The Victoria Royals are proud to announce the selection of eleven players from the 2023 WHL Prospects Draft. Victoria’s eleven draft picks were comprised of five players from BC, four selections from Alberta, one from Saskatchewan and one from Minnesota. By position, the Royals drafted five forwards, five defencemen and one goaltender.
The Royals used their first pick, fourth overall, to select defenceman Keaton Verhoeff from RINK Hockey Academy Kelowna U15 Prep of the CSSHL. Verhoeff tallied 13 goals and 33 assists for 46 points in 27 games during the 2022-23 season and stands at 6’3 and 190lbs. The 14-year-old became the second highest draft pick in Royals franchise history and hails from Fort Saskatchewan, AB.
“We are very proud to be able to select Keaton with the 4th overall pick,” said Royals Assistant General Manager and Director of Player Personnel, J.F. Best. “Keaton checks all the boxes. He is a person of high character with a great work ethic, who embodies what it means to be a Royal. As a player, he is a skilled defenceman with dynamic abilities and creative offensive instincts. Defensively, he plays with a good stick and is an imposing presence down low and around the net. We are excited to welcome him and the Verhoeff family to the Royals organization.”
With the 25th overall pick, Victoria selected forward Kash Alger-East of Meadow Lake, SK. Alger-East stands at 5’11 and 166lbs, and recorded 35 goals and 44 assists for 79 points in 28 games with the Battlefords North West Stars U15 AA during the 2022-23 season.
“Kash is a dynamic forward with high end puck skills and a deceptive shot. He is a gritty competitor who has the ability to impact the game regardless of the situation or the style of play. We are very excited to be able to partner with him in his development in the years to come,” said Royals General Manager and Head Coach, Dan Price.
The Royals used their third-round pick, 62nd overall, to select goaltender Cole Prelusky. Hailing from Calgary, AB, Prelusky spent the 2022-23 season with Edge School U15 Prep in the CSSHL, where he recorded a 2.15 Goals Against Average and a .935 Save Percentage.
“Cole is a goalie that possesses a very strong technical foundation with explosive athletic ability. He thinks the game well and combines great positional habits with seamless movement. His hockey IQ allows him to process developing situations at a high speed,” said Royals Goaltending Coach & Manager of Goaltender Development, Lynden Sammartino.
With their first of two picks in the fourth round, the Royals selected defenceman Owen McCarthy out of RINK Hockey Academy Kelowna U15 Prep. McCarthy, who stands at 5’10 and 141lbs, tallied one goal and 21 assists for 22 points in 28 games during the 2022-23 season.
With their second selection in the fourth round, the Royals picked forward Harshaan Kaila. Kaila spent the 2022-23 season with St. George’s School U15 Prep where he put up 23 goals and 28 assists for 51 points in 27 games. Kaila stands at 5’10 and 151lbs, and hails from Cloverdale, BC.
“Harshaan is a very well-rounded player. He’s a true 200-foot player who competes for every inch. With the puck he is very elusive and can make plays in traffic, especially around the net. We believe that Harshaan has a very bright future,” said Royals Assistant General Manager and Director of Player Personnel, J.F. Best.
With the 104th pick of the draft, in the fifth round, the Royals selected forward Nolan Stewart. Stewart, who stands at 5’9 and 141lbs, hails from Edmonton, AB. He tallied 22 goals and 24 assists for 46 points in 30 games with the Northern Alberta Xtreme U15 Prep team during the 2022-23 season.
“Nolan’s natural leadership manifests in the way he plays the game. He competes, finishes checks, blocks shots, makes plays, buzzes around the net … I could go on and on. He is the type of player that every coach wants to coach. He is exactly the type of player and person we look for in a Royal,” said Royals Assistant General Manager and Director of Player Personnel, J.F. Best.
In the sixth round, with the 113th pick, the Royals selected forward Kadyn O’Brien. Standing at 5’4 and 113lbs, O’Brien tallied 11 goals and 22 assists for 33 points in 26 games with Okanagan Hockey Academy U15 Prep during the 2022-23 season. O’Brien hails from Whitehorse, YT.
“Kadyn is a spark plug. He is among the fastest skaters in this year’s draft, and plays a gritty, in-your-face brand of hockey. He has a tenacious work ethic paired with tremendous skill which allows him to impact the play whenever he is on the ice,” said Royals Assistant General Manager and Director of Player Personnel, J.F. Best.
With the 157th selection, in the eighth round, the Royals selected defenceman William Ren. Ren, who is 6’2 and 175lbs, spent the 2022-23 season with Burnaby Winter Club U15 Prep, where he scored 2 goals and 7 assists to total 9 points in 16 games.
“William is a strong, mobile defender with a high work rate. He is an imposing presence on the ice and has the ability to make quick reads with poise. He has tremendous upside and we look forward to watching him continue to develop,” said Royals General Manager and Head Coach, Dan Price.
In the ninth round of the draft the Royals used the 179th pick to select forward Mathieu Lajoie. Hailing from St. Albert, AB, Lajoie stands at 5’9 and 136lbs. The 15-year-old spent the 2022-23 season with the St. Albert Sabres U15 AAA team where he scored 18 goals and 52 assists for 70 points in 34 games.
“Mathieu possesses rare high-end ability to process multiple reads, identify passing lanes, and make passes most players don’t see. He is among the top pure playmakers in this draft and we were thrilled to be able to select him,” said Royals Assistant General Manager and Director of Player Personnel, J.F. Best.
With the 201st overall selection, in the tenth round, the Royals selected defenceman Tyler McCracken of Rosemount, MN. McCracken, who stands at 5’8 and 164lbs, tallied 9 goals and 45 assists for 54 points in 56 games with Shattuck St. Mary’s 14U AAA during the 2022-23 season.
“Tyler is a very good puck moving defenceman hailing from one of the top U15 programs in the U.S. On the ice, he demonstrates remarkable poise and confidence in all situations and was exceptional when quarterbacking their powerplay. He is an excellent prospect with great balance and vision,” said Royals General Manager and Head Coach, Dan Price.
In the 11th round, with the 223rd overall pick, the Royals selected defenceman Henry Liu of White Rock, BC. Liu, who is 6’4 and 186lbs, spent the 2022-23 season with St. George’s School U15 Prep where he tallied 2 goals and 20 assists for 22 points in 26 games.
“Henry is a powerful athlete whose size and strength make him a unique player type in this draft. He uses his frame and reach effectively to frustrate attackers, often lining up and delivering punishing checks. With the puck, he makes quick reads and has a good touch on his passes,” said Royals Assistant General Manager and Director of Player Personnel, J.F. Best.