Ben Hemmerling of Northern Alberta Xtreme Bantam Prep was selected by the Silvertips in the third round of the WHL bantam draft on May 2, 2019. (WHL photo)

Ben Hemmerling of Northern Alberta Xtreme Bantam Prep was selected by the Silvertips in the third round of the WHL bantam draft on May 2, 2019. (WHL photo)

Silvertips stand pat, hone in on forwards in bantam draft

The Silvertips drafted a crop of smaller but swift forwards from a class with a distinct American flavor.

The 2019 bantam draft featured a flurry of trades and exciting player movement, seeing first-round picks trade hands five times before the first 11 picks were completed and marquee players like Moose Jaw’s Jett Woo and Seattle’s Jake Lee and Dillon Hamaliuk change teams.

The Everett Silvertips sat on the sidelines for all of the commotion and let the draft fall their way, drafting a crop of smaller, but swift and skilled forwards in an overall draft class with a distinct American flavor to it.

After back-to-back years of blockbuster trades at the Western Hockey League’s trade deadline, the Silvertips didn’t pick until the third round, where they selected two smaller forwards, Ben Hemmerling of Sherwood Park, Alberta at 49th overall and Austin Roest of Coldstream, British Columbia at 64th overall.

Hemmerling is listed at 5-foot-4, 110-pounds and Roest is 5-foot-7, 145 pounds.

“We don’t focus on them being small, we just look at talent first,” Silvertips head scout Mike Fraser said. “I think at some point the size comes into question, but I think for the Everett Silvertips, we want to play fast, we want to play quick and I think we definitely accomplished that today.

“We talked about as a group that we want to play quick and we want to draft skill, and that’s what we focused on today.”

Hemmerling was second on his bantam team, Northern Alberta Xtreme Bantam Prep, with 53 points. His 42 assists ranked second in the Canadian Sport School Bantam Hockey League.

“This guy just goes,” Fraser said. “Every shift, you always notice him. He’s a very smart player and he plays quick. Once he fills into his frame a little bit more, I think he’s going to be a really quick, solid offensive player. Very creative and makes dynamic plays with the puck. He’s a guy that we’ve had a close eye on and he’s definitely trending in the right direction.”

Fraser added Hemmerling hasn’t hit a growth spurt. The expectation is his skillset allows him to thrive, even as a smaller player.

“We’re not worried about the size front on him at all,” Fraser said.

15 picks later, Everett picked Roest with its second third-round pick (64th overall).

Roest, a North Zone Kings Bantam AA product, was a bit of an unknown commodity — his player page on eliteprospects.com, a database for hockey statistic with an emphasis on prospects, was created this morning upon his selection. Roest’s only recorded statistics are from the Kootenay International Bantam Ice Hockey Tournament, in which he recorded a goal and four assists in three games.

Fraser said it’s because he plays in a less heralded bantam league, but the Silvertips were infatuated with his potential.

“He’s a very quick, cerebral guy that’s good on faceoffs, makes good play, has a ton of upside and should grow a little bit as well,” Fraser said. “As a group at the B.C. cup we sat there and discussed him for quite a while and at length, and we were so impressed with how far he’d come from the midway point of the season. When he was there with the second pick in the third round, we just couldn’t pass on him.”

A pair of Californian forwards, Matthew Ng out of Cupertino at 100th overall (fifth round) from the San Jose Jr. Sharks Bantam AAA program and James Hong out of the Anaheim Jr. Ducks Bantam AAA program, were the first two United States players taken by the Silvertips in a five-man American draft class for Everett, the most of any team in the WHL (Saskatoon, Seattle and Medicine Hat each boasted three).

“We were fortunate to have a good portion of our staff, including myself, see more of the American side this year,” Fraser said. “We’ve seen the players at various points throughout the process and it makes it easier to identify them.”

Ng posted 17 points (eight goals and nine assists) in 12 games for the Jr. Sharks and Hong racked up 22 points (eight goals, 14 assists) in 12 contests for the Jr. Ducks.

“Both of them are very quick and cerebral players,” Fraser said. “With Matthew Ng, he competes so hard every shift and not only does he bring an offensive element, but he’s such a responsible player as well. It looks like he’s been well coached and he really understands the game well.

“With Hong, he was one of the best players at the Anaheim camp that the Western League puts on and he’s just a very quick, dynamic and smart offensive player.”

