Every once in a while hockey fans wonder what if? Could their fortunes have turned around if they had made a better pick in the draft? What about if they hadn’t made that trade, or did make that trade?
Today, DUBNetwork is looking back on the 2008 WHL Bantam Draft. It was a season that would see no less than 20 players go on to be drafted into the National Hockey League in the 2011 Entry Draft.
The Red Deer Rebels were granted the first overall pick in the Bantam Draft following a season in which they were the second worst team in the WHL. By virtue of the WHL bantam draft lottery, the Rebels would be lucky enough to leap over the woeful Portland Winterhawks to select first overall. They would go on to choose Burnaby, BC product Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. His 214 points (119 goals and 95 assists) led the Burnaby Winter Club Bantam A1-T1 team. Would he still go first overall looking back on that day in May?
1st overall – Red Deer Rebels
Original pick – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
New pick – Ty Rattie (2nd overall)
Knowing what we know today, the Red Deer Rebels needed some help up front and Nugent-Hopkins provided that in short order, playing the league max five games and earning two goals and four assists. The following year, his 67 games in the league would provide 65 points. Problem is he would only play two full WHL seasons before being drafted into the NHL by the Edmonton Oilers and making the leap to the NHL the very next season. Ty Rattie on the other hand would play parts of five seasons in the WHL despite being drafted by the St. Louis Blues in the same draft as Nugent-Hopkins. Rattie would go on to play 269 WHL games and help lead the Winterhawks to a WHL Championship in 2012-13, where he would earn WHL Playoff MVP honors. Rattie played parts of three seasons with the Airdrie Xtreme Bantam AAA’s before playing his midget season with the UFA Bisons Midget AAA program in Strathmore, AB.
2nd overall – Portland Winterhawks
Original pick – Ty Rattie
New pick – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (1st overall)
For the same reason the Rebels would originally take Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the already rebuilding Portland Winterhawks took Ty Rattie. With the Rebels scooping up Rattie in this reboot, the only logical choice is to take Nugent-Hopkins second overall. The Winterhawks would welcome a player from B.C. into the fold and would see their offense bolstered. Although he would go on to have a short WHL career, Nugent-Hopkins made a lot of sense on a team that was gunning for the division title in the coming years with the likes of Brendan Leipsic, Ryan Johansen, Mac Carruth and Sven Baertschi on the team. Nugent-Hopkins played two seasons with the Burnaby Winter Club bantam program and scored 300 points in 131 games. His midget season was spent with the Vancouver NW Giants of the BCMML.
3rd overall – Saskatoon Blades
Original pick – Duncan Siemans
New pick – Ryan Murray (9th overall)
Ryan Murray would prove to be the best defenseman from the 2008 draft based on points per game, on a team that was known for it’s defensive prowess. The Saskatoon Blades were a team on the rise, just missing the playoffs in the the 2007-08 season and wanted to shore up their defense for the coming seasons. Murray would have fit in nicely with Darren Dietz as well as a later pick in the 2008 bantam draft, Dalton Thrower. Murray’s leadership would have been an excellent add to the Blades as well, he was named the captain of the Silvertips in his final WHL season. Murray would go on to record 22 goals and 99 assists in 191 games with the Silvertips. Murray played two seasons of bantam with the Balgonie Prairie Storm Bantam AA program, his midget season was played with the Moose Jaw Warriors Midget AAA program.
4th overall – Edmonton Oil Kings
Original pick – Michael St. Croix
New pick – Michael St. Croix (4th overall)
We wouldn’t change this pick, St. Croix would go on to amass 320 points in 280 games, all with the Oil Kings. The team would go on to win the WHL Championship in the 2011-12 season and then lose the final to the Portland Winterhawks the following season. Along with piling up points, St. Croix would be an assistant captain with the Oil Kings and be active in the community. St. Croix would go onto be drafted by the New York Rangers in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. The Winnipeg product played for the hometown Winnipeg Monarchs Bantam AAA team in 2006-07 and 2007-08. His midget season would be spent with the Winnipeg Wild Midget AAA team.
