How the 2014-15 T-Birds were built: The 2009 Bantam Draft

Mar 2, 2015, 3:14 PM | Updated: 3:18 pm
Evan Wardley is the only T-Birds selection from the 2009 draft that remains on the roster today. (T...
Evan Wardley is the only T-Birds selection from the 2009 draft that remains on the roster today. (T-Birds photo)
(T-Birds photo)

This the first part of a series of articles looking at how the current T-Birds roster was built through the draft and various trades over the past five-plus years. We’ll begin by looking at those players the Thunderbirds selected in the 2009 Bantam Draft, leaving out those who never played in the WHL.

Only one of the 12 players selected by the Thunderbirds in the 2009 Bantam Draft, Evan Wardley, remains with the team today. That’s not to say the draft was a miss, as the 1994-born players selected are now 20-years-old and, for the most part, have moved on to the next stage of their hockey career.

Wardley, as one of three overage players on the T-Birds roster this season, is in his final WHL campaign, which really began when he was 17 and played 29 games, registering four assists, 43 penalty minutes, and a minus-15 rating. He played one game as a 16-year-old but did not register a stat line.

This season Wardley has tallied 18 points on five goals and 13 assists, which equals the total he put up from his 17-, 18-, and 19-year-old seasons combined. Prior to the season he was invited to training camp with the Montreal Canadiens, and while the points won’t show it, Wardley has become a household name in the WHL, mostly because of his physical play and unmatched ability to irritate the opposing bench. In fact, Wardley was voted by over 50 percent of a combination of players, coaches, and others around the league as the Western Conference’s Most Irritating Player in a Tri-City Herald poll.

The Volcan, Alberta, native has been a bit overzealous at times, which has led to him missing a total of 12 games due to suspension this year, and he commits the occasional bad penalty, such as last Friday in Prince George when he took three separate minor infractions at the same time that resulted in a six-minute power play that produced two goals for the Cougars.

Overall, Wardley has proven to be a steal. It’s not often you can pick up a player who eventually will become a top-four defenseman and one of the league’s most intimidating players in the sixth round, 122nd overall.

The T-Birds also used the 2009 draft to pick up two other impact players – Branden Troock in the first round with the No. 12 selection, and Justin Hickman in the second round, No. 34 overall.

Troock played in nine games as a 15-year-old and looked like he was going to be the team’s next dominant power forward after scoring six points against older competition. Unfortunately, Seattle never saw the best of Troock as most of his career was set back by injuries. His best season came as a 19-year-old, when he had 58 points in 58 contests. A fifth-round draft choice of the Dallas Stars, Troock’s hockey career is still only beginning.

Hickman, on the other hand, was a mainstay in the T-Birds lineup until he was forced to cut his final year short earlier this season to undergo shoulder surgery. Named captain during both his 19- and 20-year-old seasons, Hickman was a positive presence both on and off the ice. At 6-foot-3, Hickman had the size and skill that made him one of the league’s top power forwards. This season was shaping up to be his most productive offensively despite the lingering shoulder injury, as he was averaging almost a point per game with nine goals and 19 assists in 31 contests.

It was reported in January that Hickman had agreed to terms on a contract with the Boston Bruins, but official details could not be announced until March 1. However, as of March 2 no official updates have been released regarding his signing. Either way, once he’s fully healed Hickman is sure to get a shot with a professional club, even if it’s somewhere other than Boston.

This year’s roster hasn’t been directly influenced a great deal by the 2009 draft, as these are the oldest players in the league and therefore less likely to still be around. Drafts beyond 2009 have been critical to Seattle’s success this year, whether players were actually picked by the team and are still making an impact or they were picked by Seattle and traded at some point for assets that would benefit them in the future.

We’ll have the 2010 draft in review next week, which will look at defensive mainstays Shea Theodore and Jared Hauf, as well as a trade that has proven to be an enormous steal for general manager Russ Farwell, and another that has all the makings of having a similar impact.

Notable 2009 draftees that did not play in Seattle

Jetlan Houcher, center (third round, 56th overall): Houcher will begin play for the University of Alabama-Huntsville for the 2015-16 season. He’s had a successful career in the Alberta Junior Hockey League for the Fort McMurray Oil Barons, being named captain for the past two seasons. During that time, he’s registered 127 points in 111 games.

Jared D’Amico, goalie (eighth round, 166th overall): It’s not often goalies in the WHL get a ton of visibility before their draft year as most teams are hesitant to play a 16- or 17-year-old significant minutes at such an important position. After a successful career in the AJHL, D’Amico moved on to the University of Alaska-Anchorage this season where he’s off to an impressive start with a 1.98 goals against average and has a .919 save percentage in two contests.

Patrick D’Amico, center (11th round, 232nd overall): Patrick D’Amico attended training camp with the Thunderbirds after being drafted, but never actually played for them in the regular season. Now 20, he’s found a home with the Eastern Conference’s Regina Pats. After registering just 25 points in 88 games during his 18- and 19-year-old seasons, he managed to make the team as an overager and has 43 points in 63 games this season.

Alex Kerfoot, forward (12th round, 253rd overall): Kerfoot put up big numbers during his final season in Midget, scoring 108 points in 38 games for the Vancouver NW Giants of the British Columbia Major Midget Hockey League. He moved on to the BCHL’s Coquitlam Express Junior A Hockey Club before signing with Harvard University. Now in his second season with the Crimson, Kerfoot has 22 points in 20 games. He was selected in the fifth round of the 2012 NHL Draft by the New Jersey Devils.

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How the 2014-15 T-Birds were built: The 2009 Bantam Draft