The 2018 NHL Entry Draft at American Airlines Center in Dallas, TX. is on June 22nd-23rd. Three Kelowna Rockets draft eligible players were listed on NHL Central Scouting’s final rankings of North American skaters in mid-April.
Forward Kyle Topping, defenceman Libor Zabransky, and forward Leif Mattson all made the list released on April 16th, 2018.
18-year-old Topping concluded his second full campaign with the Rockets this season. Topping is ranked 59th on the NHL Central Scouting’s final rankings of North American skaters. Heading into the NHL Entry Draft this weekend, Topping says he’s eager to get it started.
“I have an open mindset. You never know what can happen on draft day. It’s definitely super exciting and I can’t wait for the weekend. Most likely I’m just going to spend the day with my family and see what happens,” said Topping. “I’m already getting excited and anxious for next season in Kelowna to start. I think were going to have a really strong group of talented and great guys that will do what ever it takes to win. As for myself I am wanting to come into my 3rd year and play a leadership role for our group, as well as take another step forward and be a key player for our team.”
In 125 regular season WHL games so far, the Salt Spring Island, B.C. native has notched 36 goals while adding 58 assists for 94 points. He scored 22 goals this season placing him fifth on the Rockets in goal scoring. He finished the season with 65 points putting him fifth in points on the Rockets roster. The speedy forward has also added two goals and four assists for six points in 19 playoff games in his WHL career thus far, including two goals and three assists for five points in four post season games in the 2018 WHL Playoffs. Topping was selected by Kelowna in the 11th round, 226th overall in the 2014 WHL Bantam Draft following an incredible 2013-2014 season with the Cowichan Valley Capitals of the Vancouver Island Bantam Hockey League. In 62 games that season Topping scored 68 goals while adding 157 assists for an astounding 225 points. He played the 2014-2015 season with the North Island Silvertips of the BC Hockey Major Midget League scoring 17 goals and 13 assists for 30 points in 35 games. The November 18, 1999-born draft prospect then played a season of Jr. A in the BCHL for the Cowichan Valley Capitals. In 53 games he posted five goals and seven assists for 12 points. He began his career with the Rockets at the beginning of the 2016-2017 season playing in 59 games scoring 14 goals and 15 assists for 29 points. The 5’11, 185lb forward has been busy this offseason in preparation for the draft as well as next year.
“After the season ended I took about two weeks off to just unwind and enjoy some time with family and friends,” said Topping. “Then I started up again with my personal trainer who runs his gym out of Cowichan Valley. There is a group of about six WHL and Jr. A players that all train together five days a week. It’s a really fun group and we all push each other to reach similar goals. I also try to get on the ice as much as I can across Vancouver Island!”
18-year-old Libor Zabransky completed his WHL rookie campaign this season with Kelowna. The import defenceman is ranked 115th on NHL Central Scouting’s final rankings. He was selected 51st overall by the Rockets in the 2017 CHL Import Draft from the Czech Republic. In his first year with Kelowna, the Brno, Czech Republic native was one of only two Rockets players on the roster this season to play all 72 regular season games. The smooth-skating defenceman scored two goals and 17 assists for 19 points in his first season. In 2016-2017 Zabransky played 34 games for HC Kometa Brno U20 scoring nine goals and adding 26 assists for 35 points. He also skated in 15 games for HC Kometa Brno of the Czech Extraliga, notching an assist. On top of that busy schedule, he laced up for the Czech Republic U17 team at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge. In five games he registered an assist. He also played 14 other international games with the Czech Rep. U17 team recording three assists. This season to add to his 72 game schedule, Zabransky captained the Czech Rep. U18 team at the World U18 Junior Championship where he notched one goal and four assists in seven games. He played another seven games for the U18 team outside of that tournament scoring two goals and adding four assists for six points, as well as captaining the team at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup scoring once and adding three assists in four games.
18-year-old Leif Mattson finished his second season with the Rockets this year. The Stonewall, MB native is ranked 157th among North American skaters on the NHL Central Scouting’s final rankings. In 63 games this season Mattson scored 25 goals, fourth most on the Rockets roster behind only Carsen Twarynski(45), Kole Lind(39), and Dillon Dube(38). 60 points placed him sixth in team scoring at the end of the regular season. Mattson was originally selected in the eighth round, 163rd overall, by the Brandon Wheat Kings in the 2014 WHL Bantam Draft after racking up 33 goals and 33 assists for 66 points in 32 games for the Interlake Lightning Bantam AAA in the Winnipeg Bantam AAA league in 2013-2014. During the 2014-2015 regular season Mattson scored a whopping 42 goals and 42 assists for 84 points in 33 games for the St. Albert Flyers Minor Midget AAA in the Alberta Midget Minor Hockey League. In 2015-2016 the skilled forward scored 12 goals and 13 assists for 25 points in 30 games for the St. Albert Raiders Midget AAA of the Alberta Midget Hockey League. In 2016-2017 Mattson began the season playing for the Drumheller Dragons of the Alberta Junior Hockey League. In five games he scored two goals and an assist for three points before his rights were acquired by Kelowna via trade in October of 2016 from the Brandon Wheat Kings. Mattson then played his first 46 WHL games for the Rockets. In his rookie campaign he scored nine goals and added five assists for 14 points. The 6-foot, 200lb forward has played in a total of 109 regular season games for Kelowna, scoring 34 goals and 40 assists for 74 points. The 1999-born Rockets forward is trying not to overthink the NHL Entry Draft.
“Going into the draft this weekend I would be extremely grateful to be selected. However, if I’m not, it’s not the end of the world. My main focus is improving my game this summer in order to ensure I have a very strong year in Kelowna this coming season,” said Mattson. “I’m super excited to get back to Kelowna this August because my expectations for myself and the rest of the team are extremely high. I believe we have a strong core group of guys coming back that will allow us to contend again this year, and have a deep playoff run.”
When it comes to his offseason training, much like his teammate Kyle Topping, Mattson has been hard at work, even mixing in some yoga.
“I’m training in Calgary for the summer at Bold Athlete. It consists of off-ice training four times per week, on-ice twice a week, as well as yoga once a week.”
Topping, Zabransky, and Mattson will surely be paying attention to the first round of the NHL Entry Draft, which begins on Friday, June 22nd at 4:30pm PT in Dallas, with rounds two through seven beginning on Saturday, June 23rd at 8am PT.