5th overall – Prince Albert Raiders
Original Pick – Mark McNeill
New Pick – Colin Smith (7th overall)
Either pick here would be a great choice for the Raiders, Smith having scored just 28 more points than McNeill in four fewer WHL games. Is it possible that the Raiders may have a little more success with Smith in the lineup instead of McNeill? No one will know for sure, both players were NHL drafted but neither has seen more than a couple of games at that level. Smith is a product of Edmonton, Alberta and played his bantam with the CAC Canadians Bantam AAA team. He put up 167 points in 63 games for the CAC Canadians and then moved onto their Midget team for a single season before joining the Blazers.
6th overall – Saskatoon Blades
Original Pick – Brent Benson
New Pick – Shane McColgan (13th overall)
The veteran of three WHL teams, McColgan would actually see himself drafted by the Kelowna Rockets and traded to the Blades for their Memorial Cup run in 2012-13. Having picked McColgan, the Blades would have passed on Benson and not needed to trade away a 2nd and 5th round draft pick and Ryan Olsen. McColgan would record 271 points over 291 WHL games. He would have his best season with the Blades in the Memorial Cup season. The Torrence, CA, USA product played his midget season with the Los Angeles Junior Kings midget and U18 team before joining the Kelowna Rockets.
7th overall – Kamloops Blazers
Original Pick – Colin Smith
New Pick – Mark McNeill (5th overall)
Is it possible that the Blazers would have been better off with McNeill? No one will ever know, both the Raiders and Blazers were taking forwards with their first round picks, with hindsight available, Smith edged out McNeill in a few statistical categories. Maybe each player would be a better fit as part of the nucleus of the teams going forward. We will never know but the Blazers would have gotten a great player regardless. The Langley, B.C. product played for the South Side Athletic Club Lions Bantam AAA team in Edmonton, Alberta for two seasons earning 105 points in 63 games. He would move onto the SSAC Athletics Midget AAA team for his midget season and score 39 points in 33 games. While with the Raiders he would score 243 points in 276 games.
8th overall – Chiliwack Chiefs (later Victoria Royals)
Original Pick – Mitch Topping
New Pick – Adam Lowry (78th overall)
Despite being a later pick in the bantam draft, Lowry became one of the premier players in the WHL in his four seasons. He played well enough to be drafted by the Winnipeg Jets in the 3rd round of the 2011 NHL Draft. The St. Louis, USA born Lowry played his bantam hockey in Calgary with the AAA Bisons. While with the Broncos, Lowry would play in 235 games and put up 204 points.
9th overall – Everett Silvertips
Original Pick – Ryan Murray
New Pick – Alexander Roach (224th overall)
The fifth to last pick in the WHL Bantam draft for the 1993 age group was Alexander Roach. He ended his career with the second most points per game among defensemen from this draft class. Roach played all 240 career games with the Calgary Hitmen and was a stalwart on the blue line for the team. Roach helped lead the Hitmen to the east final in the 2012-13 WHL season. The dual citizen of Germany and Canada played his midget season with the Cariboo Cougars of the BCMML before joining the Hitmen. Roach would have fit in well in the defensive minded system of the Silvertips who would have missed out on Ryan Murray in this reboot.
10th overall – Brandon Wheat Kings
Original Pick – Klarc Wilson
New Pick – Myles Bell (17th overall)
Klarc Wilson was traded after just 19 games with the Wheat Kings, and while he did go on to have a solid career with 328 games, he scored just 148 points. The much more offensive minded Bell scored 275 points in 327 WHL games. Bell was born in Calgary, AB and played one season for the Calgary Bronks bantam AAA team scoring 32 points in 31 regular season games. He played his midget season with the Calgary Flames Midget AAA squad. Bell would go on to be drafted by the Regina Pats and the Kelowna Rockets where he wore an ‘A’ in his 20-year-old season.
