The Kelowna Rockets added to the team’s stable of young defencemen with their first pick Thursday morning at the 2016 WHL Bantam Draft in Calgary.
After trading choices with Red Deer to move up to the 11th position overall, Kelowna selected Kaedan Korczak, a 6-foot-1, 170-pound blue liner from Saskatchewan.
Korczak played midget AAA with the Yorkton Maulers last year, despite being only second year bantam age.
Kelowna assistant GM Lorne Frey said when Korzcak was still available midway in the opening round, the Rockets jumped at the chance to trade up and bolster the future of their defensive corps.
“We’ve had a philosophy for years that the back end is very important,” said Frey. “You don’t win without some defencemen that can defend and also provide some offense. Kaedan is a big, solid, all-around two-way player.
“He’s a good skater, he’s mobile and can play in every situation. He has a chance to be a stable defenceman for years for us.”
Korczak will play one more year of midget AAA in Yorkton before being eligible to join the Rockets. He will attend the Kelowna training camp this summer and said it was a dream come true to be selected by the Rockets.
“I was in shock (when they drafted me). It was a very exciting moment,” Korzcak said. “I’m really excited to be drafted by Kelowna. They develop good players, it’s a nice city with a nice rink and a great organization.”
Frey said Korczak has good skills and can play in all situations, including power play and penalty kill and the Yorkton defender said he likes to join the rush but also be responsible defensively.
“I’m a two-way player,” he said. “I know when to jump in the rush and create an offensive attack and also know how to stay in my own end and play defense.”
Kelowna also sent Red Deer one of its four third round selections to make the trade to select 11th.
In the third round, the Rockets had three choices, taking centre Deegan Mofford from Rocky Mountain House, AB, forward Dallon Wilton from Beausejour, MB and Delta goaltender Roman Basran.
In round 4, Kelowna took Michael Gildon, a winger from Plano, TX.
In the sixth round, the Rockets chose Cole Brooks, a defenceman from Estevan, SK.
Defenceman Jackson Van de Leest, a Kelowna product, was chosen 16th overall in the first round by the Calgary Hitmen. Van de Leest plays at Yale Academy.
Kelowna’s Connor Horning, who plays at Pursuit of Excellence Academy, went in the third round, 61st overall, to the Swift Current Broncos.
One pick later, Kelowna product and Yale Academy forward Alex Swetlikoff was chosen by the Seattle Thunderbirds.
To view all the choices in the 2016 WHL bantam draft, visit newwhl.ca