The Kelowna Rockets’ best may be taking their first steps to joining the best-of-the-best in the NHL this weekend.
Several Kelowna players could hear their names called when the 2019 NHL Draft kicks off Friday in Vancouver, with a trio of Rockets’ being included as potential first-round picks.
Lassi Thomson, Kaedan Korczak and Nolan Foote all had stand-out seasons for the Rockets and will learn where their professional careers next take them Friday.
“It’s great for them to see them rated relatively high amongst their peers,” said Rockets’ player personnel director Lorne Frey.
“We’re all excited and hopeful they all do well. Every time the young guys get this opportunity they’re excited and we’re excited for them.”
Since the end of the season, Kelowna skaters have been scouted and evaluated by NHL scouts with the final scouting report released earlier this week.
Thomson is highest rated for the Rockets as the 15th best prospect, Korczak is listed at 32nd and Foote at 37th.
Frey said it’s not a matter of when the trio gets drafted, but where and for which NHL team. Either way, the Rockets’ hope to keep all three as the main cogs of the Rockets’ 2020 Memorial Cup run, which will be hosted by Kelowna in May.
“When you have that type of talent, it’s easy to build around. Having them back is critical for the success of our team,” said Frey.
Other Rockets’ Jake Lee is ranked at 146th and Alex Swetlikoff at 175th. Forward Dillion Hamaliuk is still considered a top prospect though still recovering from injury and Rockets’ goalie Roman Basran is listed as the 18th best goalie prospect.
Thomson led all WHL rookies with 41 points, took home the Rockets’ Rookie of the Year award and was named the WHL Western Conference Rookie of the Year. The Finnish defenceman skates well, has a great point shot and can control a power-play.
Korczak was a rock for the Rockets all season. He suited up for all 68 games and recorded 33 points as he earned the Rockets’ Top Defenceman Award. The stay-at-home type defenceman has offensive skills as well with a keen eye for passing and a big body used well as advantage against opposing skaters.
Foote was an offensive powerhouse for the Rockets. The forward led the team with goals scored with 36 and was named the Rockets’ MVP last season. The 18-year-old is a power-play threat, is big bodied and loves to both score and hit.
The trio played at the 2019 CHL Top Prospects Game in January.
Lee and Hamaliuk were recently acquired by the Rockets via trade at the draft. Both were invited to the CHL Top Prospects Game.
Swetlikoff was a mid-season acquisition by the Rockets. The 17-year-old centre has plenty of maturing to do on the ice but could make be a late-round pick for a team looking to invest in the young players’ future.
Basran took main goalie duties for the Rockets’ this past season. Finishing with a 20-19-3-1 record, the goalie had a .906 save percentage for a Rockets’ team that missed the playoffs for the first time since 2007.
The NHL Draft and fate of some of Kelowna’s favourite hockey players starts Friday at 5 p.m.
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