The Western League is holding its bantam draft today and we've got the lowdown on the players and teams making noise, including top pick Stelio Mattheos of Brandon.
The Western League drafts players one year earlier than its counterparts in Ontario and Quebec, making projections harder. But this edition's top pick comes in at nearly 6-foot-3 and 177 pounds already – and he doesn't turn 15 until next month. So who is Stelio Mattheos and what else do you need to know about the WHL bantam draft? Glad you asked.
Who is Stelio Mattheos?
The big center hails from Winnipeg, where he played for the Monarchs program. Brandon Wheat Kings GM-coach Kelly McCrimmon described Mattheos as a powerful skater who is strong and skilled. He threw up a ridiculous 103 points in 35 games for the Monarchs, putting him line in with past phenoms such as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Tyler Benson. He's allowed to play a limited number of games with the Wheat Kings next season, but will spend the majority of his time in midget.
Wait, why did the Wheat Kings pick first overall?
Brandon was pretty decent this year, you are correct. But thanks to an off-season swap that sent right winger Brendan Walker to Saskatoon, the Wheat Kings had the right to trade position with the Blades. As fate would have it, Saskatoon was awful this season and ended up "winning" the draft lottery. So the Blades essentially traded away the first overall pick. #sadtrombone
What happened to Portland?
The Winterhawks were dinged by the league in a recruiting scandal back in 2012-13 which saw GM-coach Mike Johnston suspended for the year and the team lose a slew of draft picks. The punishment was either deserved or dubious, depending on who you ask. Last year was basically a washout draft-wise, while this time out the Hawks just lost their first-rounder. They will also lose their first-round pick from 2015-17. Portland is, however, about to face Edmonton with a shot at the team's second straight WHL playoff title, so the effects of that punishment have yet to be felt.
What about American prospects?
Every year, there is a fierce recruiting battle between major junior and the NCAA for top talent. The WHL claimed the last big fish when Seth Jones chose Portland over North Dakota, though UND can always hold Jonathan Toews over the WHL's head when he picked Grand Forks over the Tri-City Americans (they took Captain Serious first overall in the bantam draft). Because of this, it's always noteworthy when an American player is selected, since they tend to be predisposed to the NCAA.
This year, no Americans went in the first round. The first to go was Phoenix native Mark Kastelic, chosen 41st overall by the Calgary Hitmen. Max Gildon, a Dallas product who has been called the best 1999-born defenseman around, was taken by the Vancouver Giants in the third round. Brannon McManus, a brilliant goal-scorer with Shattuck-St. Mary's in Minnesota (Toews and Sidney Crosby went there), went to Portland. The California native recently committed to the University of Minnesota, so he'll be a big prize for either the Hawks or the Gophers in the near future.
Also of note: Baker Shore went to Seattle in the sixth round. He's the last of four Colorado brothers that also include Florida's Drew Shore, Los Angeles prospect Nick and Ottawa pick Quentin.
Finally, what have been the best names so far?
The WHL has become a haven for awesome names lately and the next generation is keeping the torch held high. My favorites through six rounds:
Tyler Traptow, Hunter Arps, Will Warm, Wyatt Bear, Tanner Mole, Grant Mismash, Ayden Roche-Setoguchi, Carson Sass, Jantzen Leslie, Kobe Mohr, Wyatte Wylie, Bronson Kelly and of course, Koletrane Wilson.