March 31st, 2020

Opposites attract in draft: Tigers pick pair in WHL’s first U.S. prospects event

By RYAN MCCRACKEN on March 26, 2020.

The Medicine Hat Tigers picked up a pair of Americans in the inaugural WHL U.S. Prospects draft, which was conducted online Wednesday.

Holding a middle-of-the-pack 12th overall selection in a snake-draft format, the Tigers opted to take 15-year-old Minnesotan centre Oliver Moore in the first round before using the 33rd pick to recruit California-born forward Josh Erickson in the second.

“Oliver Moore, he is dynamic. He has high-end speed, great agility, he’s a skilled playmaker who can also score and he competes at both ends of the rink,” said Tigers director of player personnel Bobby Fox. “With Josh it’s almost the opposite. He’s a competitive power forward. He can play physical, he can beat you with speed and he definitely has a knack around the net with the ability to put up some numbers.”

Moore – a 5-foot-10, 163-pound lefty – produced seven goals and 28 assists in 25 games with Totino-Grace High this season, as well as eight goals and two assists in eight games with the bantam MNBEL Sharks.

“He’s an ’05 who played high school hockey this year – which is an accomplishment of its own - and he was second in team scoring,” said Fox. “We’re super excited about his selection.”

Erickson – a right-shot 15-year-old standing 5-foot-11, 150 pounds – racked up 21 goals and 26 assists over 58 games with the bantam Shattuck-St. Mary’s Sabres this year.

All 22 teams had an equal chance to claim the first overall pick, but that right fell to the Red Deer Rebels – and they used it to select centre Gracyn Sawchyn. Originally born in Edmonton and now playing out of Minnesota, Sawchyn racked up a staggering 32 goals and 51 assists in 54 games with Shattuck-St. Mary’s this season.

Although the two-round draft exclusively focuses on American players, any who did not see their name called will still have a shot in the upcoming bantam draft, which will be conducted online on April 22.

“There were a lot of good players who weren’t selected that we’ll be looking to move into our regular bantam draft and pick them then,” said Fox.

Pats win draft lottery

Hours after the Western Hockey League announced forward Connor Bedard had become the first player in Western Canada to ever be granted exceptional player status, the Regina Pats earned the right to take him first overall in Wednesday’s bantam draft lottery.

Bedard closed out his season with 43 goals and 41 assists in 36 games as a forward with the Canadian Sport School Hockey League’s West Van Academy.

The Pats were awarded the top pick thanks to a blockbuster trade with the Lethbridge Hurricanes in November of 2018, which gave them Swift Current’s first-round selection this year.

Medicine Hat took home the 11th overall selection in the upcoming draft after picking up Saskatoon’s first-rounder in the trade that sent Max Gerlach to the Blades for Bryan Lockner back at the 2018 trade deadline.Â

“We’re definitely going to get a good player at 11, what direction we go with that pick is yet to reveal itself,” said Fox. “There are some high-end players at the top. The first year of having a player receive exceptional status just speaks to the volume of the talent level in the first couple of rounds.”

The Tigers gave up their own first-round selection back in December – along with forward Tyler Preziuso, defenceman Trevor Longo and a conditional fifth-round selection next year in order to acquire Dylan Plouffe, Lukas Svejkovsky, a 2020 third-round pick and a conditional third-rounder in 2021. The trade initially left the Vancouver Giants in possession of the pick – which ended up being 17th overall – however they traded it to the Saskatoon Blades, who in turn used it in a deal with the Prince George Cougars.

The Cougars also took claim to the second overall pick, while the Moose Jaw Warriors were awarded third. The Tri-City Americans and Saskatoon rounded out the top five.

The Red Deer Rebels claimed the Central Division’s highest pick at sixth overall. The Calgary Hitmen took 12th, followed by the Lethbridge Hurricanes at 16th, the Edmonton Oil Kings at 20th and the Broncos at 21st.

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