Vernon players go in WHL Bantam draft

A pair of Vernon products were chosen in the eighth round of Thursday’s Western Hockey League Bantam Draft in Calgary.

A pair of Vernon products were chosen in the eighth round of Thursday’s Western Hockey League Bantam Draft in Calgary.

Right winger Carson Richards, who was among the leading scorers with the Vernon Tier 1 Bantams last season, went 158th to Mark Ferner’s Everett Silvertips.

D-man Alex McGovern, who had 11 assists with the Notre Dame Hounds last season, landed with the Calgary Hitmen, 171st.

The Seattle Thunderbirds nabbed Burnaby Winter Club centre Mathew Barzal first overall. Barzal pocketed 39 goals and 107 points in the regular season and added 46 points in 17 playoff tilts.

The Kelowna Rockets traded leading scorer Shane McColgan and forward Jessey Astles to Saskatoon on Thursday, acquiring centre Ryan Olsen, 18, a 6-foot-2 Tsawwassen native. The Rockets also received Saskatoon’s second- and fifth-round picks in the draft. Olsen, a big two-way centre, had 15 goals and 32 points last season with the Blades, his second full season in the WHL.

Meanwhile, The No. 1 ranked Penticton Vees will battle the No. 8 Soo Thunderbirds of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League in their opening game of the Royal Bank Cup National Junior A Championships Saturday in Humboldt, Sask.

Troy Stecher, assistant captain of the BCHL champion Vees, expects to feel nerves prior to the 2 p.m. (PT) puck drop.

“Right now you don’t really think about it too much,” said the smooth-skating defenceman. “Just excited and going to enjoy the moment.”

Mike Reilly, Stecher’s defensive partner and a NHL draft pick of the Columbus Blue Jackets, said in order for the Vees to return to Penticton the title, they have to keep playing the way they are.

“That has been our goal since day 1,” said Reilly. “We definitely need to keep the momentum going from the playoffs that we just had against Brooks (Bandits in Doyle Cup series). I think we have the team to do it and the depth.”

To ensure the Vees are ready, head coach Fred Harbinson and his staff are making sure the players study their opponents with game film.

“A big thing is you have to get yourself in the playoffs,” said Harbinson, when asked about the importance of a strong start. “You can’t be the fifth team that gets eliminated. Last thing you want to do is get behind the eight ball. I think they were conditioned for this moment.”

Sunday night (6:30 PT), the Vees take on tournament host Humboldt Broncos, ranked No. 3 in Canada. The Broncos have won the RBC twice and are winners of the Saskatchewan-Manitoba Anavet Cup series.

After a day off Monday, Penticton faces the Eastern region representatives, the No. 7 Woodstock Slammers, 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. They conclude up their round-robin schedule against the No. 9 Portage Terriers of Saskatchewan, Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.

Semifinals begin next Saturday, with the championship game slated for Sunday, May 13. It will be  televised on TSN. Other games can be viewed online at hockeycanada.fasthockey.com.

-With files from the Penticton Western News