Rockets to choose 9th at WHL bantam draft
With the ninth pick overall, Lorne Frey doesn't necessarily expect to land a high-end prospect who will be ready to make a huge impact in the Western Hockey League within a year or two.
Still, the Kelowna Rockets assistant general manager and director of scouting fully expects to get a quality 1997-born player on Thursday morning at the WHL bantam draft in Calgary.
"It's a good position, we should get a good player," said Frey. "I think every team is going to get good players. The parity amongst players is incredible. There are maybe one or two franchise-type players available. We're pretty young and pretty solid on the back end so we'd like to get a forward with our first pick. But having said that if the people we are interested in aren't available, we may take another defenceman."
The Rockets won't have a second-round choice this year, but Frey said the overall quality of player available in the draft should help compensate for the void.
Frey said player development has closed the gap between the top prospects and the rest of the field of potential players.
"There are a lot of good players," he said. "The gap continues to close as far as overall abilities. There are so many kids out there in the same category and at the same levels. We go into this looking to get good players. You want to get four or five good players that can play in the league a few years down the road."
Looking back at last year's bantam draft, Frey said the Rockers are pleased with the showings of some of their 1996 born prospects. First overall pick Rourke Chartier and second rounder Austin Glover both played for the Saskatchewan Contacts which won the Saskatchewan midget AAA league. Third-round pick Riley Stadel impressed in a late season call-up to the Rockets and fifth-rounders Justin Kirkland and Ryan Donaldson also had good seasons.
Frey said another trend in hockey has seen smaller players having success in the WHL and the NHL, making the draft process even more dificult.
"You always want to get good size and guys that can skate but what is making it more difficult is there are so many good smaller players and they have shown they are capable of playing in the league."
WHL fans can watch the first round of the 2012 WHL bantam Draft live online via web cast at whl.ca.
Players eligible for the 2012 WHL Bantam Draft are 1997-born players who reside in Alberta, B.C., Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Northwest Territories, Yukon, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.
• Following is the order of selection for the 1st round of the WHL Bantam Draft:
1). Seattle Thunderbirds
2). Prince Albert Raiders
3). Prince George Cougars
4). Lethbridge Hurricanes
5). Swift Current Broncos
6). Red Deer Rebels
7). Everett Silvertips
8). Victoria Royals
9). Kelowna Rockets
10). Kootenay Ice
11). Regina Pats
12). Brandon Wheat Kings
13). Saskatoon Blades
14). Spokane Chiefs
15). Vancouver Giants
16). Medicine Hat Tigers
17). Calgary Hitmen
18). Moose Jaw Warriors
19). Kamloops Blazers
20). Portland Winterhawks
21). Tri-City Americans
22). Edmonton Oil Kings