft
3 weeks ago