By Ryan McCracken on May 4, 2017.
The Medicine Hat Tigers opted to pick between the pipes in the first round of the WHL bantam draft, Thursday at Calgary’s Deerfoot Inn.
While the Tigers had the 21st pick in the draft, they used it on the best available goaltender in Garin Bjorklund of the Calgary Bisons, and Tigers senior director of player development Darren Kruger says he’s excited to see what the young netminder can bring to the Gas City.
“We felt he was the best goalie in the draft and after watching him numerous times, we love his athleticism. He’s a real quick goalie and a good teammate,” said Kruger of Bjorklund. “We were hoping he would still be available.”
Bjorklund — a 5-foot-11, 147-pound netminder out of Grande Prairie — earned the title of top goaltender in the Alberta Major Bantam Hockey League after compiling a 15-6-3 record with a 1.97 goals against average and a .913 save percentage. The left-handed puck stopper also earned an all-star nod at the Alberta Cup with Calgary South. But Kruger added the Tigers based their decision off more than just one strong season.
“He had a really good season last year as a rookie, too,” said Kruger. “Coming into this year, being able to see him play and his progress, he’s very athletic, he loves to play under pressure. He’s so quick to react and track pucks. For us, he was the guy to get.”
The Tigers have been in a bit of a goaltending predicament of late, with Nick Schneider and Michael Bullion both entering their overage season, while prospect Rylan Rommelaere opted to step away from the game last summer. Given the situation, Kruger says it was highly important to lock up a promising product between the pipes at this year’s draft.
“It’s such an important position in today’s game and we feel that he will be the backbone of our club from whenever he’s ready to play moving forward,” said Kruger. “At the end of the day, for us, he was the next best player in the draft.”
Bjorklund is the first goaltender Medicine Hat has selected in the opening round of the draft since they picked Tyler Bunz, also at 21st overall, in 2007.
The Prince Albert Raiders selected OHA Edmonton defenceman Kaiden Guhle, brother of Prince George Cougars defenceman Brendan Guhle, with the first overall pick in the draft.
The Tabbies added some forward depth with their second pick of the draft, selecting Scout Truman of Lethbridge Golden Hawks at 43rd overall.
Truman is coming off a prolifically paced year in Lethbridge, closing out his season with an average of two points-per-game at 32 goals and 34 assists in 33 AMBHL contests — good enough for 10th in the league in scoring. The left-handed winger went on to add 18 points in 13 playoff games.
Truman also helped his team to an AMBHL championship last season, while earning an Alberta Cup title with Alberta South.
The Tigers added some stock to the blue line in the third round, going for Delta Hockey Academy defenceman Ryan Watson with the 65th overall pick.
The 5-foot-9, 149-pound, left-handed blueliner recorded 14 points in 30 Canadian Sport School Hockey League games with Delta’s bantam prep team this season.
Medicine Hat went back to scoring prowess with their fourth selection, taking Red Deer Rebels forward Noah Danielson at 87th overall.
The right-handed centre led the AMBHL in scoring this season with a staggering 78 points in 36 games, earning the title of most valuable player in the process. The Olds product also registered 40 penalty minutes, nine power play goals and one shorthanded marker.
Danielson could have some immediate chemistry when he’s eligible to join the Tigers in the 2018-19 season, as Medicine Hat picked up Red Deer Rebels teammate Brett Meerman with the 110th overall pick.
Meerman recorded 67 points in 36 games alongside Danielson, finishing ninth in AMBHL scoring and earning a South Division all-star nod. The left-handed shot matched Danielson’s contributions on the man advantage with nine power play goals on the year.
Medicine Hat traded away their fifth round pick to the Saskatoon Blades in exchange for defenceman Jordan Henderson, while using a pick obtained in the trade that sent Cole Sanford to the Regina Pats to draft Meerman.
The Tigers selected Lethbridge centre Kadyn Chabot with the 131st overall pick.
