As a kid growing up in Kelowna, Jonathan Smart often entertained thoughts of one day suiting up for the hometown Rockets.
Smart took a huge step towards realizing that dream Thursday, as the Rockets chose the 5-foot-11, 170-pound defenceman in the opening round of the 2014 WHL bantam draft.
Kelowna’s first choice and 22nd choice overall, Smart played this past season with the Okanagan Hockey Academy where he posted 10 goals and 32 assists in 48 games.
“The thing about Jonathan is his intelligence and play-making ability,” said Rockets assistant GM Lorne Frey. “He makes excellent decisions with the puck and he competes.”
Smart is the son of Jason Smart, a 6-foot-4 former centre with the WHL’s Saskatoon Blades.
Smart was one of five OHA players taken in the first round of the draft, and was headed to Penticton by van with some of his teammates who were all following the draft on their phones.
When his name came up with the Rockets alongside of it, Smart admitted he was both surprised and thrilled.
“I was speechless,” said Smart, who moved to Kelowna when he was five. “There was nothing to describe it. It was unbelievable.
“It’s a dream come true pretty much,” he added. “You grow up watching the Rockets and seeing all the great defencemen that played for them. It’s unbelievable them picking me. I’m extremely grateful.”
Lorne Frey believes Smart has all the tools to become a well-rounded WHL defenceman.
“He’s so good offensively, he’s another high end offensive guy and I think the defensive side of his game will come,” added Frey. “We think his intelligence is as good as anyone out there at this stage and I think we are fortunate to acquire him.”
The Rockets didn’t have a selection in the second or third rounds, then in the fourth took Cooper Haar, a forward from Huntington Beach, CA, and Jordan Sandhu, a centre from the Seafair program in Richmond.
The first Kelowna product chosen in the draft was defenceman Griffin Mendel, who was selected 11th overall by the Kootenay Ice. Mendel played this season at Okanagan Hockey Academy.
In the second round Kelowna product Owen Hardy, a centre with Pursuit of Excellence, was chosen by the Vancouver Giants.
In the fourth round, Jake Harrison of West Kelowna and POE defenceman, was selected by the Spokane Chiefs.
The first member of the Kelowna bantam tier 1 Rockets to be selected was captain Lucas Cullen, who went in the fifth round, 95th overall to the Calgary Hitmen.
Goaltender Liam Hughes, a teammate of Cullen’s with the tier 1 Rockets, went to the Edmonton Oil Kings in the seventh round. Matt Alcorn, a defenceman with Kelowna, was chosen by the Oil Kings in the ninth round.
Hayden Dick, a forward from Kelowna who played at OHA, went to Kamloops with the last pick of the seventh round.
For results from the eighth round and beyond, visit www.whl.ca