Picking in the top 10 of the Western Hockey League bantam draft, you are bound to come away with an elite player.
On the flip side, it also means your regular season did not go as planned.
The Tri-City Americans, who missed the playoffs for the first time since the 2003-04 season, will have the No. 6 pick in Thursday’s draft.
“It’s a high pick and we are confident we will get a good player,” Americans general manager Bob Tory said. “Any time you are at 10 or below, you are in the range of elite players, but it’s also disappointing when you don’t make the playoffs.”
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The Kootenay Ice will have have the first pick as the draft gets under way in Calgary. The Vancouver Giants, Saskatoon Blades, Swift Current Broncos and the Medicine Hat Tigers round out the top five.
Players eligible for the draft are those born in 2001. Players available are from Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Northwest Territories, Yukon, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.
The Americans also will have a single pick in the second, third, fourth, sixth and eighth rounds. They will have three in the fifth — their own and those of Red Deer and Prince Albert. They have none in the seventh (traded to Everett) and two in the ninth, if they choose to select that deep in the draft.
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“We have three picks in the fifth, and it’s nice to have that many in the mid-rounds,” Tory said. “You still get some quality picks. We’ve had success in the later rounds with Justin Feser (9th round), Patrick Holland (6th) and Brandon Carlo (10th), and listing players.”
The Americans, who finished one point out of the playoff race, made a strong run at the end of the season, but ran out of games.
“We have to get off to a better start than we did last year,” Tory said of the upcoming season. “It would have been easy to trade older guys last season, but we took our game to another level in the second half but ran out of time. They did everything they could. The younger players got quality ice time because of all the injuries, and they got better because of that. That will benefit us moving forward.”
Tri-City got outstanding performances from some of their recent first-round draft picks during the season.
Parker AuCoin (2013, 15th overall) played 59 games this season with six goals and seven assists, while second-round pick Nolan Yaremko (29th overall) had eight goals and six assists in 69 games.
Michael Rasmussen, the Americans’ first-round pick in 2014 (7th overall) finished with 18 goals and 43 points, putting him 14th in rookie scoring, but he was the top-scoring 16-year-old in the WHL.
Last year’s top pick, Carson Focht (7th overall) came in and played two games, giving fans a glimpse of what is on the horizon.
“I thought Parker had a good second half of the season and developed into a hard-working, physical player,” Tory said. “Nolan played a big role for us, and Morgan (Geekie), who was a late-round pick (2014, 5th round) did good things for us (12 goals, 13 assists in 66 games). Rasmussen’s season speaks for itself. We didn’t get to see how good Kyle Olson really is (injuries limited him to 19 games), and Carson will be a special player.”
Now it’s time to find a few more.