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Ahead of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft

Marissa Baecker

The 2018 NHL Entry Draft at American Airlines Center in Dallas, TX. is on June 22nd-23rd. Three Kelowna Rockets draft eligible players were listed on NHL Central Scouting’s final rankings of North American skaters in mid-April.

Forward Kyle Topping, defenceman Libor Zabransky, and forward Leif Mattson all made the list released on April 16th, 2018.

KELOWNA, CANADA - FEBRUARY 20: Kyle Topping #24 of the Kelowna Rockets skates with the puck against the Prince George Cougars on February 20, 2018 at Prospera Place in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze) *** Local Caption ***
KELOWNA, CANADA – FEBRUARY 20: Kyle Topping #24 of the Kelowna Rockets skates with the puck against the Prince George Cougars on February 20, 2018 at Prospera Place in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze) *** Local Caption ***

18-year-old Topping concluded his second full campaign with the Rockets this season. Topping is ranked 59th on the NHL Central Scouting’s final rankings of North American skaters. Heading into the NHL Entry Draft this weekend, Topping says he’s eager to get it started.

“I have an open mindset. You never know what can happen on draft day. It’s definitely super exciting and I can’t wait for the weekend. Most likely I’m just going to spend the day with my family and see what happens,” said Topping. “I’m already getting excited and anxious for next season in Kelowna to start. I think were going to have a really strong group of talented and great guys that will do what ever it takes to win. As for myself I am wanting to come into my 3rd year and play a leadership role for our group, as well as take another step forward and be a key player for our team.”

In 125 regular season WHL games so far, the Salt Spring Island, B.C. native has notched 36 goals while adding 58 assists for 94 points. He scored 22 goals this season placing him fifth on the Rockets in goal scoring. He finished the season with 65 points putting him fifth in points on the Rockets roster. The speedy forward has also added two goals and four assists for six points in 19 playoff games in his WHL career thus far, including two goals and three assists for five points in four post season games in the 2018 WHL Playoffs. Topping was selected by Kelowna in the 11th round, 226th overall in the 2014 WHL Bantam Draft following an incredible 2013-2014 season with the Cowichan Valley Capitals of the Vancouver Island Bantam Hockey League. In 62 games that season Topping scored 68 goals while adding 157 assists for an astounding 225 points. He played the 2014-2015 season with the North Island Silvertips of the BC Hockey Major Midget League scoring 17 goals and 13 assists for 30 points in 35 games. The November 18, 1999-born draft prospect then played a season of Jr. A in the BCHL for the Cowichan Valley Capitals. In 53 games he posted five goals and seven assists for 12 points. He began his career with the Rockets at the beginning of the 2016-2017 season playing in 59 games scoring 14 goals and 15 assists for 29 points. The 5’11, 185lb forward has been busy this offseason in preparation for the draft as well as next year.

“After the season ended I took about two weeks off to just unwind and enjoy some time with family and friends,” said Topping. “Then I started up again with my personal trainer who runs his gym out of Cowichan Valley. There is a group of about six WHL and Jr. A players that all train together five days a week. It’s a really fun group and we all push each other to reach similar goals. I also try to get on the ice as much as I can across Vancouver Island!”

KELOWNA, CANADA - DECEMBER 2: Libor Zabransky #7 of the Kelowna Rockets skates with the puck against the Kelowna Rockets on December 2, 2017 at Prospera Place in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze) *** Local Caption ***
KELOWNA, CANADA – DECEMBER 2: Libor Zabransky #7 of the Kelowna Rockets skates with the puck against the Kelowna Rockets on December 2, 2017 at Prospera Place in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze) *** Local Caption ***

18-year-old Libor Zabransky completed his WHL rookie campaign this season with Kelowna. The import defenceman is ranked 115th on NHL Central Scouting’s final rankings. He was selected 51st overall by the Rockets in the 2017 CHL Import Draft from the Czech Republic. In his first year with Kelowna, the Brno, Czech Republic native was one of only two Rockets players on the roster this season to play all 72 regular season games. The smooth-skating defenceman scored two goals and 17 assists for 19 points in his first season. In 2016-2017 Zabransky played 34 games for HC Kometa Brno U20 scoring nine goals and adding 26 assists for 35 points. He also skated in 15 games for HC Kometa Brno of the Czech Extraliga, notching an assist. On top of that busy schedule, he laced up for the Czech Republic U17 team at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge. In five games he registered an assist. He also played 14 other international games with the Czech Rep. U17 team recording three assists. This season to add to his 72 game schedule, Zabransky captained the Czech Rep. U18 team at the World U18 Junior Championship where he notched one goal and four assists in seven games. He played another seven games for the U18 team outside of that tournament scoring two goals and adding four assists for six points, as well as captaining the team at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup scoring once and adding three assists in four games. Zabransky is anxious to get this weekend and the NHL Entry Draft started.

