Thunderbirds see 11 players taken in USHL, WHL Drafts
Another junior hockey draft season and more names from the Colorado Thunderbirds are getting opportunities to further their careers.
The first week in May saw Phase I and Phase II of the United States Hockey League (USHL) Draft go down May 2-3 and then on May 5, the Western Hockey League (WHL) Bantam Draft took place.
When all was said and done, 11 current or former Thunderbirds became property of USHL or WHL clubs.
Phase I of the USHL Draft is just for 2000 birth year players, while Phase II is for players born 1996-2000. The WHL Bantam Draft focused on 2001 births.
The Thunderbirds had seven current players selected and one former player chosen in the USHL Drafts. Six of the current players selected were members of the Thunderbirds’ 16U AAA National team that finished in third place at the USA Hockey Youth Nationals in April.
In Phase I of the USHL Draft, forward Bryan Lockner was drafted by the Muskegon Lumberjacks in the fourth round (54th overall), defenseman Will Brown was taken by the Sioux City Musketeers in the seventh round (96th overall) and the Lincoln Stars chose forward Beck Moore in the 10th round (155th overall).
“Bryan will add some size and depth to our forwards, while also applying some grit and depth to the roster,” said Muskegon assistant coach Josh Shields.
Former Thunderbirds forward Noah Prokop, who won a national championship this past season with Shattuck-St. Mary’s Prep School in Faribault, Minn., was drafted by the Green Bay Gamblers in the sixth round (95th overall) of Phase I.
During Phase II, four more Thunderbirds were taken by USHL clubs.
Goalie Jonah Giem was drafted by the Tri-City Storm (a team that currently has former Thunderbirds goalie Dayton Rasmussen) in the sixth round (94th overall), defenseman Mason Klee was selected by Lincoln with the 193rd overall pick in the 12th round, defenseman Nikolai Lyssogor went six picks later in the 13th round to the Musketeers and then forward Brayden Nicholetts concluded the Thunderbirds’ picks by going to the Bloomington Thunder in the 16th round (259th overall).
All players will attend their team’s main camp this summer and have already begun to work to earn a spot on their USHL roster.
“Congratulations to each of these players on being drafted in the USHL,” said Thunderbirds director of hockey operations and 16U AAA National coach Angelo Ricci. “This a special day for all these young men. The Thunderbirds continue to place our elite players in the top junior league in the country. In the past seven years, the Colorado Thunderbirds program has been fortunate to have 70 players selected in both of the USHL Drafts. That’s quite an accomplishment.”
As in previous years, the Thunderbirds were well-represented in the WHL Draft with three players taken from the Thunderbirds 14U AAA team.
Goaltender Callan Sandquist went to the Portland Winterhawks in the seventh round (141st overall) and fellow netminder Brock Gould was drafted by the Victoria Royals in the eighth round (170th overall).
“Brock is a very athletic goaltender who has great size,” said Victoria assistant GM Grant Armstrong.
Forward Killian Kiecker-Olson rounded out the trio of selections when he was taken by the Kelowna Rockets (a team that includes former Thunderbirds Cal Foote and Nolan Foote) in the ninth round (188th overall).
“Congratulations to these players for the recognition they have achieved in the WHL Bantam Draft,” said Ricci. “The Colorado Thunderbirds organization is excited to continue to watch these young men develop as hockey players.”
Ricci added that getting Thunderbirds players exposure to higher levels of the game is always first and foremost when it comes to goals for each season.
Other programs were represented during the drafts as well.
Pikes Peak Miners 18U AAA goalie Jeremy Swayman was drafted by the USHL’s Sioux Falls Stampede in the 12th round (191st overall) of Phase II of the draft on May 3 and the Dubuque Fighting Saints selected Rocky Mountain RoughRiders 18U AAA defenseman James Crossman in the 20th round (324th overall).
Crossman, a Cherry Hills native, registered 12 goals and 14 assists for 26 points in 28 games last season. He has also signed a tender agreement with the NAHL’s Minnesota Wilderness, so he’ll have definite options when it comes to where he’ll suit up next year.
Additionally, Salt Lake City product Angus Scott was taken by the Muskegon Lumberjacks in the 19th round (299th overall) in Phase II of the USHL Draft.
On May 5 during the WHL Bantam Draft, Evolution Elite Hockey Academy 14U forward Arsenii Smekhnov went early, in the fourth round (79th overall) to the Prince Albert Raiders.
“Arsenii came highly recommended by our scout Dave Faulkner and was voted as the top forward at the WHL U.S. Combine in California,” said Raiders director of player personnel Ron Gunville. “We identified him early as someone who could be a big-time player in our league with good size and skill.”
— Matt Mackinder