The Kamloops Blazers added nine new players to their system through the 2019 WHL Bantam Draft this morning in Red Deer.
"Overall with the draft class, I thought we got a really good blend of everything," says Matt Bardsley, Blazers GM. "But the three sticking points for me that I noticed with the players we selected: we got some speed, a really good skill set and really good hockey sense, which I think is critical in today's game. Players have to think the game at a high level and think quick to be able to play quick, so I thought we were able to draft those type of players."
With their first pick, the seventh overall selection, the Blazers chose defenceman Mats Lindgren. The North Vancouver native has spent the last season with the Burnaby Winter Club Bantam Prep team, scoring six goals and adding 39 assists in 53 games.
“A great kid from a great family, Thrilled to get him, elite skater, elite hockey sense, dynamic player that drives offence, makes plays all over the ice.” - BC Head Scout Robbie Sandland.— Kamloops Blazers (@blazerhockey) May 2, 2019
The team also had a second first-round pick for the first time in their Bantam draft history, as a result of a 2018 trade that sent Garrett Pilon and Ondrej Vala to Everett and brought back Montana Oneybuchi and Orrin Centazzo.
Kamloops used that pick to add a centre — Connor Levis out of Vancouver. Playing with St. George's School Bantam Prep, he scored 24 goals and added 38 assists in 26 games this season.
In the second round, the Blazers added another Dylan to their goalie crop, by way of Dylan Ernst from the Weyburn Wings. The Saskatchewan native played 22 games with the bantam squad last year, posting a .918 save percentage and a 2.99 goals-against average. He'll get to follow in the footsteps of fellow prairie boy Rayce Ramsay, who is slated to be playing with Kamloops full-time next fall.
The Blazers stayed in Saskatchewan in the third round, choosing undersized forward Tye Spencer from the Saskatoon Maniacs. Listed at just 5'4" and 124 lbs, Spencer ripped up the Saskatchewan AA Hockey League, finishing third in league scoring with 59 goals and 93 total points.
"As long as they have the hockey sense, then for me, it doesn't really matter the size of the player," says Bardsley.
“Smaller guy good skills can score “ - Sask Head Scout Ken Fox— Kamloops Blazers (@blazerhockey) May 2, 2019
A few rounds later, after selecting Nash Bamford (son of country singer Gord Bamford) with the sixth pick of the seventh round, Kamloops was done adding players.
The Blazers swapped their two other seventh rounders with Portland and Everett, getting 2021 seventh round picks in return. They also traded their eighth-round pick to Saskatoon for a 2021 eighth rounder.
In total, Kamloops selected six forwards, two defencemen and one goalie. Five players came from inside the province, while two each came from Saskatchewan and Alberta.
"Our scouting staff did a tremendous job all year long," says Bardsley. "They did a great job of spending their time in the rinks and identifying the type of players we want here and also doing a very job of doing research on the player to make sure they're quality people as well."
Of course, the draft doesn't mean the end of the grind for Bardsley and his staff. Now they turn their attention to ensuring these players are willing to relocate here when the time comes.
"Players are always excited when they get drafted but there's still work to be done with any player you draft, no matter who you're drafting," he says. "But I'm confident these players want to play in Kamloops."
Kamloops Blazers 2019 WHL Bantam Draft
- Round 1 Pick 7: D Mats Lindgren, North Vancouver, B.C.
- Round 1 Pick 20: C Connor Levis, Vancouver, B.C.
- Round 2 Pick 28: G Dylan Ernst, Weyburn, Sask.
- Round 3 Pick 50: F Tye Spencer, Saskatoon, Sask.
- Round 4 Pick 72: C Fraser Minten, Vancouver, B.C.
- Round 4 Pick 86: F Cameron Johnson, Vancouver, B.C.
- Round 5 Pick 94: D Jamie Weller, Calgary, Atla.
- Round 6 Pick 116: F Vaughn Watterodt, West Kelowna, B.C.
- Round 7 Pick 138: F Nash Bamford, Lacombe, Alta.