“Im super excited and also nervous because you never know what the NHL teams want,” said Zabransky. “I will be with my family and trying to enjoy the day.”

Since the postseason ended, Zabransky has been in Brno, Czech Rep. training with a professional team in hopes on expanding his role in Kelowna next season.

“I’m training with a Pro team in Brno, so it’s good for me to be able to workout with the older guys. Next season it will be my second year in Kelowna. A lot of defencemen are leaving so I hope my role will be bigger,” Zabransky said. “Also I know my billets, coaches, the city, and my teammates so I think it will be more fun for me and I can’t wait to be back.”
KELOWNA, CANADA - JANUARY 30: Leif Mattson #28 of the Kelowna Rockets skates against the Medicine Hat Tigers on January 30, 2017 at Prospera Place in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze) *** Local Caption ***
KELOWNA, CANADA – JANUARY 30: Leif Mattson #28 of the Kelowna Rockets skates against the Medicine Hat Tigers on January 30, 2017 at Prospera Place in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze) *** Local Caption ***

18-year-old Leif Mattson finished his second season with the Rockets this year. The Stonewall, MB native is ranked 157th among North American skaters on the NHL Central Scouting’s final rankings. In 63 games this season Mattson scored 25 goals, fourth most on the Rockets roster behind only Carsen Twarynski(45), Kole Lind(39), and Dillon Dube(38). 60 points placed him sixth in team scoring at the end of the regular season. Mattson was originally selected in the eighth round, 163rd overall, by the Brandon Wheat Kings in the 2014 WHL Bantam Draft after racking up 33 goals and 33 assists for 66 points in 32 games for the Interlake Lightning Bantam AAA in the Winnipeg Bantam AAA league in 2013-2014. During the 2014-2015 regular season Mattson scored a whopping 42 goals and 42 assists for 84 points in 33 games for the St. Albert Flyers Minor Midget AAA in the Alberta Midget Minor Hockey League. In 2015-2016 the skilled forward scored 12 goals and 13 assists for 25 points in 30 games for the St. Albert Raiders Midget AAA of the Alberta Midget Hockey League. In 2016-2017 Mattson began the season playing for the Drumheller Dragons of the Alberta Junior Hockey League. In five games he scored two goals and an assist for three points  before his rights were acquired by Kelowna via trade in October of 2016 from the Brandon Wheat Kings. Mattson then played his first 46 WHL games for the Rockets. In his rookie campaign he scored nine goals and added five assists for 14 points. The 6-foot, 200lb forward has played in a total of 109 regular season games for Kelowna, scoring 34 goals and 40 assists for 74 points. The 1999-born Rockets forward is trying not to overthink the NHL Entry Draft.

“Going into the draft this weekend I would be extremely grateful to be selected. However, if I’m not, it’s not the end of the world. My main focus is improving my game this summer in order to ensure I have a very strong year in Kelowna this coming season,” said Mattson. “I’m super excited to get back to Kelowna this August because my expectations for myself and the rest of the team are extremely high. I believe we have a strong core group of guys coming back that will allow us to contend again this year, and have a deep playoff run.”

When it comes to his offseason training, much like his teammates Kyle Topping and Libor Zabransky, Mattson has been hard at work, even mixing in some yoga.

“I’m training in Calgary for the summer at Bold Athlete. It consists of off-ice training four times per week, on-ice twice a week, as well as yoga once a week.”

Topping, Zabransky, and Mattson will surely be paying attention to the first round of the NHL Entry Draft, which begins on Friday, June 22nd at 4:30pm PT in Dallas, with rounds two through seven beginning on Saturday, June 23rd at 8am PT. Stay tuned to kelownarockets.com for draft updates.

Rockets season tickets are available now for the upcoming 2018-2019 WHL season. Catch Topping, Zabransky, Mattson, and more beginning on Friday, August 31st when Kelowna hosts their divisional rivals the Victoria Royals in game one of the Rockets 2018 WHL preseason. Buy now and claim the rights to your seats should the Rockets have a successful 2020 Memorial Cup bid. Email Gavin Hamilton – gavinh@kelownarockets.com or Andrew Deans – andrewd@kelownarockets.com for more info.

Register for the upcoming 17th annual Kelowna Rockets Alumni Golf Tournament on July 21st at the Black Mountain Golf Club. Golf with some of your favourite Rockets Alumni in support of the Canucks Autism Network. For more info including a registration form, visit: http://kelownarockets.com/golf-tournament

 

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