The Brandon Wheat Kings looked to their own backyard with the first overall pick of the 2014 WHL bantam draft, as they selected Winnipeg Monarchs forward Stelio Mattheos.
Mattheos, who scored 53 goals and 103 points in 32 games, came into the draft as the best bet to go first overall. The 6-foot-1, 174-pound forward was considered to be in a two-horse race with NSWC Winterhawks centre Jordy Bellerive, who subsequently was selected second overall by the Lethbridge Hurricanes. But since Mattheos is a Manitoba product, it was believed that Wheat Kings GM-head coach Kelly McCrimmon would go with the local kid in a tossup situation.
Of course, the Whet Kings didn’t have to fall to the bottom of the standings to snag the draft’s top selection. McCrimmon acquired the pick by putting in a clause to have the option of swapping draft choices with the Saskatoon Blades in a 2012 offseason deal involving Brendan Walker.
Albeit a lot can happen in junior hockey in two years, Mattheos seems to solidify the argument that the Wheat Kings will be a contender in 2015-16. They will have a solid offensive quartet built around Jayce Hawryluk, John Quenneville, 2013 first-rounder Nolan Patrick and, of course, Mattheos. In addition, a potentially deadly defensive duo in Ryan Pilon and 2013 first-rounder Kale Clague with Jordan Papirny in between the pipes.
The Kamloops Blazers chose the first defenceman and the second NSWC Winterhawk – Nolan Kneen –with the third pick of the draft. The 5-foot-11, 165-pounder’s impeccable skating abilities and physicality put him high on the bantam draft map.
The Moose Jaw Warriors selected Notre Dame Hounds blueliner Josh Brook and the Prince George Cougars picked NSWC Winterhawks forward Justin Almeida to round out the top five. Yes, the North Shore Winter Club program had three youngsters chosen with top five picks. There was clearly something in North Vancouver's water in 1999.
Saskatoon Stallions forward Jake Leschyshyn, who is the son of former NHLer Curtis Leschyshyn, was the most notable hockey bloodline selected in the draft. Brent Sutter’s Red Deer Rebels snagged the 5-foot-10, 154-pound forward with the sixth-overall selection.
The Prince Albert Raiders chose the first goalie - the Calgary Northstar Sabres’ Ian Scott - with the ninth selection. Scott is regarded as the draft’s top netminder, but this is somewhat of a head-scratching move by GM Bruno Campese because the Raiders have two young promising goalies in their system. Nick McBride stood tall in his 16-year-old season as Cole Cheveldave’s backup while 17-year-old Rylan Parenteau posted a .926 save percentage in 41 games with the SJHL’s Weyburn Red Wings.
If the Vancouver Giants can recruit Max Gildon, whom they chose in the third round, they may have walked out of the draft with the biggest mid-round steal. The 6-foot-1, 161-pound defender, who’s a Texas native, is regarded as the clear-cut best American prospect in the draft. He only fell passed the first round because of the risk of losing him to the NCAA. Tweets shouldn't be looked into that much, but it's worth noting that he thanked the Giants for drafting him.
— Maxwell (@GildonMax) May 1, 2014
Even though the Blades are in between general managers, they made a significant trade at the draft. They acquired 2010 first-overall bantam pick Alex Forsberg from the Prince George Cougars for prospect Haydn Hopkins and a third-round pick.
The change of scenery is without question long overdue for Forsberg. He asked for a trade from the Cougars in December 2012. But after roughly seven months of not receiving a deal because GM Dallas Thompson didn’t feel the offers were strong enough, Forsberg agreed to return to Prince George at the start of this season. That said, BTN has learned the Cougars would have received a much more enticing package for the 5-foot-10, 180-pound centre if they dealt him within the first week of his original trade request.
From the Blades' perspective, they are clearly trying to speed up their rebuild. In addition, this deal involves little risk for them as they didn’t have to give up much. Whether Forsberg can be a consistent scorer for Saskatoon in his 19-year-old season is ultimately completely up in the air. The Waldheim, SK., native, who scored six goals and 28 points in 44 contests this year, has elite raw talent, but there are concerns surrounding his work ethic and conditioning.
Kamloops to make Hay
It seems the Blazers' new head coach will be a familiar face. Reports are circulating that Giants bench boss Don Hay is going to jump ship to join Kamloops.
#WHL Hearing Blazers will have presser Friday to unveil Don Hay as new coach. No trade. Giants agree to let him out of the last year of deal
— Steve Ewen (@SteveEwen) May 1, 2014
Former head coach Guy Charron became the Blazers' interim bench boss this year after Dave Hunchak took a "leave of absence" in January.
Other trades notes: Giants acquired 20-year-old winger Matt Bellerive, the bother of second overall selection Jordy Bellerive, from the Blazers for a pair of mid-round picks… Vancouver also brought in 18-year-old rearguard Clayton Kirichenko from Saskatoon for a pair of mid-round picks… Kamloops brought back 20-year-old defenceman Brady Gaudet from Red Deer for a third-round pick… the Rebels followed it up by acquiring overage blueliner Brett Cote from the Victoria Royals for a second-round pick.
Kelly Friesen is a Buzzing the Net columnist for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KellyFriesen