Rockets select Kalder Varga and Oliver Kanat in 2023 US Priority Draft


The Kelowna Rockets made a pair of selections in the 2023 WHL U.S. Priority Draft on Wednesday, drafting forward Kalder Varga and goaltender Oliver Kanat

With their first pick of the day, the Rockets selected forward Varga seventh overall in the first round from the Chicago Mission 14U AAA of the HPHL 14U.

Kalder, 15, posted 21 points (11G, 10A) and 15 penalty minutes through 15 games this season with the U14AAA team. He added another four points (3G, 1A) and three penalty minutes over five playoff games.

The 5’10″, 159-pound forward posted 91 points (30G, 61A) in 78 games last season for the Windy City Storm 13U AAA.

Kalder is the son of former Tacoma Rocket John Varga, who spent four seasons with the club between 1991 and 1995. John appeared in 254 regular season games, all with the Rockets, recording 333 points (154G, 179A) and 387 PIM.

Round 1, pick 7: 

HEIGHT: 5’10

Season Team GP  G    PTS PIM
2021-22 Windy City Storm 13U AAA 78 30 61 91
2022-23 Chicago Mission 14U AAA (HPHL) 15 11 10 21 15

Round 2, pick 26: 


Season Team GP  W    GAA SAV%
2021-22 Anaheim Jr. Ducks 13U AAA 40 0.95 .915
2022-23 Los Angeles Jr. Kings 14U AAA 28 1.53 .922

The order of selection was determined on March 29, 2023 through the 2023 WHL U.S. Priority Draft Lottery. All six WHL Clubs that did not qualify for the 2023 WHL Playoffs participated in the lottery. The lottery proceedings determined the order of selection for the first six picks in the first round of the 2023 WHL U.S. Priority Draft, with inverse order of standing from the 2022-23 WHL Regular Season determining the order of selection for the second round.

Players eligible for the 2023 WHL U.S. Priority Draft are 2008-born players who reside in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.

Kalder is a resident of Geneva, IL, outside of the Western Hockey League’s drafting zone. Because his dad played in the WHL, he was able to dictate that he wanted his son to play in the WHL instead of the OHL.

Players not selected in the WHL U.S. Priority Draft will remain eligible to be selected in the WHL Prospects Draft on Thursday, May 10, or listed by a WHL Club at any time thereafter.

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