Kootenay Ice win 2016 WHL bantam draft lottery

Kelly Friesen
Kootenay hopes to draft the next Sam Reinhart with the top pick in the 2016 WHL bantam draft. (Photo by Marissa Baecker/Getty Images)
Kootenay hopes to draft the next Sam Reinhart with the top pick in the 2016 WHL bantam draft. (Photo by Marissa Baecker/Getty Images)

The Kootenay Ice’s rebuild received a major boost today at the 2016 WHL bantam draft lottery. The organization was awarded the top selection in the draft after its ball was drawn in Calgary.

With a 12-53-6-1 record this season, Kootenay missed the playoffs for the first time since moving to Cranbrook, B.C., in 1998. It was the first year of the club’s rebuild after they graduated Buffalo Sabres prized pick Sam Reinhart and Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Rinat Valiev last offseason.

Kootenay began to reload their cupboard at the 2015 bantam draft despite not holding a first-round pick. They drafted Yorkton, Sask., native Keenan Taphorn 34th overall and Notre Dame Hounds product Loeden Schauffler 56th overall. They went on to acquire Kaeden Taphorn, the twin brother of Keenan, in a January trade with the Vancouver Giants.

The Ice have never drafted first overall as a Cranbrook-based team, but the organization did hold the No. 1 pick when they were located in Edmonton in 1997. They chose Minnesota Wild centre Jarret Stoll with that selection.

The Giants, Saskatoon Blades, Swift Current Broncos and Medicine Hat Tigers round out the top five picks in that respective order.

The 2016 bantam draft isn’t as straightforward as 2015, where Lloydminster, Alta., native Ty Smith, whom the Spokane Chiefs chose first overall, was regarded as the clear-cut top prospect. There are at least three players in the running to go No. 1 on May 5.

That said, Okotoks, Alta., native Peyton Krebs is considered the favourite to go first overall. While showcasing his shifty skating ability, crafty hands and top-notch playmaking skills, he tore up the Alberta AAA Bantam Hockey League with the Rocky Mountain Raiders this season. He found the back of the net 46 times and added 56 assists in 27 games.

Beyond Krebs, here is a look at five other high-end prospects in the draft class.

Kirby Dach, forward, Fort Saskatchewan Rangers (AMHL) – Dach, who possesses an elite offensive skill set and a high hockey IQ, is regarded as possibly the most polished player in the draft. He made the jump up to AAA midget a year early this season.

Bowen Byram, defence, Lethbridge Golden Hawks (AMBHL) – He is a highly skilled offensive blueliner. He produced 22 goals and 59 points in 34 games at the AAA bantam level this season.

Logan Barlage, forward, Humboldt Broncos (SBAAHL) – Barlage lit the Saskatchewan Bantam AA Hockey League on fire this season, as he produced 60 markers and 125 points in 30 contests. He’s poised to blossom into a high-end power forward with his imposing 6-foot-3, 185-pound frame.

Kaedan Korczak, defence, Yorkton Raw Tec Maulers (SMAAAHL) – Like Dach, Korczak skipped his second year of bantam to make an early plunge into AAA midget. He’s a complete player who is hard to play against in his own end.

 Sasha Mutala, forward, BWC Bruins (PCAHA)The Vancouver, B.C., native has the enticing combination of elite raw skill and size (6-foot, 175 pounds). He is the favourite to be the first player selected out of British Columbia.

Kelly Friesen is a Buzzing the Net columnist for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KellyFriesen