The future certainly looks sunny for the Calgary Hitmen.
With an eye-popping dirty dozen’s worth of draft picks in the 2020 WHL Bantam Draft, how can it not bode well for the Western Hockey League club, even if there’s only a moderate amount of success that comes out of the annual crap-shoot?
But given that it’s considered a deep draft class for Wednesday’s virtual pick-em, the odds are in the Hitmen’s favour of getting quite the return for their day at the table that begins at 10 a.m. online at whl.ca.
Especially if they elect to keep — and use — all 12 picks.
“I’d be highly surprised if we made any deals,” said Hitmen GM Jeff Chynoweth. “Until we know what’s going to happen with our 20-year-olds, it’s tough for us to get involved in those type of trades at this time of year.
“So unless something comes out of left field, we’re going to stay status quo.”
Not that it’s a bad thing.
No, sir … not this year.
“This draft has long been talked about for its level of talent and depth, and we are excited to own one pick in every round, including a trio of sixth-round selections,” said Hitmen director of player personnel Dallas Thompson. “Our scouting staff has invested a lot of time preparing for Wednesday, and we are excited to add to our protected list with a number of future Hitmen.”
Just who they will be has yet to be determined.
But one thing is for sure, Thompson & Co. feel like they’ve had plenty of time, with the coronavirus pandemic suspending the last five weeks of the schedule, to do their homework for the draft, which has been moved ahead from May 7 with the current health crisis changing the face of the calendar.
“There’s no substitute for skill,” said Chynoweth on what they’re looking for from their first-round pick. “We want to get a forward that brings as much skill as he can to our hockey club. And we want a puck-moving defenceman if we do go that way — the game is so fast now that a defenceman has to be able to get the puck up to the forwards quickly.”
Of course, whichever one they opt for with that 12th overall pick will be decided with the help of the 11 other choices made ahead of them.
With the first-overall selection, the Regina Pats have declared they are taking — and have already signed — centre Connor Bedard, possibly the most highly touted player ever to join the WHL and the league MVP of the Canadian Sport School Hockey League after scoring 84 points in 36 games with the West Vancouver Warriors.
Then, it’s likely to be a pair of Saskatoon Midget ‘AAA’ Contacts taken in centre Brayden Yager and winger Riley Heidt by the teams in the second- and third-overall slots, the Prince George Cougars and the Moose Jaw Warriors, although the supposed most complete blueliner, Tanner Molendyk of B.C.’s Yale Academy Lions, should draw big consideration as well.
But fear not, Hitmen fans.
After that, there’s plenty of talent in the hopper for the remainder of the pick-em.
“There’s some top-end players like there always is, but there’s a lot of chatter that there is more depth this year,” Chynoweth agreed. “But I always caution that you shouldn’t judge a draft class until three years after the time that you select these players.
“But yeah … there’s 22 teams with 22 different lists, and you might have a guy in the third round that other teams have in the sixth round, so you’ve got that kind of depth.”
With a dozen picks in this year’s 10-round draft, including three in the sixth round, the day should pay off handsomely for the Hitmen.
“Not in my wildest dreams did I think we would have every selection in this year’s draft,” Chynoweth said. “We were planning on making a run for it this year, and we didn’t think we had to add a lot. We ended up making a trade for (20-year-old) Kyle Olson to change the look of our forward group, and we were looking at another defenceman. Then, when (star defenceman) Egor Zamula gets hurt and has (season-ending) back surgery and Layne Toder decided to leave the hockey club to go play Junior ‘A’, we got caught between a rock and a hard place and couldn’t make a deal.
“But as it turned out, we’ve got all our picks in a draft class we’re excited about.”
That doesn’t mean, though, that the Hitmen GM wouldn’t be unavailable to make some sort of trade, just as he did last year on draft day when he landed top-tier d-man Jett Woo.
“If something presents itself (like Woo last year), absolutely we’ll look at it,” Chynoweth added. “But right now, it’s highly unlikely. I’d rather have the options of having the picks than not have them at all — they mean so much.
“You’re hoping to get three-to-five out of each draft class to play on your roster at some point. So when you draft 10 guys and you add in two others (in forward Hunter Anderson and defenceman Briggs Orr) from the U.S. Prospects Draft two weeks ago, we’re going to have 12 2005-born players on our player list when this ends.
“We feel comfortable we’re going to get a good group. Hopefully they can develop and lead us to some on-ice success down the road.”
HITMEN ON DRAFT DAY
1st round — 12th overall
2nd round — 34th overall
3rd round — 65th overall (acquired from Everett Silvertips in Andrew Fyten trade)
4th round — 78th overall
5th round — 91st overall (acquired from Tri City Americans in Dom Schmiemann trade)
6th round — 112th overall (acquired from Moose Jaw Warriors in Hunter Campbell trade)
6th round — 121st overall (acquired from Saskatoon Blades in Zach Huber trade)
6th round — 131st overall (acquired from Everett Silvertips in Jameson Murray trade)
7th round — 144th overall
8th round — 166th overall
9th round — 188th overall
10th round — 210th overall