Members of the Brandon Wheat Kings scouting staff have been hard at work over the last year, watching and dissecting the next crop of potential WHL stars, all in preparation for the annual WHL Bantam Draft.
Unlike previous years, where team and league officials gathered in Red Deer for the event, the 2020 edition will be done virtually, a measure put in place by the WHL in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
This year’s draft class is highlighted by Connor Bedard, who was granted exceptional status by Hockey Canada. This unprecedented move makes him the first player in league history eligible to play full time as a 15-year-old.
For Wheat Kings General Manager Darren Ritchie, the 2005 draft class is as deep as it gets.
“I think it’s a very good draft and teams are going to be happy with their picks in the first couple of rounds,” said Ritchie. “There is some really high end forward available and there is a really good bunch of defencemen as well.”
Barring any trades, Brandon will select 13th overall, while having their own pick in every round except the 6th. The Wheat Kings also have multiple picks in both the 7th and 9th rounds.
From a technical side, team’s have had to build digital “Draft War Rooms,” as a way to gather together for discussion and planning. The actual selection on draft day will be submitted using the same program as the US Prospect and the CHL Import Drafts.
“As a staff, we’ve done a lot of video conferencing calls to try and prepare,” added Ritchie. “On draft day, we will have our scouts together on a video call as well. Not having your scouts there with you at the table is going to be different, but we know the situation the world is in and we just have to make do with the technology we have.”
Last year, Brandon traded seven selections and unsigned prospect Sean Comrie and finished the day with three first round picks, which they used on Tyson Zimmer, Nate Danielson and Rylan Roersma.
Despite having a deep prospect pool already, the Wheat Kings don’t plan to over analyze things when it comes to adding new talent to the organization.
“Early on in the draft our mindset is to take the best player available,” added Ritchie. “As the draft goes on, you can start to address individual needs as a group. We’re fortunate that we've had a lot of picks the last few years which gives us some depth, but these players have to continue to develop in order to make our team as they get older.”
Fans will be able to watch the draft unfold, pick by pick at www.whl.ca.