With a strong core of players returning this season, Tri-City Americans general manager Bob Tory balanced his Western Hockey League bantam draft picks Thursday, selecting five forwards, four defensemen and one goalie.
“I’m happy with how things went,” Tory said. “I saw pretty much everyone we drafted and I’m comfortable with our choices.”
With his first pick, Tory scooped up high-scoring center Parker AuCoin (15th overall) — the first forward taken by Tri-City in the first round since Connor Rankin in 2009.
“He’s a tremendous talent offensively,” Tory said. “One of best pure scorers I’ve seen in many, many years. He has good size and is a good kid. We felt fortunate he was still there. He reminds of Jamie Benn.”
AuCoin said his goal was to be drafted in the first round. It didn’t matter where.
“I was really excited,” AuCoin said of being drafted by the Americans. “It’s an honor to play for such a good organization.”
A native of Calgary, Alberta, the 6-foot, 175-pound AuCoin had 63 goals and 87 points in 33 games for the Calgary Northstar Sabres of the Alberta Major Bantam AAA Hockey League. He helped lead the Sabres to a silver medal in the Alberta Cup.
AuCoin’s 63 goals are second in AMBHL history to Portland Winterhawk Ty Rattie, who had 75 during the 2007-08 season with the Airdrie X-treme. “Scoring is definitely my role,” AuCoin said. “Defense is the main focus on the improvement side, as well as skating.”
AuCoin’s Twitter account was buzzing after he was drafted, including messages from his new teammates.
“I got a lot of tweets from guys,” said AuCoin, who noted goalie Eric Comrie was one of the first to chime in. “It’s good to get support from them.” In the second round, the Americans took left wing Nolan Yaremko (29th) of Edmonton, Alberta.
“Nolan flew under the radar,” Tory said. “We figured if we didn’t take a forward in the second round, we wouldn’t get a forward of that quality in the next round.”
The pick also surprised Yaremko.
“I wasn’t expecting the second round,” Yaremko said. “I thought third or fourth. I was excited to go that high. I was hoping to get drafted by Tri-City. They were interested in me as an individual. It seems like a good organization and a great fit for me.”
The 5-11, 178-pound left wing had 28 goals and 41 assists in 33 games for the Southside Athletic Club Southgate Lions of the AMBHL. The Lions finished third at the Alberta Cup, dropping a 5-3 semifinal game to AuCoin and the Sabres.
In the third round, the Americans took a pair of defensemen. They selected Mark Drohan (59th) of Calgary and Dylan Coghlan (63rd, from Kamloops) of Nanaimo, British Columbia.
Drohan (5-11, 145) had seven goals and eight assists in 28 games for the Calgary Bisons, which won the AMBHL Challenger South division title.
Coghlan (6-1, 175) played 35 games for the Nanaimo Clippers of the Vancouver Island Amateur Hockey Association, scoring 18 goals with 26 assists and 72 penalty minutes.
In the fifth round, the Americans selected center Morgan Geekie of Strathclair, Manitoba (90th), and center Jordan Roy of Lethbridge (95th). Geekie’s dad Craig played two seasons for the Brandon Wheat Kings and one for the Spokane Chiefs.
In the sixth round, Tri-City picked goalie Nick Sanders (125th) from Calgary, while in the seventh round, the Americans picked up defenseman Anea Ferrario (146th) of Ogden, Utah.
In the eighth round, Tri-City selected right wing Parker McCormick (163rd) from Regina, Saskatchewan and defenseman Cory Thomas (169th) of St. Brieux, Saskatchewan.
After looking at the rest of the Americans’ draft picks, AuCoin found a few familiar names.
“I know most of the guys,” AuCoin said. “I played with Nolan in Gade 6 and then played against him. I’ve played against Sanders and Roy.”
With the first pick of the draft, the Vancouver Giants selected Tyler Benson of Edmonton. Benson broke Rattie’s AMBHL record for points, finishing the regular season with 146 points in 33 games.
Notes: Ferrario, who plays for the Colorado Thunderbirds, is in the same program that produced Tri-City signees Brandon Carlo and Riley Hillis. Ferrario’s coach is NHL Hall of Famer, Adam Foote, who played 19 seasons in the NHL. ... The Americans made one trade during the draft, sending former bantam draft pick Tyler Mrkonjic (2011, 4th round) to the Prince George Cougars in exchange for a fourth-round pick in the 2014 bantam draft.