While the playoff race has been over for a while for the Brandon Wheat Kings, the Western Hockey League club is involved in another race that it really wants no part of: The turtle derby to determine which teams have a chance to pick first overall in May’s bantam draft.
The WHL’s six non-playoff teams will have balls in the bin for the lottery which takes place a week from today. Because the team that wins the lottery can move up a maximum of two spots in the draft, the bottom three squads in the standings have a chance to choose first overall from a crop of bantams led by blue-chippers like forward Tyler Benson and defenceman Kale Clague of Alberta.
As of today, six teams still have a mathematical chance to earn that first pick, with the Regina Pats losing to the Moose Jaw Warriors last night to remain in ‘contention’. The Vancouver Giants have by far the best odds, since they’re guaranteed to finish in last place overall which gives them six of the 21 balls in the lottery plus the knowledge they’ll still lead off the festivities on May 2 if any of the six total balls allotted to the teams with the fourth- through sixth-worst records should happen to be drawn first.
The Wheat Kings — who have never drafted first overall and haven’t been in the lottery since its inception — are still in the running as well with the third-worst record in the league. They will stay in the bottom three unless they run the table in the last three games of the season — at home against the Prince Albert Raiders tonight and in a home-and-home set with the Warriors this weekend. Oddly enough, the team they’re most likely to catch in the overall standings, the Everett Silvertips, won’t have an impact at all on the lottery picture unless they fall out of their current spot in the Western Conference playoffs.
Wheat Kings fans are used to keeping a close eye on the top of the standings during the final week of the regular season. This season they’ll be watching the bottom.
DEPAPE DEPLOYED: Former Wheat King Jordan DePape is expected to make his long awaited debut with the Red Deer Rebels on Friday against the Edmonton Oil Kings.
DePape underwent shoulder surgery while a member of the Kamloops Blazers in November and declared his retirement. After some recovery time, the 20-year-old Winnipegger began to feel like he was capable of returning this season and he was picked up on waivers by the Rebels to add experience before the playoffs.
“I feel really good. I’ve been working really hard, especially for the last month here with the bag skates, the workouts and the rehabs,” he told Greg Meachem of the Red Deer Advocate. “I don’t think I could be more ready.”
AROUND THE WHL: SaskatoonLW Jessey Astles returned to the Blades lineup on Saturday after missing 50 games due to a freak accident during a fight that cut his radial artery and four tendons in his right wrist, according to the Saskatoon StarPhoenix … Moose Jaw will play Brandon on Friday without RW Jordan Messier, who was suspended three games for coming off the bench during a line change to fight Swift Current D Dillon Heatherington last Friday. The Warriors were also fined $250. Messier served the second game of the suspension last night … Seattle G Brandon Glover was suspended two games and the Thunderbirds were fined $500 for his fight with Everett G Austin Lotz on Saturday. Seattle D Evan Wardley was also suspended two games after earning his fourth game misconduct of the season on the same play … Calgary LW Cody Sylvester is the CHL player of the week after racking up five goals and seven assists in four games, including a seven-point game (one goal, six assists) in a 9-5 win over Saskatoon …Saskatoon LW Erik Benoit has been named the WHL Dickies hardest working player for the season, an honour that includes a $1,000 scholarship.
The contenders for the first overall pick in next week’s WHL Bantam Draft lottery (the non-playoff teams with the worst three records in the league have a chance to draft first):
GP W L OT SO Pts
x-Vancouver 70 21 47 2 0 44
Prince George 69 21 40 2 6 50
Brandon 69 22 39 4 4 52
y-Everett 69 24 39 2 4 54
Regina 70 25 37 4 4 58
Moose Jaw 70 24 36 4 6 58
x-clinched last place overall and best odds in the draft lottery. y-currently in playoff position and would only be lottery eligible by missing post-season.
Odds of earning first pick in the draft lottery based on position in the overall standings (lottery winner can move up a maximum of two spots in draft):
22nd place (Vancouver) 57.1 %
21st place 23.8 %
20th place 19.0 %
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition March 13, 2013