Monday, 16 October 2017

10 Years Later: Re-Drafting the First Round of the 2007 WHL Bantam Draft

Every sports fan probably sees the random sponsored posts from websites about how different drafts could have changed the face of every organization. The NHL drafts are always pretty popular. I was looking through one recently and it got me to thinking about what would happen if we were to re-draft a WHL Bantam Draft.

There have been plenty of memorable ones over the years, so I thought I'd start with one in the not-so-distant past, but one with plenty of firepower. I also wanted to look at a draft that had plenty of high-calibre players taken later on in the draft. That leads us to 2007.

The first round was filled with some pretty good talent, including the first overall pick Quinton Howden of the Moose Jaw Warriors, third overall Mark Pysyk of the Edmonton Oil Kings and Brett Connolly of the Prince George Cougars. There were also some misses and no-shows, including second overall pick Luke Moffatt, who was taken by Kelowna but stayed in the US college system and 12th overall Michael Betz, who was taken by Spokane and played just 32 games in the WHL. Some of the guys taken with later picks: Brendan Gallagher, Alex Petrovic and Cody Sylvester.

Without further adieu, after scouring the 2007 draft list on the Elite Prospects website, here's a rundown of each of the picks taken and who each team probably should have taken:

#1. Moose Jaw - Quinton Howden
Howden didn't have a bad career in the WHL, notching 239 points in 244 games all with the Moose Jaw Warriors. He was definitely a first-rounder when looking through the list, but he was probably a later pick.

Who they should have taken: Mark Stone (taken 92nd overall by Brandon)




The future Ottawa Senator draft pick, who has 193 points in 254 games over seven seasons with the Sens thus far, was a beast for the Brandon Wheat Kings. Over four seasons with the Wheaties, he put up a line of 106 goals and 190 assists in 232 games.

#2. Kelowna - Luke Moffatt
As mentioned, Moffatt was a bit of a hope-and-prayer for the Rockets, but he stuck with the US National team before heading to the University of Michigan.

Who they should have taken: Brendan Gallagher (taken 195th overall by Vancouver)




A World Junior teammate of Stone's in 2011-2012, Gallagher turned into quite a find for the Vancouver Giants. In his tenure on the west coast, Gallagher had 136 goals and 144 assists. He's also gone onto a pretty good NHL career with the Montreal Canadiens.

#3. Edmonton - Mark Pysyk
In a draft full of solid forwards and some good goaltending, it seems defensemen weren't totally in abundance in the 2007 draft. Pysyk would go onto become captain of the Oil Kings, and has played the last few years with the Buffalo Sabres and Florida Panthers.

Who they should have taken: Mark Pysyk (taken 3rd overall by Edmonton)




They weren't wrong in this selection. If a defenseman was their need, they got the best one available.

#4. Saskatoon - Charles Inglis
Inglis became a bit of a transient in the WHL, playing with Saskatoon, Prince George, Red Deer and Kamloops, before a stint in Whitecourt then off to the University of Saskatchewan. He hasn't played hockey at a notable level since that 2013-2014 season.

Who they should have taken: Ryan Johansen (taken 150th overall by Portland)




The future Columbus Blue Jacket and Nashville Predator was a bit of a question mark in terms of his WHL status, as he went to the Penticton Vees a year later, fueling speculation he'd head state-side. Instead, he played for Portland after they took him 150th overall. They benefited from two years with him, but he would have been a great addition to the Blades, who went to the second round in 2010.

#5. Portland - Brad Ross
The Lethbridge product had a very good career in the WHL, racking up 245 points with the Winterhawks. You can't really fault them for taking him where they did and he became a second round pick for the Toronto Maple Leafs, but his career kind of stalled, and he's now in Europe.

Who they should have taken: Brett Connolly (taken 10th overall by Prince George)




Prince George got away with one here, as there were plenty of forwards of taken in the first round, and became a first round pick in the NHL by Tampa Bay. The future Cougars captain racked up 152 points in 144 WHL games and is now with the Washington Capitals.

#6. Lethbridge - Alex Theriau
The journeyman WHL defenseman played a lot with the teams he was on, including Lethbridge, Everett, Medicine Hat and Regina. He was also drafted in the fourth round by the Dallas Stars. But his career ended when he retired in 2012.

Who they should have taken: Joe Morrow (taken 28th overall by Portland)




The future Pittsburgh Penguins first round selection went on to a solid career with the Winterhawks, notching 151 points in 227 games while wearing an 'A' in his last season. He's now in Montreal's system.

#7. Chilliwack - Kevin Sundher
Sundher is in the Czech Republic now, but he had future Bruin/Royal/Wheat King had a good career in the WHL, netting 252 points in 273 games. You can't fault Chilliwack for this pick either, as it was pretty interchangeable with a few different guys who were taken.

