Raider GM Hunt reflects on 2023 WHL Prospects Draft

Herald File Photo. Raider GM Curtis Hunt speaks at the 2023 Raider Awards Banquet

The Prince Albert Raiders picked early and often in the 2023 WHL Prospects Draft.

Holding the picks 1, 2 and 7 in the first round, the Raiders selected defenseman Daxon Rudolph, centreman Riley Boychuk and winger Ty Meunier with their top three selections.

“I’m really excited.” Raider general manager Curtis Hunt said about the team’s draft class. “I think the guys did a tremendous job this year of getting to know the player beyond what you may see on the ice. We dug in probably a little deeper than we ever had. We also have some options at times to maybe move picks or move around. But in the end, I’m just thrilled with our first round.

“First of all, you talk about championship building, you go from the back end. The year we won, we had a group of older, mature defensemen that really grew together (and) that’s a key player. And then the other two players, I don’t think you can get the puck away from those guys and where they play with it and that’s exciting for the organization as well.”

Prince Albert made 11 draft selections on Thursday, including five in the top 50 overall selections.

Hunt says he believes the Raiders got a great selection of good character players up and down the draft board.

“I think you win with people. I think it was Dave Manson who said to me when I first got here, we were just in a casual conversation, just talking about philosophy, and it was people, process and then performance and that’s kind of always in the back of my mind in terms of how I think things should be run. And I think certainly if you look at our organization, current players within it and our staff, I think you’d start with the quality of people that we have involved.”

The players selected in the 2023 WHL Prospects Draft are not eligible to become full time players in the league until the 2024-2025 season. Despite not having contribution from the 2008-born players full-time this coming season, Hunt says there is still plenty of good things to look forward to with the club.

“In January when the trade deadline was finally over, we were considerably younger than before. Our guys really started to come together. And I thought our play after Christmas was fantastic. We had a young group and really came together at the end of the year.”

“The trades are hard on players. It puts doubt and a little bit of insecurity because we forget they are kids because they’re fast and they’re big. I saw us really come together and gel, we’ve got an influx of talent from last year’s draft. We’re looking forward to a very competitive camp with those kids pushing for opportunity.”

Hunt says he is looking forward to seeing the contributions of the 2023 draft class, but says he is looking forward to the upcoming season at the moment.

“We did graduate some players, so we’ve got some holes to fill. Without looking too far ahead, this ’08 group is special. There are good things to come. And it’s hard not to look too far ahead but certainly like we tell the kids when you play, you got to stay and play in the moment and react in the moment and let’s enjoy this journey, because I think it’s going to be a lot of fun for the kids and certainly a lot of fun for our fans as well.”