Raiders once again major players at 2024 WHL Prospects Draft

Prince Albert Raider general manager speaks at the team's 2024 Awards Banquet at the Ches Leach Lounge. (Herald File Photo)

For the second consecutive year, the Prince Albert Raiders were picking early and often at the WHL Prospects Draft.

Eleven players heard their names called by Prince Albert throughout the day, including four selections made in the top 50.

The Raiders would start out the day by taking Victoria, B.C. defenseman Brock Cripps with the second overall pick. They were originally scheduled to pick again at ninth overall, but the Raiders would move up five spots in the first round sending the ninth overall pick, the 57th overall pick and a fifth round pick in the 2025 WHL Prospects Draft to the Kelowna Rockets in exchange for the fourth overall selection.

Raider general manager Curtis Hunt says Prince Albert wanted to take control and be in a position to take who they saw as the best player on the board.

“We thought it was a real (defense) heavy draft, real good high end D and we are so thrilled about (Brock) Cripps. Him and Daxon (Rudolph) and just where the team is going from the back end. We circled a few forwards in our mind and (Harvey) was one on the list in terms of guys we would like to get. We made a decision that we had the assets, let’s see if we can make something happen before the draft to put ourselves in a position to take the forward we want and not have to sit and wait and really make a splash. I think Kelowna was looking for some more later on and we were able to facilitate the deal.”

With the fourth overall selection, the Raiders picked forward Ben Harvey, who posted 52 points in 27 games last season for the Northern Alberta Xtreme U15 Prep program.

Hunt describes Harvey as a player who will be able to help the Raiders in all situations

“Ben, we think is an elite player. He can think the game at an elite level, his hands play at the same pace that his mind does. He’s a 200 foot player. We would describe him as a first over the boards guy. When your coach needs someone to do anything. Big face off, power play, penalty kill and we felt that this is the guy, so we made the deal.”

The 57th overall pick that the Raiders dealt to Kelowna was originally acquired from the Wenatchee Wild as part of the Carson Latimer for Aiden Oiring trade in December 2022. The Rockets would use the pick on Lucky Lake, Saskatchewan product Jake Hargrave.

The Raiders would draft three Saskatchewan players, including two from Prince Albert.
In the second round, the Raiders selected Connor Howe 31st overall. Connor is the younger brother of Regina Pats captain Tanner Howe. Tanner was ranked 41st amongst North American skaters according to NHL Central Scouting’s final ranking. In the sixth round, the Raiders selected hometown product Declan Borthwick 120th overall.

Hunt says both players will look to be contributors for the Raiders in the future.

“It was fantastic. You can almost hear the smile through the phone from that perspective, which obviously makes us feel good. I think both boys are highly competitive. I think both boys are climbers in terms of where they want to get to. I think the city of Prince Albert will be a lot of fun watching these young men develop next year, one as a Minto and one as a Warman Wildcat and then onto the Prince Albert Raiders. It’s a pretty good feeling.”

Additionally, the Raiders would select Nipawin product Liam Myhre in the third round. Myhre is committed to play with the Prince Albert Mintos next season after posting 17 goals and 29 assists in 29 games for the North East Wolfpack last season.

The Raiders have been no stranger to the top of the draft board in the past two years, making four selections within the top five and five within the top 10.

Hunt says the organization is excited not only for the caliber of players they are bringing in on the ice, but what they will bring off the ice and in the community.

“I’d like to first acknowledge the group of scouts we have in Western Canada led by Bruno Zarrillo and the tremendous job they do and the work they do and the number of games and hours they put in all comes down to this moment. I think (what) I’ve always really wanted to do is just build our group from within. We talk about the main goal of becoming a team. We think we’ve drafted not only good players, but we’ve drafted good people. I think that the most important part of all of this is good people and building people, building men. And then of course, building hockey players and the culmination hopefully is an opportunity to chase some nice long playoff runs.”