The Brandon Wheat Kings have selected center Stelio Mattheos with the first overall pick in the 2014 Western Hockey League Bantam Draft.
Mattheos played last season with the Winnipeg Monarchs of the Winnipeg AAA Bantam Hockey League. In 35 games he accumulated 103 points, including 53 goals. The six-foot-one, 180-pound Winnipeg captain added another 12 goals and 19 points in eight playoff games.
"This is a tremendously exciting day for our hockey club and fans," says Wheat Kings general manager and head coach Kelly McCrimmon. "Stelio is big, strong and skilled and a very powerful skater. As well, he has tremendous character."
"Joining some other top young players in our organization, we expect he will be an impact player. We are pleased to welcome Stelio to the Wheat Kings organization and look forward to watching him develop in Brandon," McCrimmon said. "He will be a very good player for us."
This marks the second straight season that the Wheat Kings have chosen a Winnipeg-born player with their first bantam selection. In 2013, Brandon opted for center Nolan Patrick fourth overall. In fact, he becomes the ninth Manitoban to be chosen by the Wheat Kings in the opening round since the WHL introduced the bantam draft in 1990.
In addition to Patrick, Manitobans selected by the Wheat Kings in the opening round have included the likes of Codey Burki, Eric Fehr and Colin Cloutier, who were selected in 2002, 2000 and 1991 respectively.
"(Stelio) is a guy who puts in a lot of extra work away from the rink, to work on his fitness," Monarchs head coach Stewart Thiessen recently told the Winnipeg Free Press. "His strength and his speed...that translates to giving himself a lot of opportunities in games."
"He's got a great skill set," Thiessen added, "and those allow him to make plays and score goals when he's given the opportunity. He's been a great player for us."
"Stelio is very fast with great balance which he uses to drive the net and make power moves on defenceman," says Western Elite Hockey Prospects. "He is very difficult to contain on the rush or down low. Very strong on draws, he has a very heavy shot and changes the release point of his shot well."
Players eligible for the 2014 WHL Bantam Draft are 1999-born players, who reside in Alberta, B.C., Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Northwest Territories, Yukon, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.
This marked the first time in history that the Wheat Kings have had the first overall pick. Prior to this year, Brandon's best draft position had been second overall — in 1991, '92 and '93 — when the Wheat Kings chose Cloutier, Wade Redden and Darren Van Oene respectively.
By going to Brandon first overall, Mattheos joins some pretty select company, becoming one of only 25 to go first overall in the annual bantam draft.
Among those that have been chosen number one over the course of the past 24 years include the likes of Jarret Stoll (Edmonton Ice) of the Los Angeles Kings, St. Louis Blues defenceman Jay Bouwmeester (Medicine Hat), Jonathan Toews (Tri-City) of the Chicago Blackhawks, Philadelphia's Braydon Coburn (Portland) and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (Red Deer) of the Edmonton Oilers.
Nugent-Hopkins went on to become the first overall pick in the National Hockey League draft in 2011.
Following is a list of Brandon's top bantam picks, chosen in the top ten:
- 1990 - Bobby Brown (4th)
- 1991 - Colin Cloutier (2nd)
- 1992 - Wade Redden (2nd)
- 1993 - Darren Van Oene (2nd)
- 2000 - Eric Fehr (5th)
- 2001 - Jeff Topilko (9th)
- 2006 - Brayden Schenn (9th)
- 2008 - Klarc Wilson (10th)
- 2013 - Nolan Patrick (4th)
The Wheat Kings, who won't select again until the second round (32nd overall), earned this year's top pick thanks to a 2012 trade with Saskatoon that saw Brenden Walker go to the Blades.
The WHL Bantam Draft continues all day today in Calgary.