Build through draft is Royals' way
By Cleve Dheensaw, timescolonist.com
May 3, 2012
The Western Hockey League draft of graduating bantams, the 2012 edition which goes today in Calgary, has become almost as famous for who wasn’t picked as who was.
But as much a crapshoot as it can be, there is an adage that holds true — at minimum teams need to land eventual day-to-day players, if not true impact performers, in the first round.
The Victoria Royals/Chilliwack Bruins franchise has for the most part managed to do that, grabbing current AHL pro Ryan Howse in 2006, Buffalo Sabres-prospect Kevin Sundher in 2007, since-traded defenceman Mitch Topping in 2008, current Royals forward Steven Hodges in 2009, current Royals defenceman Keegan Kanzig in 2010 and blue-line prospect Joe Hicketts in 2011.
With two first-round picks today their own at No. 8 and the No. 13 acquired through the trade of Sundher to Brandon the first round looms large for the Royals.
Meanwhile, last year’s first rounder Hicketts is expected to make the Royals roster next season as a puck moving defenceman.
“He had a good season [in midget at the Okanagan Hockey Academy in Penticton and with the Canadian U-16 team in the Youth Winter Olympics ] and everybody glows about him,” said Royals GM and head coach Marc Habscheid.
“We hope he’s ready for the next step.”
Hicketts knows what is expected from a first rounder and doesn’t shy away from it.
“[As a first rounder], you have a target on your back,” he said, from Penticton.
“But I like high-pressure situations. I know I have to earn my spot and nothing will be given to me.”
He’s already taken the step of moving from his hometown of Kamloops to play midget in Penticton, with a move to the Island pending. It’s all part of the game when you are on the first-round fast track.
“You have to push through those days when you’re tired and worn down and missing home,” said Hicketts.
“Those are the days that make you a better person and a better player.”
Hicketts turns 16 on Friday and will celebrate just like any other B.C. teen — by going for his learner’s driving test. Bantam first-rounders could be on the carousel to fame but they are still basically kids like any other.
“I know I have to keep a level head,” said Hicketts.
The 2012 draft begins at 7:30 this morning.
Rob Milliken, who coached the Racquet Club Kings to fourth place in B.C. this season in bantam triple-A and is regional scout for the Royals, listed the top-five Island prospects for the 2012 draft: forwards Haydn Hopkins and Ethan Waitzner of Racquet Club, forwards Brodie Smith of Parksville and Patrick Bajkov of Nanaimo and goaltender Markus Daly of Racquet Club.
ICE CHIPS: The Royals announced Wednesday the club raised more than $320,000 for local organizations and charitable causes during its inaugural season in Victoria . . . Corey St. Laurent, a graduate of UVic’s Peter B. Gustavson School of Business, is the Royals’ new manager of communications and hockey operations co-ordinator. He replaces the departing Matt Human.
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