11th overall – Prince George Cougars
Original Pick – Jesse Forsberg
New Pick – Brady Brassart (43rd overall)
Brassart played his midget season with the Vancouver NW Giants, on the same team as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. He scored 55 points on 24 goals and 31 assists in 40 games before joining the Spokane Chiefs. Brassart was traded before his 18 year old season to the Calgary Hitmen for a conditional 4th round pick in in 2012. Brassart was named assistant captain of the 2013-14 Hitmen. In 323 WHL games Brassart would pile up 112 goals and 157 assists.
12th overall – Swift Current Broncos
Original Pick – Reese Scarlett
New Pick – Dalton Thrower (30th overall)
The Squamish, B.C. native played midget with the Vancouver NW Giants in the 2008-09 season. He scored eight times and added 11 assists in the regular season before joining the Saskatoon Blades the next season. The tough customer piled up 147 points in 285 WHL games and was named captain of the Giants in his final WHL season after a trade from the Blades. The Blades took a conditional second round pick in return after four seasons with the team.
13th overall – Kelowna Rockets
Original Pick – Shane McColgan
New Pick – Mitch Holmberg (21st overall)
Holmberg would go on to win the WHL scoring title in his overage season (2013-14), scoring 118 points in a full 72 game season. Holmberg benefited from a stellar overage season to almost reach a point per-game over his WHL career, spent entirely with the Chiefs. In Kelowna, he would have thrived in their system, as well as the team had a more offensive approach. Holmberg played for the Strathcona Warriors and the Sherwood Park Flyers in his bantam seasons. While with the Flyers he scored 71 points in just 33 AMBHL games. He would join the Sherwood Park Kings for his midget AAA season.
14th overall – Seattle Thunderbirds
Original Pick – Connor Sanvido
New Pick – Reese Scarlett (12th overall)
The defenseman from Sherwood Park, AB would play his bantam hockey in his hometown, with the Sherwood Park Flyers bantam AAA program. As a defenseman he was just off a point per game pace, putting up 30 points in 33 AMBHL games. The Sherwood Park Kings would come calling for his midget season before joining the Swift Current Broncos. In four full seasons with the Bronocs, Scarlett would register 133 points in 276 WHL games. He would be named assistant captain for his final two seasons in the WHL.
15th overall – Kootenay Ice
Original Pick – Brendan Hurley
New Pick – Todd Fiddler (65th overall)
Despite playing just one game for the team that drafted him (Medicine Hat), Fiddler would go on to become a prolific scorer in the Western Hockey League. He played for five WHL teams in his major junior tenure, ending off his final season playing 52 games for the Prince George Cougars. He would finish that season with 98 points over 66 games. Beardy’s Blackhawks would be where he played his midget hockey, scoring 93 points in 40 games for the team in his final season. The Kootenay ICE would have welcomed his production. A reason he may have fallen to 65th overall in the real bantam draft was that there were concerns over his character and off-ice behaviors.
16th overall – Medicine Hat Tigers
Original Pick – Dylan Busenius
New Pick – Duncan Siemens (3rd overall)
A few tough decisions would have been made allowing a talent like Siemens to fall to 16th overall. With two very good seasons playing for the Sherwood Park Flyers Bantam AAA team, it is no surprise that he was taken much earlier in the actual WHL bantam draft. He showed leadership while with the Flyers and this later translated to wearing an ‘A’ with the Blades. Maybe a result of being buried in a Blades team with good players, Siemens wasn’t among the defensemen top point scorers of his draft class. While still an excellent pick at 16, this may come as a surprise to some. Siemens would go on to score 17 goals and add 107 assists in 258 games.
