Giants load up at bantam draft

Vancouver major junior hockey club adds defenceman, goaltender with first round selections at Western Hockey League bantam draft

The Vancouver Giants selected Yale Hockey Academy forward Harrison Blaisdell in the second round of the WHL bantam draft on May 5.

Hitting on half of their draft prospects would constitute a good overall draft.

Those are the thoughts of Vancouver Giants director of player personnel Jason Ripplinger.

“If you get five guys that play and contribute on your team, I think it is a home run,” he said on Friday morning, the day after the Western Hockey League’s bantam draft for 14 and 15-year-old players.

“And as long as they contribute, not just wearing a jersey.”

The Giants added 11 new players in the draft as the major junior hockey club looks to build towards a better future, having missed the playoffs the past two seasons.

With their first pick, Vancouver selected defenceman Bowen Byram out of the Lethbridge Golden Hawks bantam AAA program.

“We’re very excited to add Bowen to our club as he was the number one player on our list. He’s a dynamic player with great offensive instincts,” Ripplinger said.

“He also plays a good defensive game and is a very smart player overall.”

Just a shade under six feet and weighing 168 pounds, Byram had 22 goals and 59 points in 34 games.

Even better was that the Giants were able to trade down in the first round from second overall to third overall, picking up an additional second round pick in the process.

That pick came in handy as Vancouver then swapped a second round and a third round pick to get back into the first round and took goaltender Trent Miner with the 20th overall pick. Miner played for the Brandon Wheat Kings bantam AAA program.

“We felt he was the best goalie in the draft. He’s a big goalie who covers a lot of the net,” Ripplinger said.

“He’s very competitive with good rebound control.”

Miner, the second goalie taken in the draft, went 23-3 with five shutouts and a 1.52 goals against average.

“Once one goalie usually goes in the first round, all of a sudden guys start to get their backs up,” Ripplinger said about the decision to trade back into the first round.

“We felt that Miner was sitting there and if we didn’t make a jump, we weren’t going to get him. And if he went, we knew a couple of other goalies would go and we would be stuck with a goalie that we liked but maybe we weren’t as high on as the other ones.”

“We are not starting over, but when we did start the franchise, we started from the back end out. So we decided to take the defencemen,” Ripplinger explained.

The Giants added a pair of forwards in round two, taking Harrison Blaisdel with the 31st pick and Lukas Svejkovsky with the 36th pick.

Blaisdel is from Regina but played for the Yale Hockey Academy. The five-foot-10, 174-pound left-winger had 20 goals and 54 points in 25 games.

Svejkovsky is a five-foot-two, 120-pound forward who had seven goals and 28 points in 25 games with the Delta Hockey Academy.

“Lukas is a smart and skilled forward. He skates well, has played in every situation and comes from a great program,” Ripplinger said.

Vancouver didn’t pick again until the sixth round, where they added Aidan Barfoot, a forward out of DHA, and forward Max Bulawka out of the Pursuit of Excellence program.

They also added forwards Evan Patrician (Calgary Flames), Lukas Konashuk (Okanagan Hockey Academy) and Parker Johnson (Yellowhead Chiefs). They also selected defenceman Parker Hendren (Regina Monarchs) and Kade Olsen (Saskatoon Outlaws) in rounds seven through 10.


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