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He's ready for prime time

Wheaties make Monarchs star Mattheos No. 1 pick in WHL draft

Stelio Mattheos

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Stelio Mattheos

Stelio Mattheos went to sleep on Wednesday night as a happier-than-average 14-year-old.

Enlarge Image

(TREVOR HAGAN/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

He had seen the future and it felt good.

On Thursday morning, the Winnipeg Bantam AAA Monarchs' scoring sensation stayed home from school for a while so he could watch the Brandon Wheat Kings make him the first-overall selection of the 2014 WHL Bantam Draft in Calgary.

Wheat Kings GM and coach Kelly McCrimmon called Mattheos and his family late Wednesday night to confirm the team planned to select him first.

"He just told me that they'll be really happy to have me aboard and I'm thrilled to be aboard with the Wheat Kings and it's a dream come true," Mattheos said, then smiled, "Not much trouble (sleeping), no."

The 6-21/2, 174-pound centre doesn't turn 15 until next month. Mattheos scored 50 goals and 53 assists for 103 points in 32 regular-season games with the Monarchs this season.

"(Being the top pick) was my goal since the start of the year, for sure," Mattheos said. "But really, during the season, I was just focusing on our team winning and that's where the focus was. As long as we kept winning, I was happy."

The scoring and winning certainly attracted attention, from both WHL scouts and teams and U.S. college programs. Mattheos and his family weighed the options, he said, and came down firmly in the WHL's and the Wheat Kings' camp.

"There was some interest there but I'm completely committed to the Brandon Wheat Kings," he said.

So, unlike one of his hockey heroes -- Jonathan Toews was a first-overall WHL pick in 2003 but went to school at the University of North Dakota -- Mattheos will be a junior player.

He said he was happy to confirm Toews is someone he tries to model himself after, but then in a sheepish moment, qualified the thought.

"For him (Toews) being a complete player," Mattheos said. "But I think we'll be going different places in our development. I have a lot of work to do before me and Jonathan Toews can be used in the same sentence."

After making the pick in Calgary, McCrimmon told the Brandon Sun: "Size, skill, character, skating ability. Really a good young player. He, I think, is going to really continue to develop and he's going to be a power forward that's a real good player for our organization and a real hard player to play against."

The Wheat Kings wound up with the top selection for the very first time in the bantam draft's history through good trading and good fortune.

They cut a deal to possibly swap 2014 first-round picks with Saskatoon two years ago and in March, when the WHL conducted its draft lottery and the lowly Blades won to move to the top of the selection order, it was a bonus day in Brandon.

Mattheos said his plan is to be a member of the Winnipeg AAA Midget Wild next season.

"Right now, I'm just trying to become a better player every day," he said. "Today was a fun day but after today, I've got to get back to work and keep getting better every day."

He said his explosiveness will get much attention during training this summer. He expects that will be four days a week, plus three more days a week on the ice.

This was the second year in a row Brandon turned to a Winnipeg source for its first selection.

With the fourth-overall pick in 2013, the Wheaties chose Winnipeg forward Nolan Patrick, who joined the WHL team for some action late this season.

Thursday's bantam draft featured two other Manitoba-born players chosen in the first round. Roblin product Josh Brook, a defenceman with the Notre Dame Hounds in Wilcox, Sask., went fourth overall to the Moose Jaw Warriors. At No. 19, the Portland Winter Hawks chose Winnipeg Hawks centre Cody Glass.

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

History

Updated on Friday, May 2, 2014 at 5:34 PM CDT:
Corrects spelling of Dane Hirst.

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