Kootenay Ice president and general manager Jeff Chynoweth called it one of the most important days on the calendar.
Guided by Garnet Kazuik, director of scouting, the Ice selected 10 players at the 2015 WHL Bantam Draft Thursday morning.
With no first-round pick in the chamber, the Ice chose Yorkton, Sask., product Keenan Taphorn in the second round with the 34th overall selection.
“He competes hard, he’s got good hockey sense, he’s a big body,” Kazuik said over the phone Thursday afternoon. “He’s a typical Kootenay Ice player.
“He comes from a winning tradition.”
Taphorn, a right-winger, spent his last two seasons with the Yorkton Terriers Bantam AA squad, accruing 53 goals and 131 points in 55 games.
Kazuik compared the 6-foot, 157-pound Taphorn to former Ice forward Drew Czerwonka, who went on to suit up in 227 WHL games and produce 110 points after being selected 20th overall at the 2007 WHL Bantam Draft.
Taphorn has a twin brother, Kaedan. He was selected by the Vancouver Giants in the third round (47th overall) of the 2015 WHL Bantam Draft.
Outside of Kootenay’s top pick in Taphorn, the Ice selected four defencemen and five other forwards Thursday afternoon.
“Overall, we feel pretty good going away and every team feels like that,” Kazuik said. “You feel fine. We had to work a little bit harder. Not having that first [round pick] and fifth [round pick], that makes a difference in your draft.
“From where we were and what picks we had and what numbers we started at, I think, overall, we’re happy with where we’re at. Time is going to tell. This whole draft class is going to be two to three years away before we truly, truly know what it’s all about.”
In the third round, Kazuik tabbed 6-foot, 170-pound defenceman Loeden Schaufler (56th overall).
The fourth round brought another Saskatchewan forward to Cranbrook, with Eli Lieffers being selected 78th overall.
“Huge honour to be drafted to the Kootenay Ice! Big thanks to all my coaches, teammates and my parents,” Lieffers tweeted.
The Ice were without their first- and fifth-round selections, having dealt them to the Kamloops Blazers in the deal that brought French scoring sensation Tim Bozon to Cranbrook in October 2013.
With the 122nd-overall pick in the sixth round, Kazuik drew from NHL bloodlines in selecting left wing Benjamin Sanderson — the son of longtime Hartford Whalers forward Geoff Sanderson.
The Ice had two selections at their disposal in the sixth round, having acquired the 123rd-overall pick from the Victoria Royals in exchange for goaltender Jayden Sittler earlier this season. Kazuik used that to draft 5-foot-10 defenceman Bobby Russell.
“Very excited to be selected by the @WHLKootenayICE in the whl bantam draft #proud,” Russell tweeted.
Centre Michael King became an Ice prospect after being selected 144th overall in the seventh round, and he was joined shortly after by defenceman Luke Penner (166th overall, eighth round).
“Honoured to be a prospect of the @WHLKootenayICE,” King tweeted.
The Ice wrapped up the final three rounds of the draft by selecting centre Michael Araki-Young (188th overall, ninth round), defenceman Lucas Gaudet (210th overall, 10th round) and forward Austin Wong (232nd overall, 11th round).
Wong is the younger brother of current Lethbridge Hurricanes forward Tyler Wong.
“What’s important for these players moving forward is what they do moving forward,” Kazuik said. “They’re all going to be treated equally. They’re going to have equal opportunity to come and prove themselves.
“There’s a good mix of players here that I think are pure Western Hockey League players.”
In all, the Ice selected three players from B.C., three players from Alberta, three players from Saskatchewan and one player from Manitoba.
A total of 231 players were selected across the league; 127 forwards, 85 defencemen and 19 goaltenders.
By territory, 72 players were drafted from Alberta, 60 from B.C., 36 from Manitoba, 33 from Saskatchewan and 30 from the United States.
The 2015 WHL Bantam Draft, for players born in the year 2000, was hosted at the Deerfoot Inn in Calgary.
