It probably won’t be another record-setting year, but the Kamloops Jardine’s Blazers should be pretty well represented in today’s WHL bantam draft.
The Blazers could have as many as six players selected in the draft, which will start this morning at Calgary’s Deerfoot Inn. The Seattle Thunderbirds hold the first pick in the draft, which is for 1997-born players from Western Canada and the Western U.S.
According to George Cochrane, Kamloops Minor Hockey’s head coach, the Jardine’s Blazers likely won’t come close to the eight players that were drafted in 2011. But that doesn’t mean it won’t be a successful draft for Kamloops.
“There are probably three or four ‘for-sures,’ ” Cochrane said. “And there are also two or three ‘maybes.’ I would say, in the end it will probably come out around five or six (drafted).”
The eight Jardine’s Blazers players drafted in 2011 — Ryan Gropp (Seattle), Joe Hicketts (Victoria), Carson Bolduc (Prince George), Chad Butcher (Medicine Hat), Matt Murray (Kootenay), Liam McLeod (Kamloops), Mitchell Barker (Prince Albert) and Kyle Michalovsky (Calgary) — marked the most ever for a Kamloops bantam team.
The previous record was five, which happened in 1996, 1997, 2001 and 2004.
“We try not to put much emphasis on the bantam draft for the players and parents throughout the season, because we don’t want it to be the focal point,” Cochrane said. “But to have players get drafted . . . means we’re doing a good job developing players.”
The Thunderbirds are expected to select centre Matthew Barzal of the Burnaby Winter Club with the first overall pick. Others expected to go high are centre Jansen Harkins of the North Shore Winter Club, winger Nick Merkley of the Calgary Bisons and forward Adam Musil, also of BWC, which won the provincial AAA championship in Kamloops in March.
According to Cochrane, the Jardine’s Blazers’ two best bets for the bantam draft are defenceman Kevin Davis and forward Nick Chyzowski.
“(Davis) is real cool, calm and collected out there,” Cochrane said. “He never panics with the puck and he makes good decisions.”
Chyzowski, according to Cochrane, “battles and works hard.”
“He shoots the puck really well and he has solid instincts, at both ends of the ice,” Cochrane added. “When you talk about bantams, you don’t always talk about both ends, but (Chyzowski) is effective all over.”
Cochrane said that forward Addison Bazian, defenceman Alex Winters and forwards Maxwell James and Dexter Robinson also could hear their names called on Thursday.
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The Jardine’s Blazers had four players chosen after the B.C. Cup under-16 challenge to take part in the U16 provincial camp in Salmon Arm from July 18-22.
Goaltender Bailey De Palma will join Chyzowski, Bazian and De Palma at the camp, for the province’s top 15-year-old players.
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The Kamloops Blazers will pick 19th overall in today’s first round, then may have to wait a while before their next pick.
Kamloops only holds three picks in the first three rounds — 19th, 77th and 85th. The latter two picks are in the fourth round.
Barring a trade, the Blazers will have some time to think about their second pick, because they traded away their second- and third-round selections.
The Blazers’ second-round selection would have been 41st overall, but they sent it to the Prince Albert Raiders a part of the Dec. 31 deal that brought forward Brandon Herrod to Kamloops.
Kamloops’ third-round selection, which would have been 63rd overall, belongs to the Regina Pats. The Pats got the pick in exchange for forward Thomas Frazee in a December 2010 deal.
Along with the 19th, 77th and 85 selections, the Blazers also hold two selections in the sixth round (123 and 129), and one each in the seventh (151), eighth (173), ninth (195) and 10th (217) rounds.
The Blazers gave their fifth-round pick (107) to the Edmonton Oil Kings last summer in exchange for defenceman Marek Hrbas. Kamloops picked up the Saskatoon Blades’ sixth-rounder (123) in an October 2010 trade that sent forward Jake Trask east.
The Blazers have never selected lower than 17th in the first round. In 1995, they selected defenceman Robyn Regehr 17th overall, before taking another defenceman, Tyler Boldt, in the same spot in 1999.