Prince Albert Bantam AA team sees 5 members selected by major junior clubs
Prince Albert’s Bantam AA Pirates had a successful draft day: Five of the team’s players were picked up by Western Hockey League clubs Thursday during the league’s annual Bantam draft.
Topping that list was Pirates points leader Gabe Klassen, chosen by the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks 19th overall in the first round.
“He’s one of those players that sets a goal and develops a plan and puts in the time and effort to get there,” Pirates head coach Shawn Phaneuf said. “He’s a great kid and a great player; very well-deserving to go in the first round.”
“It’s awesome,” Klassen said of the pick. “I’m really excited – it’s a great organization over there. And it’s nice to see the confidence they showed in me. So I’m really looking forward to showing them that they made the right pick and doing my best.”
He said he first learned of the selection while in class at Carlton high school.
“I started watching the draft in my house and then went to school … we watched it in our first period of the day, so it was just during that class when they called my name and I found out.”
He was in class with his Pirates teammates watching the livestream of the draft, with permission from their teacher.
“All of us boys were waiting for our name and luckily mine got called.”
Along with Klassen, two other Pirates were picked by WHL teams in the league’s U.S. Division: Forward Logan Cox and defenceman Chase Friedt-Mohr were both selected by the Spokane Chiefs; Cox 83rd overall in the fourth round of selection and Friedt-Mohr 105th overall in the fifth round.
Having four other teammates drafted on the same day as him is special, Klassen said, while having two of those four in close proximity to him is even more special.
“We’ll be playing each other often. Portland and Spokane have a pretty good rivalry, so that’ll be pretty neat if we can one day play against each other.”
When Cox found out about his selection a little bit later in the morning, at about 10:30 a.m., he was in the quiet confines of Carlton’s library.
“I was on the computer, and a friend shouted across the library that I got drafted. And then I just jumped and everyone came over and started hugging me and said ‘congratulations.’”
The librarian apparently wasn’t taken aback by the boisterous cheers, he said.
“She knew what was going on; she knew it was draft day. All the teachers were smiling and said ‘congratulations.’”
Cox said being selected by the WHL team is an important accomplishment. “It’s a great organization. They’ve got lots of fans, it’s a good location and it’s a nice city.”
Like Klassen, Cox said it’s special to have so many teammates selected in one draft cycle.
“It’s pretty rare to have five good, elite players on a team together and kind of reach that accomplishment,” he said.
“It’s cool knowing that one of your best friends is just down the road playing in the same league as you. And then Chase, one of my other good buddies I’ve played with my whole life, getting to go with him to that level of a team, going with one of your best friends, is pretty cool.”
Asked about their individual skills they hope to bring to each team, Klassen said Portland is known for developing small, fast, goal-scoring players; he said he hopes to bring his scoring touch, puck-handling skills and his speed to the team.
Cox said he wants to use his physical play to help the Chiefs find success.
“I play as a big player. I’ve got lots of size and speed, and I like to think of myself as a power forward – drive the net, maybe score a couple of goals.”
Phaneuf, the Pirates head coach, also offered his assessment of the team’s other four WHL draftees, in addition to Klassen:
Marek Schneider, defenceman, picked 30th overall in the second round by the Saskatoon Blades
“Another good leader for us.
“He plays in a bit of a shadow with his brother (the Brandon Wheat Kings’ Braden Schneider). His brother’s a big name in the WHL, and you know Marek was able to develop his own identity this year, and I think he got drafted where he deserved to in that upper end of the second round.”
Ashton Ferster, forward, picked 77th overall in the fourth round by the Medicine Hat Tigers
“He’s another one of our big, complete players, another one of our all-around go-to guys who can play in any situation. Going 77th overall is a big feather in his cap; he’s really developed his game and done a great job for us.”
“He had the ability to be a game breaker at times for us.
“His skating ability and physicality definitely makes him a force on the ice, and people were always aware when he was on the ice.
“He was able to play several roles for us this year, and he excelled at all of those roles.”
“He played for me last year as a first-year, and he logged some pretty big minutes and had a big responsibility as a first-year player.
“Coming into this season, he came in prepared. He was definitely fit, he was stronger, he put some time in the gym. His only goal is to be a hockey player, and he puts in the time on ice and off ice.
“He was probably one of our most consistent players all season. He works extremely hard … he’s one of those character kids that likely wears a letter somewhere down the road in his career.”