May 1, 2013, Calgary, AB (ISN) – The Brandon Wheat Kings will be busy Thursday when the Western Hockey League Bantam Draft is held in Calgary.
The Wheat Kings, who finished the 2012-13 season with a 24-40-4-4 record, will have three of the first 25 picks including the fourth overall selection.
“The top of the draft, in my opinion, has never been better than it is this year,” Wheat Kings general manager Kelly McCrimmon told CKLQ Sports earlier this week. “When I look at the top end of this year’s bantam draft, I really see players that I think are going to be star players. There’s a group of players, that anyone of those guys could be the #1 pick on any given year. For the Wheat Kings, it’s a real fortunate position for us to be drafting as high as we are and we do think we’ll be able to add a tremendous player to our organization.”
Brandon hasn’t entered the draft with three higher picks in nineteen years. In 1994, the Wheat Kings had the eleventh, the thirteenth and the 18th overall picks. Since then the best that the WHL club has done has been three in the first twenty-seven. In 1997, Brandon used the sixteenth, 22nd and 27th overall selections to grab center Mike Wirll, defencemen Brett Thurston and Kevin Harris respectively. While all three wore the Wheat Kings’ colours, Thurston is currently ninth on the club’s all time list for games played with 292. During his five years in Brandon, the Strathmore, Alberta product scored twelve goals and 72 points.
More recently, the Wheat Kings chose Kord Pankewicz, netminder Jordan Papirny and forward Jayce Hawryluk with the eleventh, 22nd and 32nd overall selections – in 2011. While Hawryluk was chosen Brandon’s MNP Rookie of the Year this past season, Pankewicz played 49 games in what was his freshman season and Papirny led his Edmonton club to the Alberta AAA Midget League Championship Final against Red Deer.
When it comes to having three top picks, the Wheat Kings will likely never match what they entered the draft with in 1992. It was that year that Brandon chose Wade Redden, Justin Kurtz and Joel Korenko with the 2nd, sixth and seventh overall selections.
Of those three, two went on to the professional ranks. While Kurtz, a former Winnipeg Jets’ draft pick spent several seasons in North America before plying his trade in Europe, Redden continues to play in the National Hockey League.
In fact, this past February he became only the sixth ex-Wheat King to play in 1,000 games when he took to the ice as a member of the St. Louis Blues. A Hillmond, Saskatchewan native, Redden was later dealt to Boston at the NHL Trade Deadline in April and begins his quest for the Stanley Cup Wednesday night when the Bruins open up their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against Toronto.
The WHL Bantam Draft is the first opportunity for WHL Clubs to replenish their systems with graduating Bantam-aged players. The order of selection for the first round of the draft is determined through a weighted lottery consisting of the six non-playoff teams. The draft order is based on the inverse overall standings from the regular season.
The Vancouver Giants have the first overall selection, followed by Regina and Prince George. Moose Jaw (5th) and Lethbridge round out the top six.
Wheat King fans can watch the first round of the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft live online via Webcast. The Draft begins at 9:30AM CST. Fans can also keep up with how their favourite team is doing by twitter, Facebook or www.wheatkings.com