Wheat Kings land Jacobson
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The Brandon Wheat Kings got their young man on Thursday, grabbing forward Jaxon Jacobson with their first pick in the annual Western Hockey League draft.
The 14-year-old forward, who became just the second player in the under-18 AAA Wheat Kings program history to play as an underager, went fifth overall. Jacobson, who was around that spot on many draft projections, is the son of Wheat Kings owner Jared Jacobson.
Jaxon was watching the draft with some of his teammates from the U15 Wheat Kings at J&G Homes Arena.
“It was excitement,” Jaxon Jacobson said of his reaction to seeing his name pop up on the WHL website’s draft tracker. “I’m just ready to get things going and prove to everyone that I’m the best player in the draft class.”
The Prince Albert Raiders held the first two picks — the first-overall selection came from the Edmonton Oil Kings from the Kaiden Guhle trade in 2021 — and they chose a pair of Albertans, defenceman Daxon Rudolph and forward Riley Boychuk.
Before Brandon picked from the class of 2008-born players, the Spokane Chiefs took forward Mathis Preston and the Victoria Royals grabbed defenceman Keaton Verhoeff.
“Honestly, I wasn’t expecting anything,” Jacobson said after seeing the first four players picked. “I noticed how Brandon had the pick after and I was excited to see if my name would be called. It all worked out so I’m super excited.”
The Wheat Kings picked big defenceman Giorgos Pantelas of Victoria with the 19th overall pick, which they acquired from the Saskatoon Blades as part of the Jake Chiasson deal on Jan. 10. He was on the ice when his coach pulled him aside to deliver the news.
“Before that you’re just waiting and hoping you get lucky and it’s an early pick,” Pantelas said. “Once your name pops up, you feel like all the work you put in throughout all the years before and all the money your parents have put in have all been put to a proper use.
“It feels like the start of a new career honestly.”
And he certainly wanted that career to continue in major junior. He said his dream is to play in the WHL.
“It’s been a pretty big goal,” Pantelas said. “When I lived in Quebec, you really knew all the local junior kids. Now I’m proud to hopefully be one of those local junior kids that little kids can look up to.”
Pantelas also spent some time at forward this year, but Brandon took him as a defenceman.
Brandon continued to build their blue-line with their second-round pick, taking Nigel Boehm of Saskatoon, who had 17 goals and 72 penalty minutes in 30 games with the U15 Saskatoon Generals last season.
“When I saw I was picked by the Brandon Wheat Kings, I was super excited,” Boehm said. “I’ve heard lots of great things. It’s a big hockey town and I’m really excited and looking forward to it.”
He was paying for a golf round when he heard the news. Boehm, who grew up a Saskatoon Blades fan, has targeted the WHL for his next step.
“It’s been my goal since I started playing hockey and knew what the WHL was,” Boehm said.
Since the Wheat Kings had previously traded their third-round pick, they had to wait 43 selections to grab forward Isaac Davies of Carstairs, Alta., and with back-to-back picks in the fifth round, they took forwards Ryan Boyce of Calgary 94th and Knox Bendera of Sherwood Park, Alta., 95th.
They traded a 2024 sixth-round pick to the Everett Silvertips for the right to pick goaltender Dylan McFadyen of Winnipeg in the sixth round, and took Souris defenceman Jack Swaenepoel in the seventh round with the 138th pick, and four selections later, grabbed forward Maddox Gandha of Trail, B.C., 142nd.
They finished up with defenceman Cameron Allard of Yorkton, Sask., in the ninth round and forward Julian Fedora of Winnipeg with their final pick in the 10th round.
Wheat Kings director of player personnel Chris Moulton said the team tried to grab players with a wide range of abilities, but added they had one important characteristic in common that Brandon coveted.
“The key thing with our group this year is we want to be far more competitive and we want to play harder,” Moulton said. “We did not want any soft skill, we want kids who are not only skilled but we want competitors who aren’t afraid to get their noses dirty or push back.
“We want a competitive group every night that is going to be tougher to play against, and I think we added to that.”
The Wheat Kings brought six forwards, four defencemen and a goalie into the mix, but it was the decision to grab two blue-liners with their first three selections that stood out. Moulton said that was done on purpose.
“You have to build from the back end out,” Moulton said. “We want to make sure the puck is out of our zone and we want competitive guys. I just think we had a goal in place and we fulfilled our goal early and then we just added some great pieces after.”
Overall, 232 players were selected, with 38 from Manitoba, 44 from Saskatchewan, 93 from Alberta and 50 from British Columbia. There were also seven American players taken.
By position, 128 forwards, 88 defencemen and 16 goaltenders were selected, with 85 coming from prep schools.
It was the first WHL draft for Brandon head coach and general manager Marty Murray, who joined the team last August. He enjoyed the experience.
“It’s an exciting day,” Murray said. “It’s the closest to us old guys getting out on the ice. It was an adrenalin rush and there was a lot of anxiety when you’re watching the computer screen to see who’s going to get taken off the board.
“Overall it was a good day. I can’t thank the scouts enough, led by Chris Moulton, who did a tremendous job this winter. They have the thankless job of being at the rinks and putting in a lot of time and getting the best possible picks you can.”
Moulton predicted earlier this week the top half of the first round would involve players on lists compiled by every team, and then it would be much, much harder to predict. He said that’s how it ultimately turned out.
“I think the top half fell as we anticipated, but I had a feeling after the top that it was going to be wide open and I think that’s what it was,” Moulton said. “I think there was a lot of depth in the draft and different perceptions on players. It was an interesting and exciting one to follow to see what everybody else was thinking.”
Brandon will hold its prospects camp at J&G Homes Arena from May 26 to 28 to get its first look at the new draft class, but that’s well in the future for a scouting staff that has fixated on today’s draft for a full year.
Moulton said he’s never left a draft table unhappy, and suggested the same is true of the other 21 teams in the WHL.
“I’m excited,” Moulton said. “We got such a competitive group of players today. I know in the future, win or lose, we’re going to be hard to play against.”
ICINGS: Jacobson’s selection made it the second year in a row a Brandonite has gone fifth overall, with Cole Temple matching that a year ago when the Regina Pats took him … The first major trade came when Saskatoon sent the 21st-overall pick, which they acquired from the Seattle Thunderbirds, to the Medicine Hat Tigers for the 29th and 97th picks and a second-round pick in 2024. That allowed the Tigers to take Markus Ruck 12 picks after they acquired his twin brother Liam … In another draft-day deal, the Blades sent goaltender Ethan Chadwick to the Everett Silvertips for a second-round pick in 2024 and a fourth-round pick in 2025 … Sawyer Dingman, the son of former Wheat Kings fan favourite Chris Dingman, was taken by the Swift Current Broncos in the second round … The first team to pass on its pick was Brandon, which didn’t take a player in the 10th round with the 204th overall selection.
» Twitter: @PerryBergson