The 2020 WHL Bantam Draft has come and gone after taking place online this past Wednesday due to COVID-19. The Vancouver Giants and the rest of the WHL needed to do what they could with what they had to make their selections.
Connor Bedard was the first selection to the Regina Pats out of West Vancouver Hockey Academy while the Giants brought in 12 new prospects to their organization.
Seven forwards, three defensemen, and two goaltenders, including five players from British Columbia, rounded out the Giants’ day that was deemed a success from the organization’s eyes.
This year’s draft marked the second with the organization for Director of Scouting Daryl Anning, who joined the Giants prior to the 2018-19 season after winning a WHL Championship with the Swift Current Broncos as a scout in 2018. We spoke with Anning earlier regarding the WHL’s inaugural US Bantam Draft.
All the work he and his team puts in throughout the hockey season all leads up to draft day. He predicts he watched about 450 hockey games and filed over 2000 player reports this season in preparation for draft day.
Daryl’s hard work shows as he was able to give a rundown of each and every pick his team selected, starting with Vancouver’s first-round pick at 10th overall.
1st Round – 10th Overall
The Giants went to the blue-line with their first selection, taking right-handed defenceman Mazden Leslie from the Lloydminster Bobcats Midget AAA team.
Leslie measures in at six-foot-zero and 160 pounds and put up 12 points (5G, 7A) in 32 games playing as an underage.
Anning and his staff were ecstatic to have Leslie land to them, “It was actually a little bit shocking and basically we can thank there being no Alberta Cup, that really hindered some guys. I think if there was an Alberta Cup there is no chance that Mazden falls that far.”
“He did unbelievable things in Bantam and for him to play Midget with older, bigger, stronger kids and have the success that he did was great. He played both specialty teams, maybe his numbers weren’t great being a first-year guy but when you look overall, he had 70 penalty minutes as an underage defenceman. He was not scared to get involved.” said Anning on their newest top prospect.
The Giants expect Leslie to play Midget AAA in Lloydminster again next season.
2nd Round – 32nd Overall
The Giants went local for their second pick, selecting centreman Ty Halaburda from the Pacific Coast Hockey Academy in Victoria.
Anning called the five-foot-ten 145 pound forward one of his favourite players in the draft after seeing him produce 53 points (27G, 26A) in 28 games this season.
“His style of game is suited so much for the Western Hockey League. He plays hard every shift, he has a physical presence. He might not be the biggest guy around but he plays very hard, his work ethic is second to none.”
3rd Round – 56th Overall
In the third round, the Vancouver Giants selected another centreman in Ethan Semeniuk out of the local Delta Hockey Academy Bantam Prep Green team.
The Fort St. John, BC native stands at five-foot-nine and a quarter and weighs 159 pounds and had 50 points (19G, 31A) in 30 games this season.
“He’s a very good skater, his speed and puck skills are excellent. He has a great work ethic and a very high compete level.”
4th Round – 76th Overall
The Giants went to Saskatchewan for their fourth pick, selecting right-wing Matthew Edwards from the Saskatoon Bandits.
In 31 games, the six-foot-zero 180-pound forward put up 62 points (25G, 37A) along with 102 penalty minutes.
“He’s a big kid. We were actually a little surprised he was still there in the fourth round. He’s a power forward type of player, he’s hard-nosed and has speed, grit and good compete. Down the road, he’s going to be a very hard guy to play against.”
5th Round – 98th Overall
Vancouver picked their first of two goaltenders with their fifth-round selection, picking Colin Reay out of OHA Edmonton Bantam Prep.
Reay stands at five-foot-nine and a quarter and had an 8-8 record to go with a 3.28 GAA, .911 save percentage, and two shutouts.
“We may be jumped in early but we did so at a time that we ensured we got him. He’s a very consistent goalie, he never gets flustered or looks nervous. He has good athleticism and moves well side to side and isn’t scared to challenge shooters.”
6th Round – 122nd Overall
Yet another six-foot tall defenceman joined the organization on Wednesday with the selection of Brady Smith from the Prince Albert Pirates.
