It won’t quite match the prime-time exposure of the 2009 NHL draft when Brandon Wheat Kings standouts Brayden Schenn and Scott Glennie were selected fifth and eighth overall, respectively, but this weekend’s NHL draft certainly has plenty to offer for local hockey fans.
The Wheat Kings are expected to have at least three players picked in Philadelphia, with centre John Quenneville and right-winger Jayce Hawryluk of Roblin projected to go in the top three rounds, while big Czech winger Richard Nejezchleb is slated to be a mid-round pick. Latvian winger Rihards Bukarts and young netminder Jordan Papirny also appeared late on NHL Central Scouting’s final draft ranking list and are long-shot possibilities.
Westman hockey fans will also be watching closely as Elkhorn’s Travis Sanheim steps into the draft spotlight tonight, with some pre-draft prognosticators projecting the Calgary Hitmen rookie defenceman as a mid-to-late first-round pick. It has been a remarkable rise up the draft boards for Sanheim, who wasn’t even ranked to start to the season, but has blossomed into a top young talent and a standout for Canada at the world under-18 hockey championship along with Quenneville and Hawryluk.
Sanheim’s selection could give western Manitoba a pair of picks in the first round in back-to-back years after Wheat Kings captain Ryan Pulock was drafted 15th overall by the New York Islanders in 2013.
Meanwhile, with Hawryluk, Quenneville and Nejezchleb, the Wheat Kings are projected to have at least three players drafted in the same year for the first time in more than a decade, dating back to 2003 when star forwards Eric Fehr (18th overall by Washington), Ryan Stone (32nd by Pittsburgh) and Rick Kozak (95th by Philadelphia) were selected.
You can watch the draft drama unfold with the first-round picks on TSN, starting at 6 p.m.
NEWS AND NOTES: Brandon’s Landon Rice, a 26-year-old graduate of the Crocus Plainsmen, is projected to be on the opening-night roster when the CFL’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats kick off the season on Sunday in Regina versus the Grey Cup champion Saskatchewan Roughriders (6 p.m., TSN). The 6-foot-3, 315-pound Rice played as a backup in both pre-season games and is currently one of seven offensive lineman on the Tiger-Cats active roster, which will be finalized Saturday ... Brandon’s Jen Dixon is trying to become the seventh local athlete to wear Canada’s colours this summer. The 21-year-old outfielder/pitcher with the Minot State University Beavers is off to Cloverdale, B.C., for this weekend’s second and final tryout camp for Canada’s women’s softball team that will compete in the world championship from Aug. 15-24 in Haarlem, Netherlands. Dixon would join Brandon gymnast Isabela Onyshko, 16, and rugby player Amanda Thornborough, 23, in representing Canada this summer, with Onyshko selected to compete for Canada in the Commonwealth Games from July 23 to Aug. 3 in Glasgow, Scotland and Thornborough scheduled to suit up for the national women’s team in the Rugby World Cup from Aug. 1-17 in France. Meanwhile, Brandonite Dustin Schneider, 28, and Rivers native Toon Van Lankvelt, 29, are playing World League volleyball with the national men’s squad, while Brandon’s Lisa Barclay, 21, and Tabi Love, 22, who was born in Brandon and raised in Dauphin, are both starters with Canada’s women’s volleyball team, which will compete in the world championship in Italy from Sept. 23 to Oct. 12.
» James Shewaga is the Brandon Sun’s sports editor.