Marc Lajoie doesn't turn 15 until later this month, but he got an awesome early birthday gift Thursday morning.
Lajoie was drafted by the Tri-City Americans in the first round of the Western Hockey League bantam draft — the 14th pick overall.
"It was very exciting to see," Lavoie said. "To go to such a great team made it better. I talked to them a little bit before the draft. Tri-City was a place I wanted to go. My dad coached a few of them (Tri-City Americans) and said really good things."
Americans general manager Bob Tory said adding depth to the blue line was key with the team losing several key players for the upcoming season.
"We felt this was an important area," Tory said. " When you are down to (picking) 14, your options are limited. We are losing a lot of D-men, and if we could acquire some elite defensemen, it would be beneficial. Marc has always been captain of his team. He shows tremendous character and leadership."
On the day, the Americans chose three defensemen, six forwards and two goalies.
"It's a little different, but it doesn't hurt to have depth at that (goalie) position," Tory said. "We took five U.S. players, and they seem to be excited to come here. They are all excited about being drafted, which is exciting for us. Most of the kids we drafted are good-sized, but size isn't everything. You want kids who can skate and have good work ethic.
"Character is so important."
Already 6-foot-3 and 209 pounds, Lajoie brings size and skill to the Americans. In 20 games, he scored 12 goals with 18 assists for the Northern Alberta Xtreme.
"He is a big man and very good skater for a kid his size," Tory said. "He has a big shot from the blue line. I think he will remind a lot of people of Tyler Schmidt."
Lavoie said his size and his powerful shot are are assets, but not his only ones.
"My hockey IQ and hockey sense are good," he said. "I see the ice really well."
Lavoie currently is in Philadelphia playing in the World Select Invitational with the Western Canada Selects. His team is 5-0 and will play in the quarterfinals Saturday.
Lajoie, a native of St. Albert, Alberta, also comes from a strong hockey background. His dad, Serge Lajoie, played five years for the University of Alberta and played four years of pro hockey in Germany.
This season, Serge coached the U of A Golden Bears to the national title, with help from former Tri-City players Lucas Nickles and Wil Tomchuk.
Without a second-round pick, the Americans waited until the third round, where they selected defenseman Carson Haynes (6-1, 160) from Taber, Alberta.
In the fourth round, Tri-City picked up forward Tyson Greenway (6-0, 156, St. Albert), who has a connection to the Americans via his father Dave, who played four games for the Americans during the 1992-93 season.
The fifth round brought in forward Parker Bell (6-2, 165, Campbell River, British Columbia), and with two picks in the sixth round, the Americans selected goalie Mason Dunsford (6-0, 150, New Westminster, B.C.), and forward Ben Coghlan (5-9, 160, Nanaimo, B.C.), who is a cousin to Tri-City defenseman Dylan Coghlan.
"He is a skilled forward and there are some blood lines there," Tory said of Ben Coghlan. "Not done by design, but it doesn't hurt."
Rounding out the draft are forward Paul Minnehan (7th round, Los Angeles), defenseman Bryson Andregg (9th, Dallas), forward Calvin Osterberger (10th, Boise), forward Cole Larocque (10th, Lethbridge, Alberta), goalie Alexander Bonrouhi (10th, Marina Del Ray, Calif.), and forward Matt Dorsey (11th, Wenatchee).