Who they should have taken: Brad Ross (taken 5th overall by Portland)




Ross was just a bit better when it came to future prognosis, although their output at the junior level was pretty similar. As mentioned, Ross had 245 points with the Winterhawks.

#8. Prince Albert - Ryan Aasman
The Medicine Hat product was fairly well regarded heading into the draft as a small, puck-moving defenseman. But he just couldn't catch on with anyone in the WHL, with stops in Prince Albert, Seattle, Swift Current, Medicine Hat and Edmonton. All told, 12 points in 166 games.

Who they should have taken: Alex Petrovic (taken 33rd overall by Red Deer)




A tough but offensively-talented defenseman that the Red Deer Rebels benefited from having for five seasons. Petrovic put up 146 points and 440 penalty minutes in 270 WHL games. He's now racked up 165 NHL contests with Florida, who took him in the second round of the 2010 NHL draft.

#9. Swift Current - Christian Magnus
Magnus' biggest claim to fame was being one of the centrepieces of the Cody Eakin trade to Speedy Creek. In 243 games with the Broncos and Ice, he picked up 65 points before heading off to the University of Regina.

Who they should have taken: Emerson Etem (taken 115th overall by Medicine Hat)




If you wanted a smaller, faster guy, Etem was probably the guy. There were plenty of questions about whether Etem would come play in the WHL, as he was also eying a spot with the US development team, but he went on to a 252-point career with the Tigers.

#10. Prince George - Brett Connolly
As mentioned, Connolly put up some solid numbers in junior and is still battling in the NHL. So that leaves the Cougars with a new choice to make.

Who they should have taken: Justin Feser (taken 194th overall by Tri-City)




While he is tiny and wasn't given a real shot to make it in the NHL, Feser made a massive impact on the WHL. He picked 353 points in 353 games with the Americans, including 106 in his final season while also wearing the 'C'.

#11. Red Deer - Connor Redmond
Redmond played a little wing and a little defense in his years with the Rebels and Vancouver Giants. He ended up spending some time as a scout with Kelowna as well. But the numbers weren't great.

Who they should have taken: Max Reinhart (taken 86th overall by Kootenay)




Talk about a perfect fit for a Sutter-coached team, as Reinhart was touted as being a fine two-way player with all-around ability. In Kootenay, he was nearly a point-a-game player and helped them get to the Memorial Cup in 2011.

#12. Spokane - Michael Betz
As mentioned, he was one of those guys who became a miss for the Chiefs, playing just 32 games in the WHL before heading back to the BCHL with Penticton and Prince George.

Who they should have taken: Brett Bulmer (taken 223rd overall by Kelowna)




Betz became a 6'1", 207 pound. Bulmer is listed as a 6'4", 212 pound machine who went onto a 151-point career with the Rockets. He bounced around in Minnesota's system and after a stint overseas, has re-emerged in North America with the Florida Everblades of the ECHL.

#13. Regina - Dominick Favreau
Favreau was able to put together a bit of a career with the Pats and Wheat Kings, scoring 39 points in 196 games. But by 2015, his stay in hockey was pretty much over.

Who they should have taken: Jaden Schwartz (taken 173rd overall by Tri-City)




There's a bit of a caveat here as Schwartz didn't come to the WHL at all, opting to go the US college route. But he is from Melfort, Saskatchewan, which might have been a selling point for him to come play for the Pats. Might have been a risky pick, but worth it in the long-run to get a future NHLer.

#14. Calgary - Austin Madaisky
Madaisky ended up wearing an 'A' in Kamloops after he was involved in the blockbuster deal that helped shore up the Hitmen lineup ahead of their WHL championship in 2010. So the pick worked out well for the Hitmen, while Madaisky finished his WHL career with 113 points in 238 games.

Who they should have taken: Dylan McIlrath (taken 46th overall by Moose Jaw)




The Warriors loved having McIlrath in their lineup. A large, physical defenseman who had a decent shot. But his presence alone would have been a big plus for the Hitmen in that run, even though they already had Michael Stone, Matt Mackenzie and Giffen Nyren.

#15. Kamloops - Brendan Ranford
Another one of those picks that really worked out well for the Blazers. Ranford put up 357 points in 348 games with the Blazers. He went on to a few good years with the Texas Stars, and played one game with Dallas.

Who they should have taken: Quinton Howden (taken 1st overall by Moose Jaw)




Let's face it. Howden was the top pick in many eyes back then. So for him to fall this far might have been a bit of a long-shot even now. But he would have been a perfect fit in Kamloops as a guy they could have built a team around in that tough BC Division.

#16. Seattle - Erik Fleming
Fleming became a depth defenseman for both the Thunderbirds and later the Broncos. His stats weren't eye-popping at all, with 23 points in 195 games. He was out of hockey after his stint with the Broncos in 2012.

