WHL Bantam Draft: Wheat Kings select 11 players; 34 Manitobans selected



The Western Hockey League Bantam Draft has come and gone and the Brandon Wheat Kings were busy, selecting 11 players, including the first overall pick.

The Wheat Kings began the day by selecting centre Stelio Mattheos of the Winnipeg AAA Bantam Monarchs, marking the first time in franchise history that Brandon has had the No. 1 selection.

The Wheat Kings held this year's No. 1 pick because of a 2012 trade with Saskatoon that saw Brenden Walker go to the Blades.

Mattheos played last season with the Winnipeg Monarchs of the Winnipeg AAA Bantam Hockey League. In 35 games, the centre accumulated 103 points, including 53 goals. The 6-foot-1, 180 pound Winnipeg captain added another 12 goals and 19 points in eight playoff games.

"This is a tremendously exciting day for our hockey club and fans," said Wheat Kings general manager and head coach Kelly McCrimmon in a release. "Stelio is big, strong and skilled and a very powerful skater. As well, he has tremendous character.

"Joining some other top young players in our organization, we expect he will be an impact player," he continued. "We are pleased to welcome Stelio to the Wheat Kings organization and look forward to watching him develop in Brandon. He will be a very good player for us."

This marks the second straight season that the Wheat Kings have chosen a Winnipeg born player with their first bantam selection. In 2013, Brandon opted for centre Nolan Patrick fourth overall.

By going to Brandon first overall, Mattheos joins some pretty select company, becoming one of only 25 players to go first overall in the annual bantam draft.

Among those that have been chosen No. 1 over the course of the past 24 years include the likes of Jarret Stoll (Edmonton Ice) of the Los Angeles Kings, St. Louis Blues defenceman Jay Bouwmeester (Medicine Hat), Jonathan Toews (Tri-City) of the Chicago Blackhawks, Philadelphia's Braydon Coburn (Portland) and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (Red Deer) of the Edmonton Oilers.

Nugent-Hopkins went on to become the first overall pick in the National Hockey League draft in 2011.

Prior to this year, Brandon's best draft position had been second overall - in 1991, '92 and '93 - when the Wheat Kings chose Cloutier, Wade Redden and Darren Van Oene respectively.

Brandon used their second, third and fourth round picks to draft Ian Mitchell of Calahoo, Alberta (32nd overall), Calgary defenceman Jarrod Gourlay (54th overall) and Red Deer right-winger Jeremy Klessens (76th overall).

As a member of the Spruce Grove AAA Bantams this past season, Mitchell scored four goals and 21 points in 24 games for the 25-6-2 Saints.

In 32 games with the AAA Bantam Bisons, the 6-foot-1, 185 pound Gourlay had five goals and 29 points, while the 5-foot-10, 176 pound Klessens scored 27 goals and 45 points as a member of the Red Deer Rebel White Bantams this past season. Klessens was also the AMBHL South Division Rookie of the Year in 2012-13.

The Wheat Kings used their two fifth round selections to grab local product Connor Gutenberg (106th overall) and netminder Hunter Arps (109th) of Pleasantdale, Saskatchewan. In 32 games for the Bantam Wheat Kings this past season, the 5-foot-8, 130 pound Gutenberg led the club in scoring with 20 goals and 40 points while the 6-foot-1, 153 pound Arps recorded an impressive 2.34 goals against average in 23 games for the North East Wolfpack.

With their only pick of round six, Brandon opted for centre James McIsaac of the Winnipeg Warriors. After averaging well over a point per game (32-26-58) in 31 games during the regular season, the 5-foot-9, 155 pound forward scored eight goals and 12 points in seven playoff games for the Warriors.

After having traded their seventh round pick to Red Deer, the Wheat Kings used their eighth round selection (164th overall) to draft 5-foot-9, 153 pound right-winger Leif Mattson of Stonewall. In 32 games with the Interlake Bantam Lightning this past season, Mattson scored 33 goals and 66 points. He followed that up by scoring 13 goals in five playoff games.

In round nine (186th overall), Brandon took 6-foot, 177 pound defenceman Dane Hirst of Lac du Bonnet, who had four goals and 16 points in 33 games with the Eastman AAA Bantam Selects in 2013-14.

Brandon's second goalkeeper came in the 10th round when the Wheat Kings took 6-foot, 159 pound Justin Klassen of Portage 208th overall. With their final pick, the Wheat Kings turned their attention south of the border, selecting 5-foot-10, 185 pound blueliner Mikey Anderson from Roseville, Minnesota.

34 Manitobans selected

A total of 34 Manitobans were chosen in the draft. Among them included Roblin blueliner Josh Brook, who was picked fourth overall by the Moose Jaw Warriors; Morden forward Logan Christensen was selected by Prince Albert 30th overall, and Boissevain netminder Rilan Rommelaere was taken 39th overall by Medicine Hat.

Others selected included Killarney defenceman Cody Thompson (52nd overall) by Prince Albert; Portage forward Nick Henry was selected by Everett (59th overall); Oakbank forward Brett Davis went 78th overall to Swift Current; Gilbert Plains forward Connor Dewar was picked by Everett (107th overall); blueliner Tyler Jubenvill of Gilbert Plains was picked by Spokane (177th overall); while Wawanesa forward Brian Harris was picked by Edmonton (227th overall).

For a complete listing of all the Manitobans selected, click here.

With files from Wheat Kings and WHL releases