T-Birds take defenseman with first pick of Bantam Draft
While the Thunderbirds were practicing in Brandon in preparation for Game 1 of the WHL championship series, the league conducted its annual Bantam Draft Thursday in Calgary.
This draft is how teams get built. There is no free agency in junior hockey, so every club relies on its scouts to find the right mix of players.
The players selected on Thursday have all just completed their 14-year-old seasons and won’t be eligible to play full time in the WHL until their 16-year-old season. Because of that, the draft is usually an exercise of finding the best player available with each pick.
The T-Birds held the 18th pick in the first round and used it to select defenseman Jake Lee out of Sherwood Park, Alberta. Its the third time in the last four drafts that Seattle has gone defense with its first pick of the draft.
In 2014, Seattle took Jaret Tyszka and in 2013 Dante Fabbro, who has chosen to play in the BCHL and is committed to Boston University for next fall.
By all accounts, Lee appears to be the type of defenseman that head coach Steve Konowalchuk likes to deploy. He has decent size, and according to a statement in a team release by T-Birds Director of Player Personnel Cal Filson, Lee can skate and move the puck.
Lee picked up 27 points in 32 games last season with the Sherwood Park Flyers.
Seattle went for offense with its second-round pick, 40th overall, with Manitoba forward Eric Hawkes. Playing for the Winnipeg Monarchs last year, the 6-foot-1 forward notched an impressive 68 points in only 34 games.
The T-Birds went on to select six more players on the day and a complete list can be found here.
• The WHL also held its annual awards ceremony this week in Calgary. On Tuesday, the league’s player of the year award went to Moose Jaw’s Dryden Hunt. Everett’s goalie Carter Hart was named goalie of the year. Seattle’s Jerret Smith was nominated for Humanitarian of the Year, but the award went to Tyler Wong of the Lethbridge Hurricanes.
• The league also awarded former Swift Current Broncos star Joe Sakic with the title of best player in the 50-year history of the league. As part of the 50th anniversary season, the WHL had fans vote for the greatest players in league history. Sakic went on to a hall-of-fame career in the NHL with the Quebec Nordiques and Colorado Avalanche.