There are two ways to call the Western Hockey League Bantam Draft a success:
1. Early picks
On Thursday, May 1st, the North Shore Winter Club covered both.
Demonstrating his leadership in order to get an early start on the day, centreman and NSWC captain Jordy Bellerive capped off an incredible two years of bantam hockey by being selected second overall by the Lethbridge Hurricanes.
Not wanting to sit around and leave Jordy hanging, defenseman Nolan Kneen was selected next at 3rd overall by the Kamloops Blazers.
Bellerive and Kneen join recent NSWC grads Tak Anholt and Quinn Benjafield of the Hurricanes and Blazers respectively. Anholt and Benjafield played for the Vancouver North West Giants this season.
Shortly after Bellerive and Kneen, Kitimat native Justin Almeida was selcted 5th overall by the Prince George Cougars, joining alum Jansen Harkins in the Cougars organization.
Kamploops added another mainstay of the NSWC corps, defenseman Conner McDonald with their 2nd pick at 24th overall. McDonald and Kneen will have the opportunity for some friendly competition in a couple years' time.
The North Shore Winter Club Bantam AAA team was bolstered by rock solid goaltending this year, an element that didn't go unnoticed by the Western Hockey League's scouts. Dorin Luding was selected in the 3rd round by the Saskatoon Blades while David Tendeck went to the hometown Vancouver Giants.
Crafty forward Brett Stapley's impressive skillset will also be on display at a Western Hockey League camp this fall. Stapley was selected by Calgary, joining NSWC grad Cal Babych, who spent his 16 year-old season with the Hitmen.
The Western Hockey League Draft is the means by which WHL clubs assign players' rights coming out of their second year of Bantam hockey. Players can begin playing for their respective clubs (should they crack the roster) at 16, though many either wait until 17 or choose to play Junior A hockey in the BCHL, AJHL or SJHL instead. Players who aren't drafted are still eligible to play for a Western Hockey League team of their choice, they just need to make the team the old fashioned way.
The WHL draft is a phenomenal accomplishment. For seven players to be drafted in total and three in the top five picks, this year's instalment by these players is truly a massive feat.
These players have been given an option to pursue major junior hockey, and now it's up to them to work even harder to acheive their goals no matter where their hockey path takes them. The road to junior hockey is demanding, exhausting and is filled with countless twists and turns. These players ought to be proud of their accomplishments because it represents an understanding of life skills and character on par with the on-ice skills necessary to be drafted.
Hockey players should be well-rounded individuals and solid citizens. If you see one of these boys in the club, make sure you shake their hand.
On behalf of myself and the entire North Shore Winter Club and its friends in North Vancouver, West Vancouver, Whistler and Burnaby, congratulations, fellas.
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