Well, it's that time of year again. Time to try and make heads or tails of the bantam draft. This year's draft may have garnered a bit more interest from Seattle fans after the Thunderbirds won the draft lottery in late March and gained the first overall pick for the first time in franchise history.
The concensus throughout the winter and early spring was that Matt Barzal of Coquitlam,B.C. and the Burnaby Winter Club, was the top choice available for selection and that's where T-birds GM Russ Farwell went with the pick. He certainly put up some big numbers this past season and has been lauded throughout his hockey development for his skill and leadership. He might be a once-every-four-or-five years type of talent. I've read in a number of different places where he is compared to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, if not in style then in potential.
If you haven't had a chance, you should go to the T-birds facebook page and look at the scouting video they posted of Barzal. The young man has an almost effortless way of playing the game. He doesn't waste any energy. He is a smooth skater and he always seems to be at the center of the action. It really does appear as if he's thinking one step ahead of everyone else on the ice.
As a result Barzal plays like he's bigger and older then the other players he's on the ice with. But the reality is he's not. Those other players are the same age (14 to 15 yrs old) and, for the most part, the same size (around 5'7" to 6'0"). The separation in his skill set makes him appear to be a more mature player. This is why some have suggested he could play in the WHL as a 15 year old and not seem out of place. This is why Farwell says Barzal will be a top six forward for the Thunderbirds as a 16 year rookie in 2013-14.
The T-birds, of course, had three picks in the top 25 in the draft. Barzal at the top was a no-brainer. With their second first round pick (20th overall) obtained from Portland in the Marcel Noebels deal, Seattle selected rigth winger Keegan Kolesar out of Winnipeg. With their second round choice, 25th overall, the 'Birds went with defenseman Ethan Bear from Saskatchewan.
T-birds 2nd selection Keegan Kolesar
Kolesar is 6'0", 208 lbs. Bear is 5'11"+ and 198 lbs. That's a pair of sturdy 15 year olds. Look, I don't know how much stock to put into the scouting services that rank these players. Those scouts do a lot of grunt work though and they put a lot of time and effort into compiling their lists so I'll give them the benefit of the doubt. I have seen those scouting services list each of the T-birds top three picks as first round talents.
Seattle's third round selection was goalie Logan Flodell out of Regina. His numbers from this past season aren't eye-popping but I've read that he didn't play on the most talented team. Before this past season he was expected to be one of the top bantam goalies in his province so he does come with some expectations that he can play at the WHL level. I believe this is the highest pick the T-birds have used on a goaltender since choosing Calvin Pickard in the second round of the 2007 draft (38th overall). None of those lower drafted netminders has yet to play a regular season game for the T-birds. Maybe it was time to draft a goalie with a higher pick.
In the fifth round the T-birds went back to Saskatchewan to draft center Lane Pederson. With no picks in the 6th or 7th round Seattle made two 8th round selections; Grenfells, Saskatchewan LW Donovan Neuls and 6'2" Stillwater, Minnesota defenseman Luke Osterman. Shades of Kevin Wolf?
Neuls' teammate from Saskatchewan, Tyler Kreklewich (he and Neuls both played for the Melville Millionaires) was selected in the 9th round. This is interesting because Tri-City has had a lot of success the last five years by grabbing players who grew up together or played together in their youth. The Thunderbirds closed out the draft with two 10th round selections, a pair of defensemen; Austin Wong from Medicine Hat and Zak Galafanakis....no, wait that's the guy from the "Hangover" movies.....I mean Zak Galambos who has been playing in Detroit but is from Walnut Creek, California (think the Bay Area, just north and east of Oakland).
Again, according to at least one scouting service Galambos was the 6th best U.S. prospect available in the draft and rated as a 4th round talent which is good 'cause the T-birds didn't have a 4th round pick.
Now usually it's fun to follow the draft but when it's over you know there won't be any immediate impact from these players for at least two years. Heck, some may never be heard from again after rookie camp in August. The Barzal pick though, makes this draft a little different. I would greatly anticipate him being up with the team for a game or two around the holidays and then again sometime next spring, hopefully for a round or two of the playoffs.