April days are coming to an end, the sun is shining longer, and there’s still lots of Canadian Hockey League news to share including the recent WHL Bantam Draft.
Here’s a look at that story and more:
The CHL family grew a little bit larger on Wednesday following the completion of the 2020 WHL Bantam Draft. 233 players born in 2005 were chosen across 13 rounds beginning with forward Connor Bedard of the West Van Warriors selected first overall by the Regina Pats who immediately signed a Standard Player Agreement. He’ll play for the Pats next season at 15-years-old as the first Western Canadian to receive Exceptional Player Status from Hockey Canada. Bedard and all other first round picks will be eligible for the 2023 NHL Draft.
Draft day excitement
The entire WHL Bantam Draft process was held online with all teams and staff working remotely as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Prospective players and their families could watch a livestream of the first round and see all picks on the live results page. That’s exactly what the Weinstein family did, bursting with excitement when their son and brother Saige was selected 18th overall by the Spokane Chiefs.
End of an era in Kelowna
Kelowna Rockets assistant general manager and director of player personnel Lorne Frey will be transitioning from his current position to take a role as a senior advisor following the WHL Bantam Draft. The 70-year-old has been with the organization since its inception in Tacoma back in 1991-92 and has overseen famous Rockets picks like Tyler Myers, Dillon Dube, Tyson Barrie, Blake Comeau, and listed players Shea Weber, Josh Gorges, Duncan Keith and Jamie Benn. Frey was honoured with the WHL’s Distinguished Service Award during the 2010-11 season.
Top WHL picks commit
Connor Bedard wasn’t the only top pick to quickly announce an official WHL commitment. Second and third overall picks Riley Heidt and Brayden Yager, both of the Saskatoon Contacts, have already signed with the Prince George Cougars and Moose Jaw Warriors respectively, and will be among the league’s top rookies to watch for the 2021-22 season.
More top OHL commitments
First overall pick Ty Nelson was among the first from the 2020 OHL Priority Selection class to officially announce his commitment to the league and shared his excitement to join the North Bay Battalion on social media. His Toronto Jr. Canadiens teammate, Pano Fimis, chosen second overall by the Niagara IceDogs, has also signed, along with Detroit Honeybaked star Max Namestnikov who was chosen third overall by the Sarnia Sting.
Digital Development Camp
Late April and early May most often provide annual opportunities for OHL prospects to convene in their new communities for spring Development Camp. This season might be different, but that didn’t stop the Ottawa 67’s from hosting their orientation session online with a motivating welcome message from general manager James Boyd shared on the team’s social media platforms.
Happy Birthday from the Phoenix
Another uplifting moment, this time courtesy of the Sherbrooke Phoenix, who surprised a young fan named Samuel with a collection of video messages on his birthday. Unable to celebrate his 10th birthday in person with friends, Samuel is overjoyed to hear from many of his hockey heroes in this video shared on the team’s social media feed.
Ali’s Army still fighting
Even without playoff hockey the Oshawa Generals are coming together as a team to honour their friend Alex, a young fan fighting leukemia. Ali’s Army is the inspirational tag the team would have worn on shirts throughout post-season competition but is something the players have continued to embrace from home.
Checking in during COVID-19
Surfing team social media sites over the last week we find an empty Centre Marcel-Dionne in Drummondville, except for the Voltigeurs mascot Tirobut, who has been the star of several team videos keeping active with a sense of humor. We also find Flint Firebirds goaltender Luke Cavallin with a nice message for fans and saluting the work of our healthcare professionals on the frontlines, and Edmonton Oil Kings defenceman Matthew Robertson putting in the work to stay in peak physical condition.
Chatting with Cheese
Robertson isn’t the only social media savvy member of the Oil Kings as the team’s Athletic Therapist Brian Cheeseman recently took to Instagram for his first installment of what we can only hope becomes regular scheduled programming called ‘Chatting with Cheese’ that will feature conversations with some of the league’s best support staff.
