The Tri-City Americans took a mix of players Thursday in the annual Western Hockey League bantam draft, and they even worked in a trade for a veteran defenseman.
The Americans, with the sixth overall pick in the draft, selected right wing Sasha Mutala from Burnaby, British Columbia. They added defenseman Mitchell Brown with their second-round pick.
In all, Tri-City drafted five forwards, three defensemen and one goalie through 10 rounds.
“It’s not as many as we thought we’d take, but the top end of the draft was pretty good,” Americans general manager Bob Tory said. “Then I got a quality overage player, and we will be able to bring him in and get him settled with the team to start, which is important. We felt it was a good day. We traded a few picks away for the future. Once the draft went lateral, I started filling in rounds where we didn’t have picks next year.”
The Kootenay Ice had the first overall pick and took left wing Peyton Krebs, the younger brother of Americans defenseman Dakota Krebs.
Mutala (6-foot, 180 pounds), scored 97 goals in 64 games for Burnaby Winter Club Bantam A1. He finished the season with 197 points and led his team to the Western Bantam Championship, where he was named Most Valuable Player.
“He is a dynamic forward with great speed,” Tory said. “He is a highly skilled player with a high hockey IQ. He has good size, sees the ice well and is a leader. We are excited to select him and have him be part of our team.”
Tri-City was high on Mutala’s list of teams for which to play.
“It’s a really big honor to be a first-round pick,” Mutala said. “Tri-City was on the top of my list of places to go. I’m happy to be there, and I’m pumped for the future. I think the team plays my style. I wish I could play next year.”
In the second round, the Americans picked up Brown, a 6-1, 188-pound native of Salmon Arm, British Columbia, who played for the Okanagan Hockey Academy.
“Mitchell is a very competitive player and very physical,” Tory said. “We were certainly excited to draft him. We had watched him a lot this year, and we had a good read on him.”
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Brown, who hasn’t been south of the Canadian border, is excited to join the Americans.
“I didn’t know who was going to take me, but when they did, I was excited,” Brown said.
Brown was in his freshman planning class when his name popped up on the draft tracker.
“I went to school, but I didn’t get much work done,” Brown admitted. “When my name came across, I tried to contain myself, but I had a bunch of kids in my class who are on my team, and they were high-fiving me.”
Brown had three goals and 19 assists last season. His team posted a .500 record during the regular season, but once it reached the postseason, it picked up the pace.
“We made the playoffs, then lost in the finals,” Brown said. “It was surprising, but at the end of the year, we started winning more, clicking and playing like we could.”
The Americans traded their third-round pick to the Prince Albert Raiders for overage defenseman Dalton Yorke, a 6-foot-3, 213-pound native of Maple Ridge, British Columbia.
“I followed Dalton closely this year, and I tried to get him at the trade deadline,” Tory said. “I knew they had an overage situation, and I tried to get it done early. We felt we had a need to get another veteran defenseman. He is a physical presence and adds to our team tremendously. He wore a letter in Prince Albert and is a character player. We have good skill on the back end, but I thought it was important to add some size, and we did that today.”
Tri-City had just two overage players before the draft — forward Tyler Sandhu and defenseman Jeff Rayman.
Tri-City Americans bantam draft selections
First round — (6) Sasha Mutala, RW, 6-0, 176, Burnaby, British Columbia. Second round — (29) Mitchell Brown, D, 6-1, 188, Salmon Arm, British Columbia. Fourth round (68, from Vancouver) — Blake Stevenson, F, 5-10, 155, Calgary, Alberta. Fifth round — (95) Kash Rasmussen, F, 5-10, 135, Cochrane, Alberta; (105, from Red Deer) Bryan McAndrews, D, 6-3, 193, Edmonton, Alberta. Eighth round — (161) Connor Bouchard, F, 5-5, 150, Cochrane, Alberta. Ninth round — (183) Zachary Okabe, F, 5-6, 161, Okotoks, Alberta; (196, from Kelowna) Xavier Cannon, G, 6-3, 216, Kamloops, British Columbia. 10th round — (205) Rajvir Sangha, D, 5-10, 169, Calgary, Alberta.