The prospect pool has gotten deeper.
At Thursday’s 2018 WHL Bantam Draft, with their 10 picks the Hitmen set themselves up for future success with a well-rounded draft class.
“We’ve added skill, speed and size. The three aspects you always look for and can’t have enough of,” said Director Player of Personnel Dallas Thompson. “With the acquisitions we’ve made and picks from the draft, we’re set up to have depth at every position in the future.”
Overall the Hitmen selected five forwards in Sean Tschigerl (4), Tristan Zandee (36), Zachary Funk (43), David Hymovitch (69) and James Gibson (71). Four defenceman were then added to the draft class in Tyson Galloway (25), Rory Neill (62), Jacob Romanchuk (113) and Rylan Jockims (135). One goaltender was also selected as hometown kid Marek Pocherewny (47) was taken in the third round.
The forwards as a whole are a group that can score at eye-opening rates as they have a combined this past season for 277 points to go along with 119 goals. Hitmen General Manger Jeff Chynoweth pointed out that including their skill offensively, these players have more elements to their game that make them even stronger.
“To truly judge a draft class, you need to wait three years but going into it we wanted to restock the cupboards and we did that,” Chynoweth said. “We wanted to get some size up front to go along with skill and we got that. You have to change the scoreboard from zero to one to win and you have to have players with skill mixed in with grit and character to do that and I believe they are those types of players.”
On the defensive side of the puck, the prospects selected have proven to have the ability to shut down the opposition with their tough, reliable play in their own end. The four defenders combined for 122 points in 2017/18 while putting the puck in the net with 48 markers.
“They are a unique group,” Chynoweth added. “The game is changing but I believe a bigger team on the blueline can punish other teams, especially during a seven game playoff series.”
“If you look at successful Hitmen teams of the past, it’s always been big defenceman on the backend who also poses skill. We think we added players like that and have the ability to move the puck and chip in offensively.”
Goaltender Pocherewny was busy taking care of business all season long, setting an impressive .953 SV% to go along with a sparkling 1.06 GAA in 18 games played. The numbers are a significant jump from a season ago when he set a 2.31 GAA and .877 SV%.
“He has tremendous upside,” Chynoweth said. “We like his winning pedigree and what he brings to the table. Goaltending is so important and we want to develop our own goaltenders and that starts with the draft. We don’t want to go out and get a 20-year-old every year.”
Although the 2018 draft class won’t be eligible for the 2018/19 season, they’ll be able to show what they’re all about during Training Camp in the fall, and will be watched closely once they return to their respected teams.
“It’s a free camp,” Chynoweth added. “They aren’t going to be here to make the club this season so this camp is the chance to enjoy the city, the experience and atmosphere of the camp. They should get out as much as they can from camp and use it as a springboard when they go back to their respected clubs.”
“We say it every year at training camp, ‘do what you do and do it well.’”