EVERETT – The 2013 WHL Bantam Draft is coming up on Thursday, which means the young men making up the 1998-born crop of top hockey talent in Western Canada and the Western U.S. are anxiously awaiting one of the first truly pivotal events in their young hockey careers. All 22 teams will take the first step toward finding the next generation of WHL stars on Thursday, starting a process that so many young players hope one day finds them playing in the National Hockey League.
Nearly every current member of the Everett Silvertips has his own memories of the draft-day experience. From the sure-fire first round selection to the undrafted training-camp invitee, the road that each player takes to make a WHL roster is shaped in some form by the day of his bantam draft.
Many of the 14 and 15-year-old players being considered as WHL prospects don’t yet know much about the junior hockey system or how the process actually works. Most of them know about their local/home town team and have seen highlights of young NHL stars in their junior sweaters, but very few could pick out Everett, Washington on a map.
“Before my brother was drafted I had no idea what the WHL was,” says Silvertips center Ty Mappin, whose brother, Cassidy, was taken 12th overall by Red Deer in 2005. “I was a little more familiar with the process because of him. I was fortunate enough to have a really good season in my draft year and was talking to scouts from different teams every day coming up to the draft, so it was an exciting time to say the least. I was just hoping I would get drafted. You can never really go in thinking that you’ll be a high pick, but it was definitely an honor to be picked so high.”
Mappin didn’t have to wait long to find out his fate. The Silvertips used the seventh overall selection in the 2011 draft to make the highly skilled kid from Big Valley, Alberta into the ninth first-round selection in franchise history. Of course, the bantam draft takes place during the day, so young Tyrell Mappin was at school when the pick was made.
“Me and my buddy Logan Hermus went to the same school, and we were able to watch the draft online for a little while,” Mappin recalls. “It was pretty exciting for both of us. I guess I didn’t have to wait too long, and then Moose Jaw took Logan in the fourth round. It was pretty cool having all your classmates congratulate you. It was kind of a big thing being from such a small town to have two kids drafted in the same year.”
The first thing Mappin remembers thinking after the exhilaration of hearing his name called? Figuring out where Everett was. He also enjoyed winning the battle for in-house bragging rights – going five picks earlier than his brother in the first round (“I definitely gave it to him for a few days after that,” Ty says with a chuckle.)
From that point, big things were expected from Everett’s 2011 first-round draft pick. He arrived at Comcast Arena less than four months later, attending his first WHL training camp with plenty of interested eyes trained on his play – despite the fact that he wouldn’t be eligible to make the roster until the following year. His debut as a 16-year-old during the recently completed season was highly anticipated by executives, coaches and fans alike. Such is the attention given to a highly-touted prospect.
Mappin shared the ice during that 2011 training camp with another forward who was greeted with considerably less fanfare. Selected one year earlier but seven rounds later than Mappin in the bantam draft was Saskatoon, Saskatchewan native Carson Stadnyk. His draft-day expectations were significantly different than those of his future linemate.
“I did not think I had a chance of getting drafted,” says Stadnyk. “I knew that it was draft day, but didn’t really pay much attention to be honest. Then I was in gym class shooting hoops and my friend pulled it up on his phone and yelled to me that I got drafted. I was so surprised and had no idea what to do next, but it was the best feeling ever.”
The Silvertips had chosen Stadnyk in the eighth round of the 2010 draft with the 169th pick. When he heard it was Everett that took a chance on him, the first person he sought out was a fellow ‘Tips prospect who attended the same school and played in the same minor hockey programs: none other than Kohl Bauml.
Eighth-round bantam picks aren’t exactly viewed as shoo-ins for WHL roster spots. Before Stadnyk, Mike Alexander (2005-09) was the only Everett eighth-rounder to even play a game for the club. Stadnyk knew that it would take a great deal of hard work and commitment to show the Silvertips he was worthy of making the team.
“Once I got drafted, all I wanted to do was try and make the team,” says the slim, 6-foot-2 centerman. “I just came here wanting to prove myself with my play. The first training camp was rough, just trying to get the nerves out. Then it got more fun and I was more comfortable at the next one. After my second training camp in 2011, they told me I had a chance to make the team in 2012.”
Which is exactly what he did. Stadnyk got a taste of the WHL during a two-game call-up during the 2011-12 season and then made the roster on a full-time basis as 17-year-old rookie last year. He knows there is still plenty of work ahead to keep improving his game, but Carson takes pride in being a late-round bantam pick who worked his way into the Western Hockey League.
“Sometimes the veterans will ask us younger guys what round we went in,” Stadnyk explains. “I tell them I went in the eighth round and they start laughing, like nobody believes that I made it as an eighth-round pick.”
Although many top players are identified early on, junior hockey is filled with stories like Stadnyk’s. Young men who are overlooked at first can often turn out to be some of the best finds. After all, drafting 14-year-old kids is an imperfect science with a series of variables that can greatly change a player’s fortunes during his formative years.
Silvertips defenseman Ben Betker knows all about this underdog mindset. Born in September of 1994, the Cranbrook, British Columbia product went unselected in the 2009 WHL Bantam Draft. Although he was considering the collegiate route early on, the now 6-foot-5 Betker believes it was his lack of size at the time that kept him off the draft board.
“When my draft year came around I was one of the smallest guys in my local area,” Betker recounts. “I wasn’t even a subject of discussion for the draft. Then I grew a bit going into my 16-year-old season in major midget and now I’ve grown like crazy in the last two years. I just had to learn how to play the game before I ever could use my size as an advantage.”
Going from midget hockey at 16 to Junior-A in the BCHL at 17 and then being named Everett’s Most Improved Player as an 18-year-old WHL rookie this past season, Betker has climbed the ladder since being overlooked at the bantam draft. Now he’s a prospect for the 2013 NHL Entry Draft after coming in 147th among eligible North American skaters in the final draft rankings from NHL Central Scouting. He was unlisted in the midterm rankings.
Betker isn’t shy about admitting that he’s used the doubts of others as motivation during his career.
“I always wanted to prove people wrong,” he declares. “I’ve learned that perseverance and hard work pay off in the end. Sometimes you have to be patient and become determined at a young age. It’s not the end of the world if you don’t get drafted. I would tell any kid that comes to training camp not to worry about it and just keep your nose to the grindstone. At the end of the day, it’s a marathon and not a sprint.”
For budding hockey talents throughout WHL territory, Thursday’s bantam draft will help decide which path they land on as their careers begin. Where the path starts certainly does not determine where it will end, and each player will face his own challenges and tests along the way.
Everett’s scouts hope that this year’s crop of future Silvertips will one day look back with fondness at May 2, 2013 as they date when their hockey careers converged and their junior hockey successes truly began.
(Written by Travis Huntington)
Join us Thursday for live coverage of the Silvertips’ 2013 WHL Bantam Draft from Calgary, Alberta. Our live draft blog opens at 7:30 am, with Everett holding the seventh pick in the first round. To keep up with all the latest team news and information, “like” the Everett Silvertips Hockey Club on Facebook or follow @WHLSilvertips on Twitter.