Remparts mourn the loss of Légaré
The Quebec Remparts recently shared some sad news with the passing of Jean-Pierre Légaré. A career doctor for almost 40 years, Légaré was also heavily involved in the development of junior hockey in Quebec and was the club’s founding vice-president in 1969.
Keep your students sharp at home
The CHL is proud to support our NHL friends who are offering free digital learning tools for parents and teachers. The program, called Future Goals, includes two online resources: Hockey Scholar – an interactive hockey-themed STEM curriculum for middle-school and elementary-school-aged students and Healthier Me – a program that provides elementary-school-aged students the tools they need to make healthy decisions. For more information visit nhl.com/futuregoals.
CHL themed activity pages
Several CHL teams have also taken this opportunity to provide hockey themed activity pages for families at home including the Medicine Hat Tigers, Rimouski Oceanic, and the Kitchener Rangers who also shared a lovely letter from young fan Isaiah who is missing his favourite team.
Halifax Mooseheads head coach J.J Daigneault and his family were among the many who honoured the 22 victims who died in last weekend’s mass shooting in Nova Scotia by taking part in #WearRedFriday. The day of mourning was organized by The National Police Federation and RCMP who sadly lost Constable Heidi Stevenson in the massacre.
CIBC helps Nova Scotia communities
CIBC, the Official Bank partner of the CHL, shared some good news with their support of the victims, families, and Nova Scotia communities affected by the horrible tragedy making a donation of $100,000 to the RCMP Foundation and IWK Health Centre.
Canada Life donates Memorial Cup prize
Another donation was made last week by a proud CHL partner as Canada Life announced a $5,000 contribution to Canadian Blood Services. The amount represents the value of the all-expenses-paid trip to the Memorial Cup that a Canada Life contest was to award this spring prior to the cancellation of the championship.
RV homes for healthcare workers
Proud CHL partner Go RVing Canada has been encouraging dealers from coast-to-coast to help out those in need. In particular by providing RV’s to frontline healthcare workers as shared in this City News story below.
Go RVing Canada also wants to help Canadians enjoy the open road and camping when it’s safe to do so. There’s still time to vote on your favourite Wildhood Story for a chance to win a dream RV adventure. Visit chlwildstories.ca for more and #BringBackWildhood!
Pair from overage class sign AHL contracts
Two more graduating members of the CHL’s overage class will turn pro next season and play in the American Hockey League. Defenceman Max Martin of the Kamloops Blazers has signed with the Texas Stars and forward DJ Busdeker of the Saginaw Spirit has signed with the Rockford IceHogs.
More U SPORTS commitments
A number of other overage graduates will be taking their on ice talents to U SPORTS programs across the country while pursuing an education through the league’s scholarship programs. This past week the UNB Reds made the biggest splash announcing four new recruits including Nicolas Guay (Rimouski Oceanic), Jason Willms (London Knights), Austen Keating (Ottawa 67’s), and Macauley Carson (Sudbury Wolves). The University of Saskatchewan Huskies also announced a trio of commitments including Ty Prefontaine (Lethbridge Hurricanes), Jaxan Kaluski (Swift Current Broncos), and Parker Gavlas (Medicine Hat Tigers). Additional commitments include Yan Aucoin (Acadie-Bathurst Titan) who will play for the Concordia Stingers, Liam Ham (Mississauga Steelheads) who will be a member of the Guelph Gryphons, and Thomas Stevenson (Windsor Spitfires) who will suit up for the Queen’s Gaels.
Rookie goaltender Connor Martin of the Victoria Royals was the winner in the fifth of eight Quarter-Final matchups in the #CHLShowdown Playoffs that features 24 weekly vote winners from the 2019-20 regular season vying for the crown of the year’s top play as chosen by the fans. New matchups will launch every Tuesday afternoon at chlshowdown.ca.