Wheat Kings double down on D


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The second round of the 2017 Western Hockey League could prove to be double trouble for Brandon Wheat King opponents in the future.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 29/05/2017 (2129 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The second round of the 2017 Western Hockey League could prove to be double trouble for Brandon Wheat King opponents in the future.

With a pair of picks in the round — the first courtesy of the deal on Jan. 4, 2016, that sent Colton Waltz and Braylon Shmyr to the Saskatoon Blades for Mitch Wheaton and Schael Higson — Brandon selected defencemen Vincent Iorio of Coquitlam, B.C., with the 27th pick and Anthony Kehrer of Winnipeg three spots later.

General manager Grant Armstrong is thrilled with both of his young players, who are right-handed shots and were in attendance at the team’s spring prospects camp over the weekend at Westman Place.

“For me, it’s so hard to get elite defencemen and we have two of them in my mind,” Armstrong said.

Iorio, who stands six-foot-two, spent last season with Shattuck-St. Mary’s, a prep school in Faribault, Minn.

“Everything was amazing, from the food to the dorm to the hockey to the school,” Iorio said. “It teaches me a lot of responsibilities about what I have to do being alone in kind of like a college environment. I love it a lot.”

He picked up the game at age six or seven after developing an early infatuation with soccer. But after he started to watch hockey, he fell in love with the sport.

An older brother to Olivia, and son of Jennifer and Mario, Iorio initially was a forward but moved back to the blue-line.

“I feel like I have great vision with the puck, and having great vision is very good in hockey because if you have it, you’re able to make good breakout passes,” Iorio said. “Especially for a defenceman who has to carry it in the rush.”

He said he was excited about the WHL draft, although he was in a tournament in Philadelphia that day so he focused on his play instead.

He and his teammate Cole Shepard, who went six spots later to the Vancouver Giants, were in a car monitoring the draft on their phones.

“I was very excited about getting drafted, especially to Brandon, which was great,” Iorio said.

The WHL has always been on his radar with the Giants nearby, although he became a Kelowna Rockets fan because his uncle used to take to him games when his family visited. He said he’s been hooked on the WHL since he was in atom.

His first impression of Brandon has certainly been a good one.

“It’s amazing,” Iorio said. “I don’t have any words to describe it. It’s nuts. The locker room is amazing, the coaches and the coaching staff, everything here blew me out of the water. It’s great.”

Armstrong said that Iorio stands out in a number of ways on the ice.

“Vinnie is a tremendous athlete and has great vision on the ice,” Armstrong said. “He has tremendous smarts, skates very, very well and has the ability, because he’s actually a fairly big kid — he’s already at six-foot-two and is still growing — I think he’s really going to complement our D-corps that we have moving forward. I think we have a solid top four D built for the future with these two young guys who are coming in.”

Kehrer, who now stands five-foot-11 and weighs 191 pounds, started playing when he was four years old, and has been active in the game ever since.

The born-and-raised Winnipegger, son of Kim and Glenn Kehrer, has two older sisters. Caroline plays soccer at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and Kaitlin is looking for a scholarship.

“We have a household of athletes so we’re always training and eating right,” he laughed.

He played forward until he was eight, and then moved back and forth, finally sticking with the position at age 10.

“My game is pretty simple,” Kehrer said. “I get the puck out and then jump in the rush and create chances. I’m really good off the rush defending so I can take away other teams’ chances.”

Ever since he became aware of the WHL, his goal was to one day earn a spot. Kehrer was also at the tournament in Philadelphia — playing on a team with fellow Wheat King picks Ridly Greig and Jack Zayat — monitoring the draft after getting off the ice.

“When I heard I was going to Brandon I was really excited,” Kehrer said. “In the back of my mind I thought I would want to go to Brandon because it’s only two hours from home and I have lots of friends in Brandon. Knowing about the Wheat Kings, it was great to hear my name there.”

His first impression of Brandon has done nothing to diminish that excitement.

“I love it here,” Kehrer said. “I’m being treated first class right now. I’ve got my Gatorade here (in his hand), there are equipment managers. It’s pretty much like being pro. I love it so far. The coaches are great.”

Kehrer served as team captain at the Rink Academy prep school in Winnipeg, part of what Armstrong likes about the youngster.

“Anthony, as you can see, is a tremendous skater,” he said. “He really moves well on his feet but one thing you see in his game is the way that he moves the puck. I think that’s really good, and then he follows it up. His offensive game will come with time because he’s going to get more and more confident in joining the rush and being involved. He plays the game hard, competes every shift and looks like a kid who has quality leadership built inside him already. He’s a real team player.”

While both will have another year of seasoning before they can compete for a full-time job at age 16, Kehrer smiles about what may lay ahead with Iorio.

“Going down the road we could be a good pairing.”

» pbergson@brandonsun.com

» Twitter: @PerryBergson

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