clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

WHL US Division - Portland Winterhawks: What Effect Has the Lack of First Round Bantam Picks Had On Portland?

11/28/2012: The WHL takes away Portland's first round picks through 2017. But what does that really mean for the Winterhawks?

Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

In November of 2012, the WHL placed the stiffest sanctions, they had ever leveled on any team in their history. They suspended, then head coach Mike Johnston for the remainder of the season, fined the organization $200,000 and stripped Portland of their first five picks in the 2013 bantam draft, as well as, their first round picks through 2017.

What a lot of people believed would be equivalent to a death blow to any hopes Portland had of contending come 2014, 15 and 16 has not been the case. They went on to the Memorial Cup Final in 2013, the WHL Final in 2014 and the Western Conference Final in 2015. The reason people believed that Portland would be so terrible is that the first round of the WHL's Bantam Draft has long been believed, where you have to be to draft the most elite talent in the Bantam leagues. This is where you draft players like Carey Price (Tri-City, now Montreal Canadiaens' goalie), Brent Seabrook (Lethbridge, now Chicago Blackhawks' defenseman) and Evander Kane (Vancouver, now Buffalo Sabres' center).

The fact is though, that this is also where Tri-City took Jonathan Toews, only to have him choose the college route on his way to the NHL and three Stanley Cup rings. It is also where Saskatoon took Charles Inglis, only to trade him away a couple years later. Inglis would be traded two more times over the nest few seasons. Countless other first round picks have had mediocre WHL careers.

The WHL Bantam Draft is a unique animal as recent pieces by Ryan Kennedy of the Hockey News and Kelly Friesen of Yahoo's Buzzing the Net have discussed at length. Kennedy criticizes the WHL for holding their draft with Bantam level players (14 years old), while the OHL and QMJHL hold their drafts with Midget level players (15 years old). Friesen counters by arguing that the WHL is at a disadvantage in that they have to convince players to move a lot further away from home to come play in their league. The OHL and QMJHL's teams are mostly within the same Province and thus the players are never that far away from home and often play multiple games near or even in their hometowns.  Meanwhile, goalie Adin HIll, who has played with Portland for two years, is just now playing his first game in his hometown of Calgary, Alberta.

I tend to agree with Friesen, but have to acknowledge that Kennedy is right that there are far more misses in the WHL Bantam draft. As a WHL general manger, you are really gambling on two major things. First, you are gambling that your scouts can convince a 14 or 15-year-old kid to move over a thousand miles away, often to  different country altogether. Then you have to convince their parents to send their teenage son far away, with them often having limited ability to come visit and see him play. Portland, in fact, got in their trouble back in 2012, for paying for plane flights for parents of some of their players. The other gamble is that the small 14-year-old you are drafting is going to develop into an elite junior hockey player. Sometimes hockey players hit their ceiling early and just do not develop the way you thought they would. You really have to trust your scouts, who see games all across Canada and the U.S., to pick out the right players, who will develop into stars.

So, in the end, was it that big of a deal that Portland missed out on all those first round picks? My answer is both yes and no. Yes in that they missed out on drafting players that they likely had high on their list and no in that those players may not have worked out anyways. Portland was able to trade for a first round pick in 2014 in rookie Cody Glass, who has 21 points already in his rookie year. They got him by trading the WHL rights to a player they acquired solely by listing him, to Calgary. So, in fact there are a lot of different ways to get young talent and the sanctions just forced Portland to have to be more creative. For example, their top two scorers on this year's team: Dominic Turgeon and Alex Schoenborn were listed players that were not even taken in the Bantam Draft. If this were the OHL or QMJHL, missing out on so many first round picks, would probably be much more of a big deal than it has been so far for Portland.

The WHL announced last summer that Portland would be getting their 2017 (the draft after this coming one) first round pick back, so the sanctions are over after this year's draft.

To demonstrate how amazing, poor and absent first round WHL Bantam Draft picks can be, let's take a look at Portland's first round picks over the last 15 seasons.

Year/Pick

Player

Position

WHL Games Played

WHL Points

NHL Drafted/Year?

What Round/Pick?

NHL GP

NHL Points

2000-1st overall

Braydon Coburn

D

238

131

Atlanta-2003

1st-8th overall

677*

177*

2001-13th overall

Spencer Dillon

D

Did not report

N/A

Florida-2004

9th-167th overall

0

0

2002

Traded to Lethbridge

2003-5th overall

Sasha Golin

RW

161

39

No

N/A

0

0

2004-10th overall

Colton Sceviour

RW

251(130 with Portland)

164 (78 with Portland)

Dallas-2007

4th-112th overall

151*

51*

2005-11th overall

Thomas Frazee

C

313(64 with Portland)

178(13 with Portland)

No

N/A

N/A*

N/A*

2006-10th overall

Riley Boychuk

LW

194

83

Buffalo-2010

7th-208th overall

N/A

N/A

2007-5th overall

Brad Ross

LW

280

245

Toronto-2011

2nd-43rd overall

N/A*

N/A*

2008-2nd overall

Ty Rattie

LW

269

348

St. Louis-2012

2nd-32nd overall

24*

7*

2009-1st overall

Derrick Pouliot

D

247

205

Pittsburgh-2013

1st-8th overall

46*

11*

2010-16th overall

Nic Petan

C

262

358

Winnipeg-2014

2nd-43rd overall

14*

1*

2011

Traded to Vancouver

2012

Traded to Seattle

2013

Taken by WHL/Traded to Seattle

2014-19th overall

Cody Glass

C

55*

21*

N/A

N/A

N/A*

N/A*

2015

Taken by WHL

*=still active.

Conclusion

-So three of the best players in Winterhawks history (Rattie, Pouliot and Petan) were taken in the first round, but a couple others were traded away (Sceviour and Frazee), one other did not really work out (Golin) and another did not even come to Portland (Dillon). Really a mixed bag, like it would be for pretty much all WHL teams, if we broke them down like this. It should not be a surprise though, that with the arrival of Mike Johnston, Portland's development of their first round picks got a whole lot better. Petan is a big example of this. As a 16-year-old he had 35 points and as a 17-year-old he tied for the league lead in points with 120. This is really where Johnston and his team of coaches were at their best.

We will have to wait and see how Cody Glass develops, but he certainly looks to be on his way to putting himself in class with the top names on this list.