The Brandon Wheat Kings have their first ever first overall draft pick signed, sealed and soon to be delivered.
One month after being selected as the No.1 pick in this year’s Western Hockey League bantam draft, top prospect Stelio Mattheos of Winnipeg has made it official by signing with the WHL club. For Mattheos, committing early wasn’t a difficult decision.
"I’m really excited that it’s official now and I can’t wait to get started," Mattheos said Tuesday from Winnipeg. "With Brandon it really wasn’t a hard choice. They are such a great organization and they are on the rise and they have a lot of great players and I really like (Wheat Kings head coach/general manager) Mr. (Kelly) McCrimmon, so it wasn’t a very tough decision for me. I am just really happy I signed with the Wheat Kings."
Mattheos joins a crop of blue-chip prospects like fellow first-round bantam draft picks Nolan Patrick of Winnipeg and Kale Clague of Lloydminster, Alta., as well as Wheat City products like Tanner Kaspick, Ty Lewis and Connor Gutenberg.
Mattheos, who won’t be eligible to play full-time in the WHL until the 2015-16 season, led the Winnipeg AAA Bantam Hockey League in scoring with 53 goals and 103 points in only 35 regular-season games. The 6-foot-2, 180-pound captain of the Winnipeg Monarchs offers size, speed and skill and was the obvious pick for the club after Brandon won the WHL bantam draft lottery this spring.
"We had met with Stelio’s family prior to the draft and the indication sure was that he wanted to play in the Western Hockey League and we drafted him based on that and this formalizes that Stelio will be a part of the Wheat King organization," McCrimmon said from Vancouver, where he is attending the WHL board of governors’ meetings.
"Having him here in Brandon for prospects camp and just developing a relationship a little bit, he’s a mature kid that is really focused on being the best player he can be and he sees Brandon as the next step in his career, which is exactly what we were counting on and hoping for ... He’s got very good intangibles: He’s intelligent, he’s extremely committed to making himself better and just in terms of his skill set he’s got really good size, a very good skater, plays centre and he is, we felt, the best player in his age group. He’s going to be a big guy to play against, he’s going to be able to generate offence for us and at the same time I think he can really add to our team with his size and his strength."
While Mattheos was committed to playing in the WHL from Day 1, taking part in last month’s Wheat Kings prospects camp at Westman Place sealed the deal for him.
"Coming to rookie camp was a really great experience and I was really impressed with everything with the Wheat Kings, the people working for them, the players, the facilities, I really liked everything ... I just said to myself that this is where I want to be one day and it made it that much easier of a decision for me," said Mattheos, who turns 15 on Saturday.
"Now it’s just all about trying to keep getting better and hopefully one day being able to play for the Wheat Kings."
Mattheos, who was nursing a shoulder injury in prospects camp, said he is 100 per cent healthy again and fully into his off-season workout regimen.
"My shoulder is all good now, I’m four days a week in the gym ... and I am going to get back on the ice pretty soon," said Mattheos, who plans to play Midget AAA hockey this season before joining the Wheat Kings in 2015-16.
ICINGS: Four top Wheat Kings prospects entering their 16-year-old seasons have been picked to take part in Hockey Canada’s under-17 summer development camp. Forwards Tanner Kaspick and Ty Lewis of Brandon, as well as defenceman Kale Clague of Lloydminster, Alta., and forward Nolan Patrick of Winnipeg — both 2013 first-round WHL bantam draft picks — are among 96 players from across the country selected to skate in the Calgary camp from July 29 to Aug. 4 ... Friday is the early-bird deadline for picking up Wheat King season tickets at a discounted price. Ticket purchasers will be entered into a draw to win a trip for two to Toronto, including flights, hotel and game tickets, to see the Blue Jays face the Texas Rangers in a three-game series.