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Best of the bantam draft

Morgan Klimchuk was selected by the Regina Pats in the annual WHL bantam draft. (Photo courtesy GJ Photo)

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Morgan Klimchuk was selected by the Regina Pats in the annual WHL bantam draft. (Photo courtesy GJ Photo)

For all you prospect lovers out there, THN’s 2011 edition of Future Watch has been put to bed and will be on newsstands around the 14th of March. But sometimes there’s just too much goodness for one issue. In compiling research for the 2013 draft preview, I had a lot more information than I needed, so here’s a web exclusive look at the top prospects for the Western League next year. All players were selected by Dub teams in the summer’s bantam draft and are listed based on their WHL squads, not their current midget teams.

Morgan Klimchuk, C, Regina Pats

Taken fifth overall in the draft by the Pats, Klimchuk really turned heads this season at the Alberta AAA All-Star Game, where one scout referred to him as the best player in the game, despite being amongst older competition. “He’s going to be a quick kid,” said another scout. “Quick release, precision shooter, pro upside.”

Expert viewers are intrigued as to how he’ll play away from bantam linemate Johnathon Merkley – they’ve always been partners in crime – once Merkley begins his junior career in Lethbridge. Klimchuk has already played one game for Regina, registering an assist.

Curtis Lazar, C, Edmonton Oil Kings

“As skilled as he is, he plays tough,” said one scout. “Edmonton fans will appreciate him.”

Which is nice, because it’s been a tough slog in the nascent days of the Oil Kings franchise. With Michael St. Croix already blossoming into a great junior scorer, Edmonton can look forward to a 1-2 prospect punch next season with Lazar, the second pick overall in the bantam draft (top pick Alex Forsberg has battled through injury, but scouts are still high on him). “Blazing speed, high hockey IQ and a thick frame,” said another scout of Lazar. “Hard to knock off the puck.”

Madison Bowey, D, Kelowna Rockets

Bowey had made overtures about going to an NCAA school, which caused his stock to drop down to the 23rd pick overall, the first selection of the second round. His skills are unquestioned, however. “He’s an explosive offensive defenseman who can skate and really competes,” said one scout.

A two-sport athlete, Bowey also excels at baseball, where he has represented Manitoba in big tournaments. “He’s a big-bodied guy,” said another scout. “Another Kelowna defenseman in that mould.”

When past examples have included Shea Weber, Duncan Keith and Luke Schenn, you’re looking at some pretty solid company.

Joshua Morrissey, D, Prince Albert Raiders

A top-scoring blueliner in bantam, Morrissey has already made his Dub debut with Prince Albert, but obviously next year will be the big reveal for the sixth overall selection. “I think he’s the most dynamic defenseman in the class,” said one scout. “Everyone will be talking about (Everett’s) Ryan Murray next year, but this kid will be next after that.”

Matthew Needham, C, Kamloops Blazers

The son of former Blazer and NHLer Mike Needham, scouts really dig Matthew’s game. “Undersized, but strong on his skates,” said one scout. “He can score and he competes.”

At the Canada Games, Needham has contributed a goal and three points through three games for Team British Columbia.

Eric Comrie, G, Tri-City Americans

Raised in Los Angeles and playing for the L.A. Selects, Comrie is nonetheless suiting up for Team Alberta at the Canada Games. Big and athletic, the young netminder is the half-brother of NHLer Mike Comrie. He had given up just one goal through two starts at the Canada Games and is going to a junior franchise that churns out excellent netminders. “He’s probably the most talked-about goalie in the class,” said one scout.

 

THN.com's Prospect Watch focuses on up-and-comers from the AHL, Europe, major junior, the NCAA and even minor hockey destined to become big names in the NHL.

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