Though the fish bowl is a little smaller, the rumors swirling around the Western Hockey League draft are similar to those that come out of the National Football League draft.
However, there was no truth to the rumor that Drayson Bowman didn't want to play for an American team – just a couple of them.
However, Spokane wasn't on that list and the Chiefs picked the Denver native eighth in Wednesday's Bantam Draft.
The draft, held in Calgary, was for players born in 1989. The Chiefs' draft position was eighth in each round, prior to trades being factored in. Spokane ended up picking 12 players, including local forward Evan Witt in the fourth round after trading 20-year-old goalie Gerry Festa to Red Deer.
Witt was the first of three Spokane players tabbed by the Chiefs. Spokane Braves goalie Jason Greenwell was picked in the 11th round, 208 overall, and Andrew Christ, a right wing on Witt's Spokane Americans Midget team, was picked in the 12th, 228 overall.
A total of 221 players were picked in 12 rounds. At least 13 of them were Americans.
“We couldn't be happier about this year's draft,” Chiefs general manager Tim Speltz said. “Having the depth of an extra second-round pick and the fact that Bowman is the player that we had rated No. 1 overall makes this draft really exciting.”
The Bowmans moved to British Columbia two years ago to enhance Drayson's hockey future, his father Mike said. The “5-foot-11, 160-some” pound Bowman played for the North Shore Winter Club in North Vancouver, British Columbia.
One draft list had Bowman ranked as the No. 5 overall prospect, although Mike Bowman anticipated his son going to Spokane because the family had told most of the teams drafting before the Chiefs he wasn't interested in playing there.
“We were trying to get him to a smaller town that really cared about hockey,” Mike Bowman said. "When you get to Seattle, hockey is kind of an afterthought there . . . We were more interested in going some place like Spokane or Kamloops or Kelowna, Medicine Hat, where the team is a big deal in town and it's well-attended.”
Kootenay fit the bill but the Ice took Bowman's North Shore teammate John Negin, a defenseman, with the seventh pick.
“Drayson is a special player,” Chiefs director of player personnel Ray Dudra said in a team release. “He is the type of player who will always be around to make things happen. He has poise, confidence, good work habits and a tremendous amount of offensive skill.”
The Bowmans moved from Michigan 13 years ago and then to B.C. two years ago.
“Once we got an indication Drayson was pretty good and he wanted to play in the WHL, we had to make a decision how best to get him exposure,” Mike Bowman said. "That's why we moved to Vancouver.”
Ryan Kerr, the No. 1 overall pick by Prince George, also played at North Shore. The Bowmans are considering several options for next season, including having Drayson play for the Braves.
Witt, a 5-10, 150-pounder, , is an eighth-grader at Salk Middle School and will attend North Central.
The fourth-round pick was originally Moose Jaw's but it was in the hands of Red Deer. Then the Chiefs, who had traded their fourth-round pick to Seattle, sent Festa to the Rebels. Festa was picked up in a trade for Barry Brust in January.
With the first of two second-round picks, the Chiefs selected defenseman Dan Nycholat from Calgary. Forward Parker Thomas was the other pick, which was acquired in a trade with Calgary. Parker is from Leduc, Alberta.
As the ice melts
Style may have been lacking, but intensity and drama certainly weren't in the Western Conference finals between upstart Everett and defending WHL champion Kelowna.
The expansion Silvertips rallied from a 3-1 deficit to win three straight overtime games and the series four games to three. All seven games were one-goal games.
Despite all of that, there was arguably more entertainment off the ice than on it with these two defensive-minded teams.
After Everett blew a two-goal lead at home to lose 4-3 and fall behind 3-1, coach Kevin Constantine lashed out at the officials.
“You try to keep your mouth shut, you try to be professional about the refs,” he told the assembled media. “But this is one of the worst-officiated series I've ever seen and I've coached a long time.”
Everett won the next game 1-0 and Kelowna coach Marc Habscheid went off.
“He complained and complained and complained about everything in the book and he got all those calls tonight,” Habscheid said. “And that's disappointing. I know I'm just a junior coach and he's a (former) NHL coach, but he amazes me how powerful he is in this league. If you ask around the league, they obstruct more than anybody and they never had one obstruction call on them. So now we know where we sit.”
Both coaches were fined $500.
Everett is at Medicine Hat tonight to begin the best-of-7 league finals. The winner joins Kelowna in the Memorial Cup beginning May 15.
Winning not enough
Several WHL writers have reported that Don Hay, who guided the Kamloops Blazers to two Memorial Cup championships in three appearances in the 1990s and coached with Calgary and Phoenix in the NHL, will be the new Vancouver Giants coach.
Hay would replaced Dean Evanson, who was not rehired despite a 20-point improvement during the regular season and reaching the second round of the playoffs. The Giants lost to Everett 4 games to 2.
The day after the Western Conference finals ended the WHL handed out its awards and things kept getting worse for Kelowna. The Rockets had five finalists and all lost. Kelly Guard lost to Cam Ward of Red Deer for top goaltender and player of the year; Josh Gorges was beaten by RD's Dion Phaneuf as top defenseman; Bruce Hamilton lost to Kelly Kisio of Calgary for executive of the year; and Calgary won the marketing and communications award over Kelowna's Gavin Hamilton. The complete list is in Stat Sheet.