17th overall – Regina Pats
Original Pick – Myles Bell
New Pick – Cain Franson (50th overall)
The first prospect to come out of the KIJHL program, the Sicamous Eagles forward was a value selection by the Giants at 50th overall. He would end up having the 16th best points per game in his draft class. He was certainly one of the most consistent players in this draft. He was not expected to be an elite point scorer, yet he was able to maintain his status among the second tier of WHL players.
18th overall – Lethbridge Hurricanes
Original Pick – Phillip Tot
New Pick – Joshua Winquist (53rd overall)
Another later round value pick, Winquist benefited from an excellent opportunity with the team that drafted him, the Everett Silvertips. The defensive-minded team really appreciated his work ethic as well as being able to produce points at the right opportunity. The St. Albert, AB product was able to play for the hometown Sabres bantam AAA team for two seasons. He compiled 100 points in 62 games before moving on to the Raiders midget program. While with the Silvertips, Winquist would go on to score 101 goals and add 115 assists over his 301 WHL regular season games.
19th overall – Calgary Hitmen
Original Pick – Peter Kosterman
New Pick – Zachary Yuen (22nd overall)
From Vancouver, B.C. Yuen spent his midget season with the Greater Vancouver Canadians team of the BCMML. The defenseman had 19 assists in 35 games with the team. He also spent four games with the Tri-City Americans that season. By the time his WHL career was all said and done, Yuen had scored 30 goals from the blueline while adding 88 assists. He played his whole career with the Ams which spanned 255 games.
20th overall – Vancouver Giants
Original Pick – Zach Hodder
New Pick – Laurent Brossoit (26th overall)
Far and away the best goalie of his draft class and definitely among the top goaltenders of the decade. Brossoit was the starting goaltender for back-to-back 50 wins seasons for the Edmonton Oil Kings. Brossoit would go 88-34-4-9 in 147 career appearances for the Oil Kings over parts of five seasons. He would also produce a sparkling 2.59 goals against average and a .909 save percentage. The Oil Kings would play in back-to-back WHL finals with Brossoit between the pipes, winning it all once and falling in six games the following season. The Port Alberni, B.C. native played his bantam hockey with the Cloverdale Colts bantam A1 program and his midget year with the Valley West Hawks of the BCMML.
21st overall – Spokane Chiefs
Original Pick – Mitch Holmberg
New Pick – Zachary Franko (32nd overall)
The second Zach to be picked in the first round of the rebooted WHL bantam draft, Franko played his bantam seasons for his hometown Winnipeg Monarchs. In 60 games he had 114 points, which made him an attractive offensive threat. After three and a half seasons with the Kelowna Rockets in which he scored 72 goals and added 127 assists, Franko was dealt to the Kootenay ICE for a couple of draft picks during the 2013-14 season. He was brought in to help the ICE make the playoffs and he helped carry the team from the basement to the second round.
22nd overall – Tri-City Americans
Original Pick – Zachary Yuen
New Pick – Matthew Pufahl (68th overall)
Yet another later round pick, Pufahl was originally drafted by the Red Deer Rebels. He did not stay long, just 61 games with the Rebels before being dealt to the Saskatoon Blades in a multi-player deal. It was in his second season with the Blades that Pufahl really began to show his strengths. Before his final WHL season, Pufahl was dealt to the Silvertips and named their captain. He posted 49 points in 62 games in that season. He spent his midget seasons with the Saskatoon Contacts of the SMHL earning 27 points in 45 games over two seasons.
Dyson Stevenson (originally drafted 105th overall) Regina Pats
Boston Leier (originally drafted 47th overall) Medicine Hat Tigers
Colin Jacobs (originally drafted 67th overall) Seattle Thunderbirds
Reid Petryk (originally drafted 70th overall) Medicine Hat Tigers
Eric Williams (originally drafted 71st overall) Prince Albert Raiders
Jordon Cooke (originally drafted 79th overall) Kelowna Rockets
Jaynen Rissling (originally drafted 129th overall) Calgary Hitmen
Jagger Dirk (originally drafted 223rd overall) Kootenay Ice