By Scott Billeck
The Manitoba Junior Hockey League will hold its bantam draft on Sunday, June 9th in Portage la Prairie.
The bantam draft marks the end of the league’s Annual General Meeting which takes place on June 7-8. No major changes are planned at this year’s AGM according to MJHL Commissioner Kim Davis.
“It’s pretty much routine I would say,” said Davis. “There aren’t any changes being contemplated this year, unless something comes up on Friday, but I am not anticipating that.”
As for the draft, MJHL teams will be looking to repopulate their systems, drafting 1998 born players for the future. The draft consists of six rounds, and also allows teams to add two players from their region to the auto protect list (below). The defending champion Steinbach Pistons have two players on the list, both defensemen: Darby Gula and Kiley Fender.
“It is always an exciting time because there is such optimism for all of the teams,” explained Davis. “The 2012/13 team is behind us now, everyone is starting off on the same foot, and certainly the draft is a good opportunity for them to start building for the future.”
“I have just been so impressed with all the teams over the years about how hard they work and how organized they are with their draft preparations. I’m sure this year will be every bit the same.”
The Neepawa Natives will have the first overall for the second year running and will look to improve on their league worst 13-40-7 record last season. Still rebuilding from the hazing scandal that rocked the team in 2011, General Manager Myles Cathcart is positive heading into the draft after a good offseason.
“With the hiring of (former head coach of the Swan Valley Stampeders) Dwayne Kirkup, that was a good step forward,” said Cathcart. “He had a lot of success in Swan Valley. After the incident and stuff like that, we had to start over. I think we are on the upswing now”.
Cathcart alludes to the draft as being a challenge.
“We need to find a top quality player that is Junior A bound,” said Cathcart. “I think the trick with it is making sure you don’t pick the kid who is going to play in the WHL and never playing Junior A, so that is kind of a tricky thing sometimes.”
Their next step in the rebuilding process starts at 9 a.m. on Sunday when the Natives will be on the clock with the first overall pick.
The Auto Protect list for MJHL teams:
Addison Division Teams:
D – Dean Stewart
D – Darby Gula
D – Kiley Fender
F – Nolan Libbrecht
F – Josh Curtis
G – Ryan Kubic
F – Connor Barley
G – Brady Klassen
F — Keegan Hildebrand
Virden Oil Capitals
D – Tristan Cross
F – Tyler Kirkup
D – Cole Krutkewich
D – Will Birnie
F – Messier S.M. Constant
F – Bryson N. Mallet
Swan Valley Stampeders
F – Tristan Langan
F – Josh Tripp
F — Dylan Ushkowski
D – Ryland Nernberg
F – Chad Kilimnik