The Kamloops Blazers are hoping they have unearthed a gem in Emerald Park, Sask.
Kamloops used its first pick in Thursday's WHL bantam draft, 19th overall, on centre Jayden Halbgewachs, who spent last season with the bantam AA Prairie Storm in Balgonie, Sask. Halbgewachs, a 5-foot-7, 152-pounder, had 55 goals and 34 assists in only 24 games.
"It was a great season for me as well as the team," said the 15-year-old. "We did great - won some tournaments and put up some good numbers. We came up one game short in the (Saskatchewan) final, but I guess one team has to lose."
To no one's surprise, the Seattle Thunderbirds made Burnaby Winter Club centre Mathew Barzal the first overall selection, starting a run on B.C. players. Six of the top 10 picks were from B.C., as well as 11 of the first 22. Burnaby Winter Club alone had four players chosen in the top 16 - centre Adam Musil (sixth overall, to Red Deer), right-winger Ty Ronning (15th, to Vancouver) and defenceman Ty Schultz (16th, to Medicine Hat) joined Barzal in the early-going.
Halbgewachs was the fourth Saskatchewan player taken, but the first forward from the province. His name was called only two spots after the Calgary Hitmen had chosen his Storm teammate, Brennan Riddle.
Earlier, the Kootenay Ice had taken Troy Murray, a defenceman from White City, which is right beside Emerald Park.
"We all know each other well, so it was good to see," Halbgewachs said.
The scouting report on Halbgewachs is pretty much what his statistics would indicate.
"Jayden is a dynamic player who can score at will," said Blazers director of player personnel Matt Recchi, in a news release. "His vision, skating and determination are all assets that we covet in a player."
Halbgewachs agreed with the assessment.
"I think I'm a good team player," he said. "I can set people up and keep the puck . . . I skate well and I see the ice well."
The Blazers originally weren't supposed to have a second-round selection, but made a deal to move up and grab Kamloops forward Nick Chyzowski, the son of former Blazers star Dave Chyzowski.
Kamloops traded its 2013 second-round pick, along with a 2012 fourth-round pick, to Vancouver to acquire the 44th pick.
With No. 44, the Blazers took the 14-year-old Chyzowski, who was the captain of the Kamloops Jardine's Blazers.
"I feel I'm a good defensive player and I see the ice well," Chyzowski said. "I have pretty good hockey sense, too.
"Ever since I was at a younger age, coaches have always encouraged me to play well defensively."
Halbgewachs has never been to Kamloops, but has heard good things about it. He also has heard good things about the team, which won 47 games last season.
"It's really exciting," explained Halbgewachs. "It sounds like a great place to play."
The Blazers drafted a total of 10 players Thursday.
They took defenceman Cameron Reagan of Sherwood Park, Alta., in the fourth round, 77th overall, before using their two sixth-round selections on goaltender Cole Kehler of Altona, Man., and right-winger Charlie Gawlicki of Edmonton.
Kamloops selected Surrey defenceman Calen Whitworth in the seventh round, before grabbing centre Josh Stang of Macklin, Sask., in the eighth round.
It chose two players in the ninth round - centre Tyler Jeanson of Graysville, Man., and defenceman Mitchell Brennan of Calgary - before picking right-winger Laramie Kostelansky of Fort MacLeod, Alta., in the 10th round.
Rundown of the Kamloops Blazers’ picks in the 2012 WHL bantam draft, which was held Thursday in Calgary:
First round (19th overall)
F Jayden Halbgewachs
5-foot-7, 152 pounds
Emerald Park, Sask.
Prairie Storm bantam AA — 24GP-55G-34A-89P
Second round (44th overall)
C/LW Nick Chyzowski
5-foot-11, 165 pounds
Jardine’s Blazers bantam AAA — 49GP-41G-42A-83P
Fourth round (77th overall)
D Cameron Reagen
5-foot-11, 167 pounds
Sherwood Park, Alta.
Sherwood Park bantam AAA — 30GP-12G-15A-27P
Sixth round (123rd overall)
G Cole Kehler
6-foot-0, 157 pounds
Pembina Valley bantam AAA — 43GP-33W-2.05GAA
Sixth round (129th overall)
RW Charlie Gawlicki
5-foot-11, 155 pounds
SSAC bantam AAA — 23GP-10G-13A-23P
Seventh round (151st overall)
D Calen Whitworth
6-foot-0, 165 pounds
Semiahmoo bantam AAA — 39GP-0G-11A-11P
Eighth round (173rd overall)
C Josh Stang
6-foot-1, 167 pounds
West Central bantam AA — 24Gp-15G-18A-33P
Ninth round (184th overall)
C Tyler Jeanson
5-foot-5, 130 pounds
Pembina Valley bantam AAA — 64GP-66G-70A-136P
Ninth round (195th overall)
D Mitchell Brennan
6-foot-1, 154 pounds
Calgary Bronks bantam AAA — 33Gp-3G-19A-22P
10th round (209th overall)
RW Laramie Kostelansky
6-foot-0, 165 pounds
Fort MacLeod, Alta.
Lethbridge bantam AAA — 31GP-13G-13A-26P