Who they should have taken: Philip Samuelsson (taken 199th overall by Edmonton)




This is another long-shot as Ulf's son never played in the WHL. But maybe the allure of the west coast and an American market might have made for a different decision. Samuelsson turned into a good find at the pro level, and has seen 13 NHL games with Pittsburgh and Arizona.

#17. Brandon - Brandon Regier
Put this up in the "miss" category, as Regier played just four games with the Wheat Kings, before heading back to BC. He left the Wheaties after saying he wasn't interested in playing at that level (according to eliteprospects.com).

Who they should have taken: Josh Nicholls (taken 27th overall by Saskatoon)




This is the first of two picks that you could argue are picks for the long-term future of their teams. Nicholls was great in the WHL, picking up 313 points in his time. He's in the Czech Republic now, but certainly a player the Wheat Kings could have built around.

#18. Lethbridge - Mark Reners
It was hard for Lethbridge fans not to cheer for the Pincher Creek kid, as he put up some amazing numbers in Bantam and Midget in Lethbridge. But he couldn't quite replicate that production in the WHL, picking up 30 points in 117 games with the Hurricanes, Giants and Oil Kings.

Who they should have taken: Cody Sylvester (taken 168th overall by Calgary)




If you thought Hurricanes fans loved Tyler Wong, they would have also loved Sylvester. He became a captain and the centrepiece for the franchise both on and off the ice. A great community guy that might have helped keep the team in a positive light during some pretty down years.

#19. Vancouver - Mitch Spooner
Spooner never really caught on while he was in the WHL. He started a few games with the Giants before being sent to the Pats and then the Thunderbirds, but never played more than 25 games in the league. A smaller defenseman with some puck-moving ability that just never panned out.

Who they should have taken: Brenden Kichton (taken 55th overall by Spokane)




Speaking of smaller defenseman that can move the puck, enter Kichton. The 5'10", 185 pound defenseman was taken by the Islanders, then the Jets in the NHL. Before that, he was a staple on the Chiefs' blueline, racking up 268 points in 333 games, including a season with the 'C' in 2012-2013.

#20. Kootenay - Drew Czerwonka
This was a pretty good pick for the Ice when you look at how he fared. The club's 2011-2012 captain notched 110 points in 227 games for the Ice in a strong career, including a trip to the Memorial Cup, where he had 3 more points in 5 games. But with the bevy of talent in that draft for forwards, there were some other options available.

Who they should have taken: Jordan Weal (taken 79th overall by Regina)




Weal was a powerhouse upon arrival in Regina. It didn't hurt that his linemate was Jordan Eberle, but he was 3rd in league scoring in 2009-2010 with 102 points. The next two seasons, he finished 5th in league scoring. The Ice would have had themselves quite the playmaker who is back in the NHL with the Philadelphia Flyers.

#21. Medicine Hat - Tyler Bunz
It took us this long to finally get to some goaltenders. Bunz became the centrepiece of the Tigers' organization for a few years, always amongst the league leaders in games, GAA and save percentage. Hard to argue against this pick, amongst the wealth of talent that was taken in the 2007 draft, including Brandon Anderson, Luke Siemens and Ty Rimmer.

Who they should have taken: Calvin Pickard (taken 38th overall by Seattle)




It's really a toss-up with the top three goalies taken in the 2007 draft, as all turned into very good goaltenders. Much like Bunz, Pickard was a workhorse, amongst the league leaders in games even though his goals against average wasn't as good as Bunz's. Pickard continues to plug away at a possible NHL job, now with Toronto's farm system.

#22. Everett - Kent Simpson
The one we haven't talked about yet when it comes to the top three. But Simpson's career wasn't that bad either. He was in over 50 games for his last two seasons with the Silvertips and again, had a tough time with his GAA as the team wasn't great around him, much like Pickard.

Who they should have taken: Tyler Bunz (taken 21st overall by Medicine Hat)




Again, a bit of a toss-up here because Bunz, Simpson and Pickard all turned into very good WHL netminders. Bunz was very good with a good team whereas the other two were very good with less-than-stellar teams. The ultimate question becomes what would have happened had their roles been reversed.

A few other guys turned into pretty good WHLers as well:
Graham Hood, Ryan Harrison, Blake Gal, TJ Foster, Jordan Messier, Brooks Macek, Dylen McKinlay, Landon Oslanski, Taylor Peters, Kendall McFaull, Connor Cox, Ryan Hanes, Daniel Johnston, Derek Ryckman, Patrick Holland, Dan Gibb, Jamie Crooks, Colton Jobke, Nick Buonassisi and Brenden Walker.

Two other guys who ended up in the NHL were also taken in the 2007 WHL Bantam Draft but didn't step foot in a WHL arena: Nick Shore (135th overall by Kelowna) and Jason Zucker (84th overall by Seattle).

Of course, I get it. Hindsight is 20/20 and at the bantam draft, you're picking the best players available in the first round. You never know if attitudes or anything else will get in the way. But it's always fun to go back in time and imagine what could have been.

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