While Fraser expressed excitement about the crop of players he selected, was it ever tempting for Silvertips general manager Garry Davidson to join the madness and try and break into the first round?

“I don’t think there was any way we could do what any of those teams did,” Davidson said. “We weren’t much of a player this year. … We just sat patiently, made our picks and we were the last team picking at the end.”

The Silvertips have a significant crunch in their 1999-group, with five or six viable options for just three 20-year-old spots, but Davidson said that’s a situation that warrants resolving down the road and not at the bantam draft.

The Silvertips did make a trade, sending 2002-born goaltender Blake Lyda to Seattle in exchange for the 2021 third-round pick shipped to the Thunderbirds in the deal for Zack Andrusiak.

Davidson said Lyda and his family wished to go to a situation that presented more playing time, with Dustin Wolf projected to firmly hold the No. 1 spot between the pipes in Everett for the next two seasons.

“I knew it would be an issue at some point, because they’re about the same age,” Davidson said. “They saw Dustin, as we all did, that will be here for a couple of years at 18 and 19 so I guess the thinking was they wanted to go to place where (Lyda) could play more, and they indicated that to us a long time ago.”

Lyda broke camp in 2018-2019 as the Silvertips’ backup goaltender, but sustained an upper-body injury during a morning skate, just days before he was scheduled to make his WHL debut ahead of a three-in-three stretch, prompting Everett to acquire Max Palaga from Kamloops. Palaga performed well in limited minutes with a 1.65 goals-against average and a .942 save percentage.

One Jr. Silvertip taken

Cade Littler from East Wenatchee went off the board in the 10th round to Edmonton for the first player from the state taken, then Jadon Kwiatkowski, who is a Sammamish native and plays for the Jr. Silvertips 14U squad, was picked by Calgary in the 11th.

Kwiatkowski, who’s father is a coach for the Everett Elite program and played three WHL seasons for Prince Albert and Kelowna, relocated to Lake Stevens about two years ago.

Complete list of players taken by Silvertips

49th overall (third round) — F Ben Hemmerling — Sherwood Park, Alberta (Northern Alberta Xtreme Bantam Prep)

64th overall (third round) — F Austin Roest — Coldstream, British Columbia (North Zone Kings BAA)

100th overall (fifth round) — F Matthew Ng — Cupertin0, Califronia (San Jose Jr. Sharks 14U)

108th overall (fifth round) — F James Hong — Irvine, California (Anaheim Jr. Ducks 14U)

149th overall (seventh round) — G Ian Mills — Calgary, Alberta (Calgary Northstar Sabres Bantam AAA)

Everett traded its seventh-round pick in 2021 to Kamloops for this selection, in which they picked Mills. Listed at 5-foot-11, 155 pounds, the netminder posted a 3.56 goals against average and a .900 save percentage in 25 games.

Fraser: “I think (he has) one of the best technical games of anyone in the draft. I think we had the idea that we’d take a goalie, we just weren’t sure where in the draft and her seemed like the right point to take him. We were really impressed when we saw him at the Alberta Cup, (he’s) not flashy but very well positioned and his fundamentals are fantastic.”

152nd overall (seventh round) — RD Dexter Whittle — Virden, Manitoba (Yellowhead Chiefs Bantam AAA)

Whittle fits the profile as a skilled defenseman, posting 12 goals and 18 assists for the Yellowhead Chiefs last season, which was 10th in the Winnipeg Bantam AAA league amongst blueliners.

Fraser: “He’s been described to me as a Wyatte Wylie type defenseman and Doug Sinclair, our Manitoba scout, really felt that way about him. His coach made a comment that this guy would go through the boards for anyone of his teammates. Very well-liked guy. Plays the game pretty quick, moves pucks and isn’t afraid to go back and get it. Has some offensive upside as well. We liked his all around game and the energy brings and seems like a good character guy.”

174th overall (eighth round) — F Beau Courtney — Parker, Colorado (Colorado Thunderbirds U14)

The Silvertips nab another smaller forward in Courtney, who finished with two goals and six assists for the Thunderbirds this past season, the first of three players taken from that bantam program by Everett.

Fraser: “He’s actually growing a little bit. He’s grown a little bit in the last few months. He’s probably best described as a solid 200-foot guy that brings a little bit of offense to his game, but he’s also a really, really responsible player. Garry Davidson had the chance to seem him a few times and mentioned there were some Connor Dewar qualities to him. When he was still sitting there we selected him, it was a bit of a no-brainer for us.”