The the 5-foot-7, 160-pound lefty surpassed a two points-per-game average with the Lethbridge Golden Hawks this season, netting 74 points in just 36 AMBHL games — earning him second in league scoring behind Danielson. Chabot also registered 17 power play goals and four shorthanded markers this season.
Chabot also added three goals and three assists in the Alberta Cup while helping Alberta South to the championship.
Medicine Hat traded their seventh round pick to the Prince George Cougars in exchange for goaltender Mack Shields during the 2015-16 season. While the Tigers earned another seventh round pick in the trade that sent Nick Heid to the Prince Albert Raiders, that too was traded away for goaltender Michael Bullion.
The Tigers looked to Saskatchewan with their seventh pick of the draft, selecting Yorkton Terriers bantam AA defenceman Austin Dycer at 175th overall.
The 5-foot-8, 149-pound blueliner registered 28 points in 29 Saskatchewan Bantam AA Hockey League matchups and went on to add six more in five playoffs contests. Dycer also managed seven power play goals while racking up 60 penalty minutes on the Terriers’ back end. The Yorkton product tripled his point production from last season to earn a place in Medicine Hat’s system.
Medicine Hat went back down Highway 3 in the ninth round, adding a third Lethbridge Golden Hawk to their system with the selection of right-handed defenceman Brayden Kapty with the 197th pick.
The 5-foot-9, 132-pound blueliner registered 16 points in 36 games alongside Truman and Chabot. The trio also won the Alberta Cup title with Alberta South, where Kapty registered two assists in four games played.
The Tigers went back to the Bisons with their ninth selection, taking Calgary-born forward Stephen Rosier with the 216th pick in the draft.
The 5-foot-7, 171-pound lefty bested a point-per-game average with 46 points in 35 games with the Calgary Bisons AAA squad while racking up 77 penalty minutes. Rosier came alive for Calgary in the post-season with 17 points in eight games. Rosier’s playoff point total was just two shy of Lethbridge Golden Hawk forward Zach Stringer’s league-best 19, despite playing in five fewer contests than Stringer.
The Tigers were slated to pick at 219, but the Tri-City Americans, Lethbridge Hurricanes and Prince Albert Raiders all passed in the 10th round, giving Medicine Hat the 216th selection.
The Tigers added another Calgary product to their ranks with the 223rd pick in the draft, selecting Calgary Northwest Flames bantam AAA defenceman Tyler Bates.
Bates managed 25 points in 35 AMBHL contests this season while staying out of the box for the majority of the year — tallying just eight penalty minutes. The 5-foot-7, 150-pound defenceman went on to represent Calgary North at the Alberta Cup.
Medicine Hat moved up 18 spots in the 11th round due to teams passing on their picks.
Medicine Hat’s scouts went south of the border to find their 12th round pick in the draft, locking onto San Diego Gulls centre Samuel Deckhut at 228th overall.
Deckhut was a standout in the North American Prospects Hockey League this season, netting 49 points — including 19 goals — in 30 contests.
The 5-foot-5, 124-pound lefty also produced four points in four games with the Los Angeles Kings junior AAA team.
With no other teams left on the clock, the Tigers were able to go right back to the table and draft Kamloops defenceman Talon Zakall at 229th overall.
Zakall skated in six games with the BC Hockey Major Midget League’s Thompson Blazers this season, where he was held pointless. The 5-foot-9, 140-pound righty had his season cut short by a broken arm on February 13.
The Tigers closed the book on the 2017 WHL bantam draft in the 14th round, taking Nipawin, Sask. product Davis Chorney with their third straight selection, at 230th overall.
The Saskatchewan Bantam AA Hockey League centre recorded 49 points in 29 games with the Northeast Wolfpack this season while running up 102 penalty minutes. Chorney’s pace continued through the post-season, where he netted nine points in five games
At 5-foot-11 and 180-pounds, Chorney is the biggest body drafted by the Tigers this year.
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