Rockets grab Calgary centre with first pick

Kelowna takes centre Nick Merkley in first round of Thursday's bantam draft in Calgary

With a deep crop of forwards available at the 2012 Western Hockey League bantam draft, the Kelowna Rockets were reasonably certain they’d land a solid player with their first choice.

And Lorne Frey wasn’t disappointed when he grabbed talented centre Nick Merkley with the ninth pick overall Thursday morning in Calgary.

Merkley played last season with the Calgary bantam AA Bisons and scored 118 points in 56 regular season games.

The 5-foot-9, 162-pound Calgary native was also named an all-star at the 2012 Alberta Cup, a showcase tournament for the province’s top bantam-aged players.

“He’s a highly-skilled, dynamic young player,” said Frey, the Rockets director of player personnel and assistant GM. “He’s quick and very unselfish. He moves the puck very, very well. We’re excited. We think we got another dynamic young player.”

Merkley’s older brother, Jay, plays for the Lethbridge Hurricanes of the WHL.

In the second round, 34th overall, the Rockets took defenceman Joe Gatenby from the Pursuit of Excellence program in Kelowna.

The 5-foot-11, 150-pound Gatenby is a native of Calgary.

“He’s mobile, an excellent skater with good size, your typical modern-day defenceman,” Frey said of Gatenby.

The Rockets also had the first pick of the third round—acquired from the Prince Albert Raiders—and chose Chris Seto, a left winger from Surrey who played with the Cloverdale bantam tier 1 team.

In round 4, Kelowna took Christian Cakebread, a 5-foot-11, 155-pound right winger from Chandler, Arizona.

In the fifth round, Kelowna opted for Jake Morrisey, a goalie from Calgary, while the club took Port Moody defenceman Lucas Johansen in the sixth round.

Here is the rest of the Rockets draft picks:

 

6th round (119 overall)

Lucas Johansen

Defence

Port Moody, BC

5-10, 145

Port Moody bantam tier 2

 

7th round (141st overall)

Jarrell Pinchuk

Defence

Fort Saskatchewan, AB

5-10, 160

Fort Saskatchewan bantam AAA

 

9th round (185th overall)

Kristan Pangura

Defence

Kimberley, BC

6-0, 168

Cranbrook bantam AA

 

10th round (207)

Brogan O’Brien

Centre

Prince George, BC

5-11, 160

Prince George bantam tier 1

 

11th round (229th overall)

Luigi Naccarato

Defence

Edmonton, AB

5-11, 190

Edmonton MLAC bantam AAA