As the 2014 Western Hockey League bantam draft wound down, Kyle Topping was on the verge of being entirely overlooked.
But in the 11th round, the Kelowna Rockets decided to use their final selection to land the native of Salt Spring Island.
Three years later, neither the WHL club nor Topping have a single regret.
The 5-foot-11, 185-pound Topping has since developed into one of the Rockets’ best and most reliable young forwards.
“For me, what separates Kyle from a lot of other players is his attitude,” said Rockets assistant coach Travis Crickard. “He’s one of those players who wants to be told the truth, he wants his coaches to be up front, and fully accepts positive or negative feedback.
“There’s a willingness to accept whatever advice he’s given and that’s allowed him to improve as much as he has.”
The younger brother of Tri-City forward Jordan Topping, Kyle turned in a solid rookie campaign with 14 goals and 29 points.
Motivated by last season’s initiation to the WHL and the potential of playing an expanded role this season, Topping has already scored six times and added nine assists in the Rockets’ first 12 games.
“Going into the summer this year I wanted to work really hard and come back in the best possible shape, and be ready for this season,” said Topping, who played with the BCHL’s Cowichan Valley Capitals before joining Kelowna last season. “We did lose a lot of scoring up front from last year, so I knew there’d be a good chance to play a bigger role. It’s been really good so far.”
Topping has had several different linemates this season, but of late has found chemistry with his newest partners, Kole Lind and Nolan Foote.
“It’s nice to play with them, you get them the puck and most of the time good things are going to happen,” Topping said.
Player personnel director and assistant GM Lorne Frey said the Rockets couldn’t have asked for much more from Topping.
“He’s a good 200-foot player, he has real good speed, good offensive ability and plays in all situations,” Frey said. “He’s a smart player and kudos to him for how hard he’s worked.
“That draft (2014) wasn’t our best, we didn’t have a lot of picks, so to get him where we did was very fortunate and we’re excited to have him.”
On Friday night, Topping and his older brother will go head-to-head for the second time this season when the Tri-City Americans visit Prospera Place.
While Kyle has no plans to show mercy to his older sibling on the ice, he does appreciate the relationship the two continue to have as fellow WHL players.
“It was pretty special to have someone to look up to growing up, playing road hockey, shooting pucks, things like that, so that was nice,” said Topping, who played with the BCHL’s Cowichan Valley Capitals before joining Kelowna last season.
“I kind of took some of the things Jordan learned and built off that. It’s pretty cool now to be able to play with him in the Western Hockey League.”
The Rockets host the Americans Friday at 7:05 p.m. at Prospera Place. The Prince George Cougars will visit the Rockets on Saturday.