Draft prep a rite of spring for Frey

The on-ice fortunes of the Kelowna Rockets—particularly in springtime—are never far from Lorne Frey’s thoughts.

Still, as is the case each and every April, the Rockets’ player personnel director and assistant GM finds himself occupied more with the club’s future than the present.

With the Western Hockey League’s bantam draft just three weeks away, Frey and his scouting staff are making their customary spring swing through Western Canada, along with a stop in California, to get one last look at the best available 1996-born talent.

Frey has already been to tournaments in Winnipeg and Kamloops this month, and this weekend will be in Lethbridge to take a final scan of Alberta’s top prospects.

Next week, he’ll head to Anaheim for the WHL U.S. Prospects Camp, then will wrap up his scouting expedition back in Kamloops at the end of the month at the B.C. Best Ever tournament.

After a season of evaluating as many as 800 players, Frey is about to draw up his final conclusions in advance of the bantam draft—the lifeblood of every WHL franchise.

“This is probably the most important time of the whole year for us,” said Frey. “In these year-end tournaments, it’s the best of the best competing against their peers in each province. You get a good idea of what they can do against each other.

Some players will separate themselves a little bit from the rest, and that’s going to determine a lot about what we’re going to do at the draft.”

With three decades of scouting under his belt—the last 21 years with the Rockets franchise—Frey is hard-pressed to remember a time when so many players fit a similar profile.

Frey said after the top tier of available talent, there isn’t much to differentiate in the next group where as many as 100 players or more could be lumped into the same category.

“It’s getting harder and harder to identify and separate players from each other, there are a lot out there with the same kinds of skills and very good skills,” said Frey. “With the schools and academies, the kids get a lot of ice time and they seem develop a lot faster than they used to. The club teams are also doing a really good job with the coaching that’s out there now. There’s very little discrepancy, so that really adds to the challenge of deciding which way you’re going to go.”

The Rockets will choose 15th overall in the opening round of the bantam draft on May 5 in Calgary.

Based on their current 50-player list,  the Rockets’ overall strength appears to be on defense.

With rookie Damon Severson, 16, continuing to develop, and prospects Jesse Lees and Madison Bowey waiting in the wings, conventional wisdom might see Kelowna leaning towards a forward with its first pick.

Not necessarily the case, says Frey.

“Really, you can never have enough defencemen, so if a defencemen happens to be the best player available when our picks comes up, then that’s who we’ll take. If it’s a forward, then that’s the way we’ll go…whoever the best player available happens to be.”

While much of Frey’s time these days is consumed with travel and final preparations for the draft, he continues to ride the wave of another potential playoff run by the Rockets.

He missed significant stretches of the 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2009 playoffs, each of which resulted in either a WHL or Memorial Cup title.

Still, Frey is more than happy to cheer from afar if the 2010-11 version of the Rockets can follow a similar path.

“They don’t need me back there…I’m used to being away at this time of year anyway,” he said Monday. “The guys have been doing well so far. Hopefully they can keep this going for a while yet.”


Central Scouting rankings

Three Kelowna Rockets forwards have been listed in Central Scouting’s final rankings in advance of the NHL entry draft this summer in Minnesota.

Zach Franko is rated 123rd, Shane McColgan is 125th, while Jessey Astles comes in at 160th.

As of Tuesday, McColgan led the Rockets in playoff scoring with 15 points.


Just Posted

Accident reported at Hwy 97C exit

Police was searching a nearby field but left after 30 minutes

Get rid of the kids for spring break

Check out the Okanagan Heritage Museum and Kelowna Art Gallery

Truck destroyed by fire in West Kelowna

A fire destroyed a truck at Wheel’s Truck Parts Friday

Central Okanagan MLAs plan public meeting on new B.C. taxes

Speculation Tax and Employer Health Tax will be the subject of panel discussion in Kelowna March 25

Sally Ann in Kelowna looking for emergency team volunteers

Information session planned for April 5 at the organization’s Community Church

What’s happening

Find out what events are taking place this weekend in the Okanagan and Shuswap

Salmon Arm community cheers on Natalie Wilkie as she wins first gold medal

Local skier tops the podium in 7.5km race at the PyeongChang Paralympics

Experts: Society has a role in trying to prevent domestic violence

Experts are speaking out following the murder of a woman and her son in Ontario

Northern lights chasers in Canada discover new type named ‘Steve’

Phenomenon linked to a powerful current created by charged particles in Earth’s upper atmosphere

Progress on fixing Phoenix pay system backlog could be short-lived: Ottawa

Feds have said they won’t try to recover money overpaid until all outstanding issues are fixed

Correction: Museum fashion tour to be held Saturday

A mistake was in Wednesday’s edition of the newspaper incorrectly stating a different day

How to keep local news visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections. You might see less news.

Washington state backs B.C. in pipeline dispute

Governor Jay Inslee says he is ‘allied’ with the province on Trans Mountain expansion projection

SAY WHAT? Readers weigh in on high-speed rail to U.S.

B.C. to contribute $300,000 to a million-dollar business study on the proposed project

Most Read