WHL bumps up Bantam Draft date

The 2020 Western Hockey League Bantam Draft will be occurring a couple of weeks earlier than planned.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the draft will now be conduced online on Wednesday, April 22 instead of being held in Red Deer, Alta. on Thursday, May 7.

Red Deer was to serve as the host city for the 2020 WHL Awards Banquet, but that has been cancelled.

The league will announce further details on both events in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, the WHL Bantam Draft Lottery and the brand new U.S. Prospects Draft will go ahead as scheduled on Wednesday at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. respectively.

Bantam Draft Lottery

The Swift Current Broncos, Moose Jaw Warriors, Tri-City Americans, Prince George Cougars, Regina Pats and Red Deer Rebels are all involved with the lottery, as the six clubs were to miss out on the post-season before it was cancelled on Monday.

A team can only move up two spots if they win the lottery, with the Broncos having the best odds of landing the first overall choice.

However, the Broncos and the Pats do not own their first round pick.

Swift Current dealt their selection to the Lethbridge Hurricanes at the 2018 trade deadline as part of a deal that saw the Broncos land Stuart Skinner, Giorgio Estephan and Tanner Nagel.

The Hurricanes then traded that pick to the Pats last season when they acquired Jake Leschyshyn and Nick Henry.

Meanwhile, the Pats’ first round selection is now the property of the Saskatoon Blades.

The Blades acquired that pick during the 2018 trade deadline when they traded Cameron Hebig and Ryan Kubic to a Pats club that was hosting the Memorial Cup.

The lottery took on added meaning early Tuesday evening as it was announced that forward Connor Bedard had been granted exceptional player status and will become the first 15-year-old to enter the WHL on a full-time basis next season.

Bedard had 84 points in 36 games this season for the West Van Academy prep program.

He joins John Tavares, Aaron Ekblad, Connor McDavid, Sean Day, Joe Veleno and Shane Wright in the exceptional player status category.

U.S. Prospects Draft

Each of the 22 WHL teams will have a chance to add two American players to their prospect pool on Wednesday, with the Prince Albert Raiders holding the fifth and 40th selections.

A lottery process was used to determine the draft order, with the Rebels getting the first overall choice

As is the case for the WHL Bantam Draft, teams will have the chance to draft 2005-born players that reside in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.