By Derek Holtom
MJHL Web Correspondent
The bantam draft can make or break a junior team. Teams put in countless hours of scouting and discussion before stepping up to the podium and selecting players who could form the backbone of their roster in a few short years.
It’s always interesting to look back and see how those selections turned out – especially in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League. It’s important to note the MJHL draft comes after the WHL draft, as well as after the teams make their auto selections.
This year we will take a look back at the first round of the 2013 bantam draft. Neepawa Natives, you’re on the clock!
- Neepawa Natives – Morgan Geekie, Strathclair. Also a fifth round selection by the WHL’s Tri-City Americans, Geekie only played two games with the Neepawa Natives in 2014-15 (as well as nine with the Americans) before going back and playing big minutes with the midget AAA Yellowhead Chiefs. The move paid off for Geekie as he played 66 and 72 games with the Tri-City Americans in the past two seasons, scoring 35 goals and adding 55 assists this past season. And in early May Geekie signed a three-year entry level contract with the Carolina Hurricanes after being selected in the third round in the 2017 NHL draft.
- Virden Oil Capitals – Ty Lewis, Brandon. The Oil Capitals, who had moved to Virden the previous year, took Lewis, who also went in the third round of the WHL bantam draft. He ended up playing all his junior with the Wheat Kings, scoring 44 goals and adding 56 assists last year. Lewis attended the Colorado Avalanche rookie camp last summer after not getting drafted. He also was part of the WHL championship team from 2015-16 season.
- Virden Oil Capitals (via Selkirk Steelers) -Bennett Dalke, La Salle. The Oil Capitals missed out on having their first pick in the lineup, but struck gold with the third overall pick from Selkirk, taking Bennett Dalke. The right winger played the last three seasons with the Oil Capitals, scoring 29 goals as a rookie and making the all-rookie team that year. This past season he only played in 45 games but still managed 18 goals, and added another eight goals in 15 playoff games as the Oil Capitals made it to the MJHL final.
- Winkler Flyers -Nico Labossiere, Winnipeg. The Steelers got another top player from this draft without drafting him. Labossiere played parts of two years with the Flyers before getting traded to Selkirk in the 2016-17 season. This past year was his best offensively, scoring 22 times and adding 42 assists.
- Waywayseecappo Wolverines – Nathan Halvorsen, Winnipeg. The Steelers also benefited from the fifth overall pick. Halvorsen – another forward from this draft – played his midget hockey with the Winnipeg Wild before getting his rights traded to the Steelers, and never did play in Wayway. After a slow start to his MJHL career, Halvorsen took off last season, netting 24 goals and adding 24 assists for the Steelers.
- Portage Terriers- Chase Brakel, Winnipeg. A home run pick for the Terriers. Brakel led the Terriers as a captain last season, and has scored 87 goals for the Terriers in three seasons. A second-team all-star and two-time MJHL champion, Brakel will be furthering his hockey at Cornell. He was also drafted by the USHL’s Fargo Force, but opted to stay in Canada with the Terriers. Good choice.
- Steinbach Pistons – AdamTouchette, St.Adolphe. Not every pick ends up wanting to continue on with hockey. Despite being a MJHL and WHL draft pick, Touchette didn’t play any junior hockey.
- Swan Valley Stampeders – Linden McCorrister, Peguis. Here’s another first rounded also coveted by the WHL, being selected in the seventh round by the Brandon Wheat Kings. But McCorrister at least played a whole season with the Stamps, having a solid rookie year at 16 where he scored nine goals and added 11 assists. He then made the jump the WHL (at the same time Lewis did) and won a WHL championship. This past season McCorrister wore the ‘A’ and scored 20 times, while adding 24 assists.
- OCN Blizzard – Michael Markus, Thompson. The Blizzard naturally like to take players from the north, and opted to take forward Michael Markus with their first pick (making him the ninth straight forward selected). The Thompson native did play in six games for the Blizzard, but found his niche in junior B.
- Winnipeg Blues – Keaton Thornton, Winnipeg. Thornton – a defenceman – opted to play junior B hockey after getting into one game with the Blues.
- Selkirk Steelers (via Virden and Dauphin) – Eric Lavoie, Winnipeg. The last selection was another blueliner in Lavoie, who started his career with the Steelers in 2015-16 by getting into four games as a call up. He then had a cup of coffee with the Melfort Mustangs of the SJHL before returning home to play with the Steelers. He scored his first-ever MJHL goal last year while appearing in just 25 games.
So that’s the first round look back at 2013. Some players shot to great heights in the MJHL, some went the WHL route, and some just faded away from hockey. That’s what makes the scout’s work so important, especially as we near the 2018 MJHL bantam draft.