After selecting blueliners with their first round picks in the last two WHL Bantam Drafts, the Prince Albert Raiders added a forward to their prospect core Thursday morning in Red Deer.
With the 22nd and final pick of the first round, the Raiders selected Niall Crocker from the Delta Hockey Academy Bantam Prep Green program.
“He’s a nice big power forward and a real character kid,” Raiders director of player personnel Curt Brownlee said to Sportsnet’s Sam Cosentino on the WHL’s live stream. “We’re really excited to get him.”
The pick, which was the first of 12 that the Raiders made, was announced by Reed Gunville, the son of former Raiders director of player personnel Ron Gunville who passed away in December.
Crocker, who stands 6’2” and weighs 165 pounds, had 18 goals and 27 assists in 30 games in the Canadian Sport School Hockey League this season.
“He was amongst the elite in the forward group in the draft this year and he was on our radar very early,” Brownlee said of Crocker, who is from Delta, B.C.
“He’s excellent in front of the net and in the dirty areas. He’s got a pro mentality already and the sky’s the limit for him.”
With their second round pick, the Raiders took defenceman Graydon Gotaas.
Gotaas, who is from Camrose, had 13 goals and nine assists in 32 games for the Sherwood Park Flyers
“Graydon has Raiders alumni in his family with his uncle Steve (who played with the team from 1983 to 1987) and he’s someone that we’ll look toward being a leader one day,” Brownlee said.
“He has a high compete level and there are many areas of his game that we like.”
After not picking in the third round, the Raiders selected blueliner Tre Fouquette and forward Tyler Dysart in the fourth round.
Fouquette, who is from Warman, had 15 goals and six assists for his hometown Warman Wildcats and also suited up once for the Prince Albert Mintos in the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League this past season.
“He’s someone that intrigued us throughout the year and he solidified himself as a potential pick for us with a strong showing at the SaskFirst camp,” Brownlee said. “He’s an excellent skater and he handles the puck well for a bigger defenceman.”
Dysart, who is a product of Sunnyvale, California, had eight goals and seven assists in 12 games for the San Jose Jr. Sharks.
“I saw him at the Western Prospects camp in Irving, California and he really stood out,” Brownlee said.
“He’s committed 100 percent to play in the WHL as that’s something he’s been working towards and we’re really excited to have him come up to Prince Albert.”
The Raiders also made a pair of picks in the sixth round as they drafted goaltender Owen Savoie and forward Bryce Warkentine.
Savoie, who is the first netminder the Raiders have picked since they took Brett Balas in the third round of the 2016 WHL Draft, had a 4.59 goals against average and a .880 save percentage for his hometown Winnipeg Hawks.
“Owen’s a guy that our Manitoba scouts really liked,” Brownlee said. “His confidence, his size (6’2”) and his commitment to developing his goalie skills all stand out.”
Warkentine, who is from Landmark, Man., had 16 goals and 18 assists in 34 games for the Eastman Selects.
“A high work ethic is instilled in his family as they are dairy farmers,” Brownlee said. “He’s got a pro level shot and his compete level is through the roof.”
With their seventh round pick, the Raiders picked blueliner Porter Pennock, who had eight goals and 11 assists in 32 regular season games for his hometown Red Deer Bantam Rebels.
“He may have been buried a little bit on the defence for that team, which had a number of guys selected today,” Brownlee said. “He’s very responsible in his zone and plays a big, heavy shutdown game, which is something our fans like.”
Forward Colin Kessler, who had 15 goals and nine assists in 11 games for the Anchorage North Stars, was the team’s ninth round pick.
“He’s an intriguing player and someone who I think has some decision making coming up for what direction he wants to take,” Brownlee said. “He’s a very well-rounded forward with a good understanding of the game.”
In the 10th round, the Raiders selected Canwood forward Dallyn Peekeekoot, who had 14 goals and 20 assists in 31 games for the Battlefords Barons.
“He’s another guy that stands out with his work ethic,” Brownlee said. “There’s a lot of potential with him.”
The Raiders stayed in the province with their 11th round pick by taking Saskatoon blueliner Liam Rodman, who had three goals and four assists in 31 games for his hometown Generals and had the most penalty minutes in the provincial Bantam AA circuit with 110.
“I can’t wait to see him in training camp,” Brownlee said. “We were surprised that he didn’t make the SaskFirst camp as he’s someone that impressed us all year.”
After using their 12th round pick on OHA Edmonton forward Jack Silverberg, who is from Sherwood Park, Alta. and had nine goals and 17 assists in 28 games, the Raiders rounded out the draft by drafting goaltender Max Hildebrand in the 13th round, who had a 2.58 goals against average and an .878 save percentage with his hometown Martensville Marauders.
“Jack impressed me all year long,” Brownlee said. “He’s a smaller player but he plays big. He makes hits, he blocks shots and he scores goals, so he’s willing to do whatever it takes to be a player.
“Max’s been around the game a long time. He’s a big tall-bodied goalie and his upside is tremendous.
As many expected, the Winnipeg Ice took Matthew Savoie with the first overall pick, but they then worked their way up the draft board to take local product Conor Geekie with the second overall selection.
The big move of an opening round that featured a number of trades saw the Moose Jaw Warriors deal Vancouver Canucks defensive prospect Jett Woo to the Calgary Hitmen for Nashville Predators draft pick Vladislav Yeryomenko, forward Ryder Korczak and three draft picks.
“The draft is always full of speculation, rumours and everyone trying to figure out what everyone is going to do,” Brownlee said. “At the end of the day though, the draft dictates to you who it is that you are going to take.
For myself, having worked under Dale Derkatch and Ron Gunville, you learn a lot each day that you are at the rink. If we can keep those perspectives that those guys, I think we can keep things rolling when it comes to having a quality team in Prince Albert moving forward.