“We’re ecstatic”: Raiders win draft lottery for second year in a row

Herald File Photo Daxon Rudolph (pictured) was the first overall pick by the Prince Albert Raiders in the 2023 WHL Prospects Draft

For the second consecutive season, the lottery balls fell in favor of the Prince Albert Raiders.

Prince Albert will pick second overall in the 2024 WHL Prospects Draft thanks to winning the draft lottery. If they hadn’t won the lottery, the Raiders would have picked at fourth overall. The Raiders acquired the pick in a trade last season with the Seattle Thunderbirds that sent star defenseman Nolan Allan to the Pacific Northwest.

The Raiders also jumped from fourth to second overall in last year’s WHL Prospects Draft thanks to a lottery win.

Bruno Zarrillo, the director of player personnel for the Raiders, says he was surprised when he heard the results of the lottery.

“It was a shock really. To win once is crazy, and to win a second time is out of this world. We’re ecstatic to have the opportunity to move up in the draft, and to get the second player is excellent for the Raiders.”

The Everett Silvertips will pick first overall in the upcoming WHL Prospects Draft after they acquired Kamloops’ 2024 first round pick in the blockbuster Ryan Hofer/Olen Zellweger trade last season.

Defenceman Landon DuPont is widely expected to be the first overall pick after a standout campaign with Edge School U18 Prep, where he posted 62 points in 30 games as a 14-year-old. DuPont is expected to become the second player ever to receive exceptional status in the WHL according to Elliotte Friedman. Exceptional status allows a 15-year-old player to play full-time in the WHL. To date, Connor Bedard is the only player to be granted exceptional status in the WHL.

Zarrillo says there is plenty of work still left for the Raider scouting staff ahead of the draft.

“The consensus is Landon DuPont will be the first pick. After that, there’s always a lot of good players. It’s a bit of a mix of forwards and defenseman. There’s some players we’re looking at and we’re talking about and talking to and doing our homework. Then we’ll filter it down and try to make the best decision for the Raiders going forward.”

It will be another season of multiple selections in the top 10 for the Prince Albert Raiders. The Raiders will also select at ninth overall after the club secured the eighth and final playoff spot in the WHL’s Eastern Conference.
Last season, Prince Albert selected first overall (Daxon Rudolph), second overall (Riley Boychuk) and seventh overall (Ty Meunier).

Zarrillo says the Raiders will get an opportunity to add two more highly talented players to the organization in the coming draft.

“This year, everyone knew who number one was. Last year was a little different and people would have had a little more difference of opinion than this year. When you’re picking as high as we’re picking, you’re getting a very good player. We’re really excited with the guys we got last year, and they all had great seasons, they’re all skating with us now, and they’re all fine young men, which is the most important.”

The Raiders will have several picks near the top of the draft board. Prince Albert will also select 31st overall in the second round and currently possess three third round selections at 48th, 53rd and 56th overall.

Prince Albert acquired the 48th overall pick in the Nolan Allan trade with Seattle and picked up the 56th overall selection as part of the Carson Latimer/Aiden Oiring trade with the Winnipeg ICE (now known as the Wenatchee Wild) last season.

Zarrillo says the scouting staff is excited about the potential the draft presents for the team.

“Curtis (Hunt) has done a great job giving us an opportunity to restock the shelves and to build another championship.”

With the Raiders having made several high picks in recent years, there will be major competition for roster spots amongst the younger players during training camp next fall.

“You’re dealing with a good problem.” Zarrillo says. “These are young men and it’s not like you are picking a player that’s already matured. You really have to forecast and predict. The kids, they tell you by the work they put in and they show us who wants to be a Raider.”

The 2024 WHL Prospect Draft is scheduled for Thursday, May 7.