The Prince Albert Raiders selected defenceman Dmitri Toporowski and forward AJ Ulrich with their two selections in the 2021 U.S. Prospects Draft.
Toporowski, a 5’9, 160 pound Massachusetts product, was selected 21st overall. He’s the son of former Raider Shayne Toporowski, who put up 215 points in 218 games with the club in the early to mid-‘90s.
“I think it’s just a no-brainer,” Raiders GM Curtis Hunt said when asked about the selection. “We’re excited to have him on board. There’s obviously a tie to our community, which is a bonus in this particular case, and we look forward to getting him here and getting to know him a little bit better.”
Toporowski currently plays with the Boston Hockey Academy 15U AAA program where he has 10 points in 31 games. His father Shayne, is one of three brothers to play in the WHL. Brad Toporowski and Kerry Toporowski both suited up for the Spokane Chiefs. Brad also played two seasons with the Moose Jaw Warriors. All three brothers originally hail from Paddockwood.
While the family connection is nice, Hunt said it wasn’t the only reason for the selection. He’s confident Toporowski has the tools to develop into a solid WHL defenceman.
“Right now, he’s 15 years old. (It’s about) where we project him at 18 and 19,” Hunt said. “With a player like Dmitri, we know he’s going to get good development. We know he’s on the ice. We know he’s getting the right message about how to play the right way, (and) how to play in our league.”
Toporowski took to social media on Wednesday to thank the Raiders for picking him.
“I am proud to be selected by the Raiders,” Toporowski wrote on his personal Twitter account. “I look forward to working hard to become a member of the team in the future. Big thanks (to) my family and coaches who helped me (get) this far.”
Ulrich, the Raiders’ second selection, 24th overall, is in his first season with the Colorado Thunderbirds 15U AAA program. He has two goals and an assist in eight games this season.
Hunt said the state of Colorado has a strong hockey culture that’s starting to produce more and more quality hockey players, and junior hockey scouts are taking notice.
“We think AJ is a real climber,” Hunt said. “He is a tremendous skater with great acceleration and possesses tremendous puck skills. We are excited about getting him to Prince Albert.”
Both players are roughly two to three years away from getting into the Raider lineup, but Hunt said the club hopes to have them in camp next September. However, whether that will happen or not depends on a number of factors outside the club’s control.
“I spoke to both AJ and Dimitri already,” Hunt said. “We had conversations with them ahead of the draft. Whether or not we do something in the fall with a camp for the players is to be determined. We’re in a unique situation with this mid-season draft, so I think there’s a lot of unanswered questions.”
The Seattle Thunderbirds had the top pick in Wednesday’s U.S. Prospect Draft. They took forward Macklin Celebrini, who has 42 points in 23 games with the Shattuck-St. Mary’s Sabres this year.
The Lethbridge Hurricanes picked second. They selected Phoenix Jr. Coyotes 15U forward Jack Lackas.
With the U.S. Prospects Draft finished, the Raiders now turn their attention to the WHL prospects draft on Thursday. The Raiders hold the 13th and 14th overall picks in that draft.