196th overall (ninth round) — RD David Hejduk — Parker, Colorado (Colorado Thunderbirds U14)

The son of Colorado Avalanche great Milan Hejduk, David posted two points (one goal, one assist) in 13 games for the Thunderbirds. His twin brother, Marek, was selected six picks ahead by Portland.

Fraser: “He hasn’t quite filled into his frame yet. He still has some growing to do. But he’s a really swift skating defenseman and a heads up player and isn’t afraid to jump into the play a little bit.”

240th overall (11th round) — G Evan May — Nanaimo, British Columbia (Nanaimo Clippers Bantam T1)

Fraser “Our (Vancouver) Island scout Zed Malencia did a really good job for us this year and I know this is a cliche thing, but we were shocked he was still on the board when we picked him. I know some teams aren’t crazy about picking two goaltenders, but it got to the point where we both like this kid and there’s nothing hurting us by taking another goalie. He’s got a little bit of size to him, still a little raw but he has great upside. Not a flashy guy, but just a very positional guy that has a very good chance of being a good goalie down the road.”

262nd overall (12th round) — F Ryder Ringor — Winnipeg, Manitoba (OHA Mavericks U14 Bantam AAA)

Ringor played in Ontario for a prep program, but is from Winnipeg and was eligible for the WHL draft. He posted 25 points in 30 games this past season.

“Every time he’s out on the ice you’d notice him. Makes plays and is quick. Great offensive instincts. … He’s going to be back playing in Manitoba this year and we thought it was a good time to select him.”

284th overall (13th round) — Carter Schmidt — Kelowna, British Columbia (Central Zone Rockets BAA)

Fraser: “He’s another guy that hasn’t grown yet physically, so he’s got a little bit of growing to do. Again, another smart player, good on faceoffs and makes smart plays in the offensive zone. He’s a real patient cerebral player and he plays quick and smart, and that’s what we were looking for.”

306th overall (14th round) Reid Conn — Cenntenial, Colorado (Colorado Thunderbirds 14U)

Fraser: “We really liked him as a steady, stay-at-home guy that Garry Davidson and Michael Devellano saw numerous times this year. Rangy guy that defends really well and goes back and gets pucks. Brings a real physical element. We hadn’t picked anyone quite like that up to this point and we felt it was a good time to select him.”

Silvertips draft breakdown

Players taken:12

Forwards taken: 7

Defensemen taken: 3

Goaltenders taken: 2

From the U.S.: 5 (2 from California and 3 from Colorado)

From British Columbia: 3

From Alberta: 2

From Saskatchewan: 0

From Manitoba: 2

Notable draft highlights around the league

—Winnipeg quelled any chatter of Matthew Savoie, a super prospect who was denied exceptional status to play as a 15-year-old in the WHL to the alleged shock of many, slipping in the draft. The Ice, which relocated from Kootenay after the season, selected Savoie at No. 1 overall. Savoie and his older brother, Carter, are both on Winnipeg’s protected list, but there’s some uncertainty on whether they’ll play in the WHL or NCAA Hockey at the University of Denver, where they’ve both provided verbal commitments to.

—Kelowna, unsurprisingly, was active in swapping picks for immediate help, with the Rockets set to host the Memorial Cup in 2020. Kelowna traded back from No. 5 overall to No. 10 to acquire the rights to Sean Comrie, a 2000-born defenseman who recorded an assist in 18 games at the University of Denver. The assumption is the Rockets can convince him to enter the WHL for his 19-year-old season. Then, Kelowna flipped that No. 10 overall pick to Seattle, along with overage forward Conner Bruggen-Cate and first-round pick in 2022 and a second-round pick in 2021 for forward Dillon Hamaliuk, defenseman Jake Lee and goaltender Cole Schwebuis. Lee and Hamaliuk are both draft eligible and possess decent odds of being picked.

—While Kelowna was the most active, the biggest trade of the morning involved Canucks prospect Jett Woo, who was traded from Moose Jaw to Calgary in exchange for the No. 11 overall pick, imcoming overage defenseman Vladislav Yeryomenko, an unsigned Predators prospect, 2002-born center Ryder Korczak and a second-round pick in 2021. Woo, who signed an entry-level contract with Vancouver this season after being taken 37th overall in the 2018 NHL draft, is a point-per-game blueliner that will have a legitimate chance to be the best defenseman in the Eastern Conference next season.

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