2015 WHL Bantam Draft – Kootenay Ice selections:34) Keenan Taphorn, RW (Yorkton Terriers); 6-foot, 155 pounds (Jan. 3) – 24GP, 30-46-7656) Loeden Schaufler, RD (Notre Dame Midg AA Hounds); 6-foot, 169lbs (April 27) – 35GP, 10-22-3278) Eli Lieffers, C (Saskatoon Maniacs); 6-foot, 150 pounds – 31GP, 19-14-33122) Benjamin Sanderson, LW (Calgary AAA Flames); 5-foot-10, 155 pounds – 25GP, 6-6-12123) Via Victoria – Bobby Russell, LD (Delta Bantam Prep); 5-foot-10, 155 pounds – 15GP, 0-1-1144) Michael King, C (Winnipeg Sharks); 5-foot-10, 147 pounds – 28GP, 11-10-21166) Luke Penner, LD (Saskatoon Generals); 5-foot-7, 160 pounds (April 4) – 27GP, 4-6-10188) Michael Araki-Young, C (Richmond Blues); 5-foot-11, 145 pounds (Jan. 24)210) Lucas Gaudet, LD (POE Bantam Prep); 6-foot, 165 pounds (April 18) – 13GP, 0-1-1232) Austin Wong, F (Airdrie Xtreme); 5-foot-7, 135 pounds (Aug. 26) – 33GP, 19-14-33
2015 WHL Bantam Draft – 1st Round:1) Spokane (via Saskatoon) – Ty Smith, LD (Delta Hockey Academy); 5-foot-10, 161 pounds (Mar. 23)2) Lethbridge – Calen Addison, RD (BDN Wheat Kings AAA); 5-foot-8, 174 pounds (April 11)3) Vancouver – Tyler Popowich, L/C (Okanagan Hockey Academy); 6-foot-4, 190 pounds (April 29)4) Moose Jaw (via Kamloops) – Jett Woo, RD (Winnipeg Warriors); 5-foot-11, 190 pounds (July 27)5) Prince Albert – Cole Fonstad, C (Estevan Bruins); 5-foot-9, 145 pounds (April 24)6) Moose Jaw – Luke Burzan, LW (North Shore Winter Club); 6-foot, 170 pounds (Jan. 7)7) Tri-City – Carson Focht, F (Notre Dame Hounds); 5-foot-9, 154 pounds (Feb. 4)8) Prince George – Jackson Leppard, LW (North Shore Winter Club); 6-foot-1, 180 pounds (Jan. 18)9) Spokane – Koby Morriseau, LW (Parkland Rangers); 6-foot-1, 168 pounds (Oct. 18)10) Swift Current – Riley Stotts, L/C (WPG Monarchs AAA); 5-foot-11, 152 pounds (Jan. 5)11) Edmonton – Ethan Cap, LW (North Shore Winter Club); 6-foot-2, 195 pounds (April 17)12) Saskatoon (via KTN via KAM) – Jonathan Tychonick, LW (CGY Flames); 5-foot-11, 155 pounds (Mar. 3)13) Victoria – Eric Florchuk, F (Ft. Sask Rangers); 5-foot-11, 140 pounds (Jan. 10)14) Regina – Dawson Barteaux, D (Yellowhead Chiefs); 6-foot, 156 pounds (Jan. 12)15) Seattle – Elijah Brown, F (Edmonton SSAC); 5-foot-9, 151 pounds (Jan. 5)16) Red Deer – Jacob Herauf, D (Sherwood Pk Flyers); 5-foot-10, 168 pounds (May 16)17) Portland – FORFEITED18) Medicine Hat – Ryan Chyzowski, C (Kamloops Jardine Blazers); 5-foot-11, 175 pounds (May 14)19) Saskatoon (via EVE) – Chase Wouters, RW (Lloydminster Heat); 5-foot-10, 162 pounds (Feb. 8)20) Calgary – Tristen Nielsen, F (Edge Mountaineers); 5-foot-10, 167 pounds (Feb. 23)21) Prince Albert (via KEL) – Carson Miller, C (Yorkton Terriers); 5-foot-9, 160 pounds (Feb. 10)22) Brandon – Caiden Daley, C (WPG Warriors); 5-foot-11, 147 pounds (Feb. 5)
2015 WHL Bantam Draft Trades:
1) Saskatoon Blades acquire F Connor Gay from Red Deer Rebels in exchange for 2015 3rd round pick (50th overall – Raiders)
2) Red Deer Rebels acquire F Ivan Nikolishin from Everett Silvertips in exchange for 2015 3rd round pick (60th overall – Rebels) and 2017 conditional 4th round pick (Silvertips)
3) Kamloops Blazers acquire 2015 4th round pick (82nd overall – Royals) from Victoria Royals in exchange for 2016 4th round pick (Blazers)
4) Edmonton Oil Kings acquire 2015 6th round pick (115th overall – Americans) from Tri-City Americans in exchange for 2017 6th round pick (Oil Kings)
5) Everett Silvertips acquire 2016 conditional 6th round pick (Hitmen) from the Calgary Hitmen in exchange for F Andrew Fyten
6) Moose Jaw Warriors acquire F Riley Zimmer from the Regina Pats in exchange for a 2017 conditional 10th round pick (Warriors)
7) Spokane Chiefs acquire 2015 9th round pick (185th overall – Chiefs) from Lethbridge Hurricanes
8) Saskatoon Blades acquire 2015 11th round pick (225th overall – Americans) from Tri-City Americans