Smith had 16 points (4G, 12A) in 23 games in the Saskatchewan Bantam league this season and is a pick that Anning was very about:
“Brady is a good size and was another one where we were shocked he was still there in the sixth round. I think we contribute that to his injury season last year, he was hurt a little bit last year so I think a lot of guys missed out on him. He’s a big guy but he moves well…he skates well he’s got a strong stride. He can handle the puck and most of all his ability to read the play. We saw him make strides throughout the year and that really sealed the deal for us.”
7th Round – 135th Overall
The seventh-round was the only round the Vancouver Giants held more than one pick, having two.
Christian Kim was the first American selection for Vancouver, coming out of Torrance, California.
Kim stands at five-foot-three 125 pounds and played for Detroit Belle Tire 14U this season, collecting 74 points (29G, 45A) in 52 games.
“Christian is a very dynamic player and his skill levels are over the top. He’s the kind of player that, because he’s dynamic, can play at the size he is down the road. We were thrilled to get him.”
Selecting an American player can always be risky with the NCAA route being most common for players born in the United States. No team, including the Vancouver Giants, is immune. Many of these late selections aren’t necessarily at the level of their selection number says, Anning:
“There’s without a doubt, every one of our American guys would have gone higher than when they went. The problem with them, of course, is you’re never sure of the commitment level of them.”
7th Round – 138th Overall
Vancouver was back on the clock just three picks later and they stayed south of the border again, selecting goaltender Jack Hochsprung from the Lakeville South Cougars 14UAA in Minnesota.
In 31 games this season he posted a 1.81 GAA along with a .926 save percentage.
“We saw him play at the Moose Goheen tournament in Minnesota in January and he was so good that at the end of the tournament we kind of determined that if he would have been playing in Canada he would have been the top echelon of goalies without a doubt.”
8th Round – 164th Overall
In the eighth round, the Giants went back to Victoria to select Ty Halaburda’s teammate Randy McLaughlin from the Pacific Coast Hockey Academy.
Standing at five-foot-ten 185 pounds, the right-winger put up 34 points (20G, 14A) in 30 games and is a selection that Daryl Anning raved about.
“Totally shocked that he would still be there in the eighth round for us to pick and I think somehow, and I can’t explain it, that he slipped through the cracks. When we saw him there, there was no question that we were going to take him. His work ethic and compete level is second to none. We looked at his character along with his skill we thought he’s a true Giant. He plays with some intensity and urgency to his game, he’s the epitome of a 200-foot player for me. Absolutely pumped to get him.”
9th Round – 186th Overall
Vancouver stayed within the Lower Mainland by selecting defenceman Hunter McInnes out of St. Georges of the CSSHL.
McInnes has good size, being just over five-foot-ten and produced 17 points (3G, 14A) in 26 games this season.
“When we got to this point of the draft we had a couple guys we were looking at. We just recalled what his coach, Todd Harkins, said about him. Harkins spoke very highly of him and gave us a number of pointers about him. We felt that he’s close to home, he’s a good player so why not take him?”
10th Round – 208th Overall
Anning and his staff went back to Minnesota for their second to last pick, taking forward Ashton Dahms out of the Lakeville South Cougars High School team.
Dahms stands at five-foot-ten and weighs 145 pounds and is listed as a left-wing. In 24 high school games, he produced 11 points (4G, 7A) as a rare underage in Minnesota.
“Ashton’s an underage playing high school. He played good minutes as an underage and you can’t beat that. That’s the same as a Mazden Leslie playing up in Midget. Ashton was able to make the team as a Grade 9 student which rarely happens. There’s only a handful of guys in the entire state of Minnesota that are 14 playing high school hockey. We had done our homework and talked to the family and they were somewhat interested initially and by the end of it they were quite interested and I really think we have a good shot at landing him.”
11th Round – 230th Overall
For their final pick, the Vancouver Giants went right to their backyard picking forward Samuel Brown from the Cloverdale Bantam A1, a rare pick not from a BC academy.
“Sam is a smaller forward but he has a late birthday. He didn’t play at the highest level, he’s projected to grow, on his team he was a top point-getter. The thing about his play is he doesn’t mind the dirty areas, he likes the physical part of the game. At the end of the day, we hope he turns into a player.”