Tri-City Americans

Ams future rooted in bantam draft

In the midst of preparing for the Western Hockey League championship series against the Calgary Hitmen, Tri-City Americans general manager Bob Tory has to take a break from the chaos and build for the future.

Tory, director of player personnel Terry Bangen and the scouting staff will select 19th in the first round of today's WHL bantam draft. Barring any last-minute deals, Prince George has the first pick of the draft.

"Terry and our staff have worked hard for this day," Tory said. "We need to make sure we make some wise decisions up there. This is a busy week with the awards (Wednesday), the draft and the first game Friday. It's busy, but it's also exciting. This is big for our organization and our players."

Last year, Tri-City traded a third-round draft pick to Prince George to move up from 19th to seventh and select forward Connor Rankin from North Vancouver.

Tory has had to make such deals in the past to try and get one of the top players available, but with the success of the team over the last couple of years, getting players to commit to the Americans has not been a problem.

"We have built a solid organization that has gone from players asking where we are, to players not wanting to come here and players who didn't even want to talk to you," Tory said. "Now, they want to come here and be part of what we are doing. Once they get here, they love it."

The only problem with being successful is you find yourself at the bottom of the draft order.

"There are 18 guys that go before you pick," Tory said. "Your list is changing every 10 minutes. This is not an exact science. You are drafting players who are a year or two away from playing for your organization. You just have to see how it unfolds and take the best player available at that time. In a perfect world, that would be a defenseman."

Atop the chart this year is center Alex Forsberg, whose older brother Jesse plays for Prince George. Center Curtis Lazar, defenseman Josh Morrissey, center Jon Merkley and defenseman Madison Bowey round out the top five most sought after players.

Bowey, who helped the Winnipeg Monarchs win the Western Canadian bantam title, is considered the top-ranked player in Manitoba, a province Tory has plucked a few players out of in recent years, but Bowey will be long gone by the time the Americans get their first pick.

"Winnipeg is not as strong as it was, but there are still some good players there this year," Tory said.

Players eligible for the bantam draft must be born in 1995 and reside in 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.