When the Prince Albert Raiders drafted Cole Peardon and Ryder Ritchie 13th and 14th overall in Thursday’s WHL draft, the Raiders organization got a glimpse of the future.
Peardon, a forward with the Saskatoon Blazers, and Ritchie, a forward with the Rink Hockey Academy in Kelowna, will be the two key pieces a few years from now. Raiders Director of Player Personnel Bruno Zarillo says he sees the two as being a dynamic duo.
“We went with the philosophy of taking the best players available,” Zarillo said about the Raiders first round choices. “We felt like we really got two quality players with good, hard working characteristics. I see them as our one-two guys in the future. I see them at 18 years old being top six players.”
It was a bit different this year, having the WHL Draft partway into the regular season. While Peardon and Ritchie won’t have the opportunity to crack the roster until next year’s training camp, Zarillo says these next eight months will be important in terms of growth and development.
“It’s been a challenge for these guys,” he said. “A lot of these kids started playing hockey again after a long time off, and then they had a short 90 day sprint to show us what they can do. Now they can relax a little bit and just play hockey and continue developing over the next eight months. Normally you have to wait another year before they can play for you, but technically they could both play in September.”
The past few years have been character years for the Raiders, capped off by their WHL Championship in 2019. For new players, it usually takes some getting used to while they settle into a new atmosphere and a new team. Zarillo made it clear that their picks will be welcomed and adopted into the foundation that has been built in ‘Hockey Town North’.
“I think when they come into our room and our environment, they see what our expectations are and how we do things. They see our goals of not only having success at our league level, but helping their dreams of playing at another level. We’re there to help in the areas of school, and in hockey and life, and obviously also to have success with the Raiders.”
A unique part of the draft for Zarillo is that each of the players selected by the Raiders has Saskatchewan ties in one way or another. That makes it easier for players to settle down in an area where they have a sense of familiarity.
“The number one thing for us is every one of these kids has a connection to Saskatchewan, or has a story, and really wants to be a Raider,” he explained. “We picked a kid from Whitehorse, a player from Edmonton whose family is from Nipawin. That’s what’s most exciting for us. It’s been an overwhelming response from these guys to want to play for us. This whole group really wants to be Raiders, and I’m really excited about that.”
Evhan Allan, younger brother of Raiders defenceman Nolan Allan, was taken 88th overall in the fourth round by Prince Albert. While the Guhle era may be over in Raiderland, the age of the Allan’s is here. At 15 years old, Evhan is a 6’2 defenceman at 165 lbs, so when it’s time for him to make the step up to the WHL level, he’ll be a nice addition to the Raiders d-core. @kyle_kosowan•email@example.com