The Spokane Chiefs didn’t fare too well in the win-loss column after the truncated and development-focused 2021 Western Hockey League season, but they did get rewarded with the top pick at the 2021 bantam draft.
The Chiefs, who came into the draft with a 4% chance at the top spot, saw one of their two ping-pong balls drawn as the league held its draft lottery in Calgary, Alberta, on Wednesday.
Spokane had two ping-pong balls in the lottery after finishing fourth in the U.S. Division. All division winners had one ping-pong ball, while all division basement dwellers had four. The rest of the league had two.
This year’s bantam draft will take place Dec. 9.
The Chiefs and their scouts now turn their attention to the top 2006-born prospects in the Western United States and Western Canada. The top prospect is widely believed to be Berkly Catton, a center from Saskatoon.
Catton was only able to play five games in his most recent season for the Saskatoon Contacts of the Saskatchewan Male AAA Hockey League (SMAAAHL), scoring a goal and an assist. In his 2019-2020 season, Catton had 50 goals and 58 assists in just 30 games.
This is the third time in their history the Chiefs have selected first overall, and the previous two times were gold mines .
The Chiefs took defenseman Jared Cowan first overall in 2006. Cowan helped Spokane win a Memorial Cup in 2008 and captained the team before being a top-10 NHL draft pick.
The Chiefs took defenseman Ty Smith first overall in 2015. Smith was also a team captain and blossomed into a two-time WHL Defenseman of the Year and a Canadian Hockey League Defenseman of the Year. He was drafted 17th overall at the 2018 NHL draft by the New Jersey Devils. Smith just completed his rookie year for New Jersey.
Cowan and Smith were two-time Team Canada members at the World Junior Hockey Championships.
Whoever the Chiefs select with the top pick will join a prospect pool ready to compete with a roster that was among the league’s youngest this past season. The Chiefs seem to be closer to the rebuilding end of the junior hockey cycle than the contending end.
Regardless, the top pick sets Spokane up nicely for the future.
Getting the top pick always makes a team the winner of the draft lottery, but the Brandon Wheat Kings can also claim that title. The Wheat Kings, winners of the East Division, have the third and fourth picks of the first round, thanks to trades made in 2018 with the Victoria Royals and Moose Jaw Warriors, respectively.
Brandon also owns the last pick of the first round.
The lottery was held to determine the order of the first round only. Subsequent rounds are based on the inverse order of the final 2021 standings.
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