Betker, Skapski drafted by NHL teams

Local defenceman heads to Oiler country, while Skapksi goes to the Big Apple.

Local defenceman Ben Betker

Local defenceman Ben Betker

The NHL Draft on Sunday included a little bit of local flavour as NHL general managers made their selections from the podium at Prudential Centre in New Jersey.

Local defenceman Ben Betker, who patrols the blue line for the Everett Silvertips, was selected 158th overall by the Edmonton Oilers in the sixth round. A few picks later, Kootenay Ice netminder Mackenzie Skapski was chosen by the New York Rangers at 170th overall.

Betker, 18, ended the WHL season ranked as the 147th North American skater on the NHL’s Central Scouting list, and had the feeling that he might go earlier.

Despite his disappointment at waiting later than he did, he’s glad he heard his name get called.

“I got ranked inside the fifth round and when the fifth round ended, I was like, ‘Oh, crap,’

“…But I was pumped to get drafted by a Canadian team.”

Betker had garnered interest from a few teams, but met with a scout from the Oilers after a game in Everett last season.

“After I got drafted, my phone was literally ringing off the hook with a couple guys from their player development and my agent, so it was a pretty cool feeling.”

Betker was a part of an four-player off-season swap last summer, as the Winterhawks acquired the rights to Seth Jones, which were owned by the Everett Silvertips. Jones, who was projected to go first overall, ended up going fourth to the Nashville Predators during the draft.

In 68 games last season, Betker scored a goal and notched five assists. He is a big body at 6’ 5” and uses his 200-pound frame to punish the opposition in the defensive zone.

“Towards the last half of the year, I really picked up my physical play. I fought quite a bit more, I think I ended the season with about ten fights,” said Betker.

“I have a great stick and I really take care of my own end—first and foremost—and that’s what teams want to see from a guy with my size.”

If it’s anyone Betker wants to model his playing style after, it would be Shea Weber, the captain of the Nashville Predators.

“He takes care of his own end, he’s an absolute jerk to play against and he has offensive upside with that powerful shot, and that’s something I work on all the time, is my shot,” Betker said.

He is training with Don Munro at Cranbrook CrossFit for the summer and will be heading up to Edmonton this week to attend a prospect development camp.

He isn’t expecting an immediate jump into the NHL, and will suit up with the Silvertips next season.

“It’s just to get my foot in the door right now,” he said.

As of press time, Skapski had already jumped a plane heading to New York to attend their prospect development camp for the week.

Skapski was the 17th ranked North American goaltender on the NHL’s Central Scouting list this season, but was passed over in his first year of eligibility last season.

Despite that, he got some interest and phone calls, and attended a rookie camp with the Minnesota Wild. Over the past  two summers, he has also attended a goaltending camp with Hockey Canada through their Program of Excellence.

Skapski suited up for 65 games with the Ice this past season, accumulating a 2.78 goals against average and a 0.910 save percentage.

NOTES: Kootenay Ice captain Sam Reinhart was invited to a summer camp for the U20 national junior team last Friday. The summer camp includes 35 players and will be used as a tool for players to prove themselves to earn a spot on the final roster, which is unveiled in December. Sam’s older brother, Griffin, who skates with the Edmonton Oil Kings and played in the U20 tournament last year, was also invited. Of the 35 players named to the sumer camp, 13 are playing for teams in the WHL.