If one Brian Williams from California is good, two must be better.
The Tri-City Americans selected Brian Williams of San Diego with their first pick of the WHL draft Thursday, taking the 5-foot-10, 167-pound center with the ninth pick of the fourth round.
"It was a little bit of a different draft," said Tri-City general manager Bob Tory, who selected seven U.S.-born players during the 14-round draft. "We had to come up with a little bit different strategy. By the time the fourth round was over, Western Canada was pretty lateral. When we first ventured into Manitoba, people asked 'what are you doing?' Same thing here. Our scouts did a tremendous job. It doesn't matter where they are from, just that they are good players and they want to come to our program."
Last year, the Americans drafted Brian Williams of Claremont, Calif., in the eighth round. The skilled forward was projected as a top 5 pick before teams found out he was on the fence between college and the WHL.
The two Brian Williams know each other from playing in the L.A. Selects program. Goalie Eric Comrie, who signed with the Americans last month, also played in the L.A. Selects program.
"I've known him for a long time," said the newly drafted Williams, who had 67 goals and 49 assists in 58 games last season. "Tri-City talked to me at couple of camps and I was super excited when they drafted me. That's where I wanted to go."
On the local front, Kennewick's Taylor Vickerman was drafted in the sixth round by the Vancouver Giants with the 112th pick overall, while the Americans used their 14th-round pick (302nd overall) on Richland native Austin Mayton.
"It's nice to see them both go," Tory said. "They were both good kids. It gives other kids in the Tri-City hockey program that if you work hard, good things can happen."
Vickerman, a freshman at Kamiakin High School, played for the Spokane Jr. Chiefs bantam AAA team last season. The 6-0, 175-pound left wing had 58 goals and 45 assists in 62 games for the Chiefs.
Vickerman, 15, is the first Tri-City player to be drafted since Richland native Seth Compton was taken in the fifth round by Spokane in 2003.
Vickerman's parents allowed him to skip classes Thursday until his name was called. Just seconds after he saw his name pop up on the WHL draft site, the phone was ringing.
"They welcomed me to the team, told me they would keep in touch and invited me to camp," Vickerman said. "The Vancouver Giants have always been a good hockey team, I've always admired how they play, and they have pretty cool jerseys."
Vickerman said the Giants have been keeping an eye on him the past few months.
"We know people who have contacts with the Giants," Vickerman said. "They liked how big I was and how I use my size. I was hoping they would pick me. I'm just excited to be affiliated with them."
"Though Vancouver was one of his top choices, Vickerman admitted he would have gone wherever he was drafted.
"I'm just glad to get drafted," he said. "Hopefully it will be a good experience. Getting drafted is the experience of a lifetime. If the WHL is the fastest way to the NHL, sign me up."
Mayton (6-0, 160) was one of Vickerman's teammates with the Spokane Jr. Chiefs. He finished with 31 goals and 28 assists in 61 games.
The Americans didn't have any picks in the first three rounds, but had three in the fourth, where they also selected defenseman Brandon Hickey of Leduc, British Columbia, and Tyler Mrkonjic of St. Albert, Alberta.
In the sixth round, the Americans took defenseman Kaleb Denham of Innisfail, Alberta, while in the eighth round, they picked up defenseman Jeremy Briscoe of Phoenix.
In subsequent rounds the Americans chose Ryan Tait (9th, RW, Santa Clarita, Calif.), Brandon Carlo (10th, defenseman, Colorado Springs, Colo.), Matt Forchuk (11th, center, Okotoks, Alberta), Shane McMahan (12th, forward, Irvine, Calif.), and Kody Ichinaga (13th, LW, Torrence, Calif.).
"We thought we got a good assortment with where we started," Tory said. "Tait would have been a first-rounder if (his family) had been committed to the league."
As for Williams, Tory said he was glad he was still available in the fourth round.
"For us, that was our first-round pick," Tory said. "We are all very confident he will join our program in due time."
Williams would like nothing more.
"I really want to go to camp and see what it's all about," said Williams, a freshman at Mira Mesa High School. "This is the route I'd prefer to take. I've been wanting to play in (the WHL) since I was younger. Eric (Comrie) e-mailed me and told me (Tri-City) was a great place to be."