The Kelowna Rockets made waves at the 2019 WHL Bantam Draft this morning in Red Deer, AB as the team not only loaded up with eight prospects but made multiple trades.
The Rockets held the 5th overall pick at the draft, President/General Manager, Bruce Hamilton had previously talked about the pick being in play. In our draft preview Hamilton said, “I’ve said and stated that the pick would be available if we were going to get something that met the value of it.
“If we can get something in return that’s going to help our hockey club for next year with the Memorial Cup, we would certainly look at it, but it has to be something that will have an impact on our team because whoever we draft will certainly have an impact.”
When it came time for the Rockets to draft, there was a trade announcement. Kelowna had dealt the 5th overall pick to the Brandon Wheat Kings for their 10th overall pick in the 2019 draft and the rights to Sean Comrie.
Comrie (6’0, 168-pounds) was originally drafted 44th overall in the second round of the 2015 WHL Bantam Draft by the Wheat Kings. The Edmonton product played for the University of Denver this past season where he had an assist in 18 games with the Pioneers. The Pio’s made an appearance at the NCAA’s Frozen Four Tournament.
The 6’0, 168-pound defender suited up for the Spruce Grove Saints during the 2017-2018 season where he had 34 points (7G, 27A) in 54 games, helping the Saints capture the AJHL championship.
“Sean wasn’t happy with his situation this past season,” said Hamilton about Comrie. “He wasn’t happy with his minutes and role on the team. When we heard that he was available, it made sense for us to go after him. He’s a strong player and will give us more depth on the blueline.”
The Rockets weren’t done making moves there though, they in turn moved the 10th overall pick at the 2019 Draft to the Seattle Thunderbirds along with the Rockets 2nd round pick in 2021 and first-round pick in the 2022 WHL Bantam Draft and Conner Bruggen-Cate for defenceman Jake Lee, forward Dillon Hamaliuk and goaltender Cole Schwebius from the Seattle Thunderbirds.
“This trade will have a big impact on our team,” said Hamilton. “Lee is a strong defenceman, he always has an influence when he is on the ice. He is a top prospect that will hear his name called alongside fellow Rockets defencemen Kaedan Korczak and Lassi Thomson at the NHL draft.
“Hamaliuk is another top player, he was having a great start to the season before an injury ended it. Schwebius is a Kelowna product, he will give us the insurance that we need in net moving forward.”
Lee, a 2001 born Sherwood Park, AB native was originally drafted by the Seattle 18th overall at the 2016 Bantam Draft. In 135 regular season games with the Thunderbirds the 6’2, 216-pound defenceman has 34 points (7G, 27A). This past season he posted a career-best 24 points (3G, 21A) in 67 games.
He played with Korczak and Thomson on Team Orr at the Sherwin-Williams CHL/NHL Top Prospects game this past January. The NHL’s Central Scouting Service has ranked Lee 146th among North American skaters for the upcoming NHL Draft this June in Vancouver.
Hamaliuk (6’3, 193 pounds) was drafted by the Thunderbirds 111th overall in the 6th round of the 2015 WHL Bantam Draft. The Leduc, AB product has 66 points (27G, 39A) in 120 regular season games with Seattle. He had 26 points (11G, 15A) in 31 games this past season before it came to an end due to injury.
The 2000 born forward suited up for Team WHL at the CIBC Canada Russia Series this past November. He was invited to play at the Sherwin-Williams CHL/NHL Top Prospects game but missed the game because of his injury.
He was rated as ‘B’ prospected on Central Scouting’s November Players To Watch List, which indicated he was projected to be drafted in the second/third round at the upcoming NHL Draft. After suffering his season-ending injury, he was listed as a limited viewing prospect on the midterm rankings.
Schwebius was the T-Birds 216th pick in the 10th round of the 2016 Bantam Draft. This past season the 5’11, 171-pound goaltender appeared in 17 games posting a 5-8-2-0 record with a 3.89 goals against average (GAA) and an .886 save percentage (SV%).
Lee and Hamaliuk were both members of the 2017 WHL Champion Seattle Thunderbirds.
The Rockets made their first pick of the day during the second round selecting forward Nolan Flamand from the Saskatoon Blazers with the 27th pick. The Saskatoon, SK product had 27 points (5G, 22A) in 41 games with his midget team this season.
Kelowna used their second pick of the day to draft forward Jayden Joly from the Fort. Saskatchewan Rangers Bntm AAA team 71st overall. The forward put up 53 points (22G, 31A) over 30 regular season games.
The Rockets then made their third trade of the day acquiring the Wheat Kings 2019 6th (118th), 7th (140th) and 8th (162nd) in exchange for the Rockets 5th round pick at the 2020 WHL Bantam Draft.
With the 110th selection, the Rockets picked 6’0, 175-pound defenceman John Babcock from the North Vancouver Storm Bant A1.
The Rockets made two picks in the sixth round. They drafted towering goaltender Jari Kykkanen from the Lloydminster Bobcats, he stands at 6’2, with the 115th pick. In 18 games with the Bobcats, he was 12-3 and had a 2.74 goals-against average and .916 save percentage.
Three picks later they then selected Maxwell Sanford from the North Central Zone Bobcats BAA. He had 27 points (13G,14A) in 17 regular season games.
Edge School defenceman Jackson Smith was Kelowna’s 140th pick. In 26 games with the Bantam Prep team, the Calgary, AB product had 8 points (1G,7A).
The Rockets added a centre in the 8th round drafting Daimon Gardner from Rink H.A. Nationals Prep Team. The Winnipeg, MB product had 27 points (10G, 17A) in 29 games this past season.
With their final pick of the day, Kelowna went with a local player, drafting forward Rilen Kovacevic from the Pursuit of Excellence Bantam Prep team. He registered 34 points in 30 games (12G, 22A) this past season.