The Prince George Cougars Hockey Club have selected 10 players in the 2020 Western Hockey League (WHL) Bantam Draft, five forwards, four defencemen, and one goalie.
The Cougars had three selections in the first round, one in the second round, two in third round, one in the fourth round, two in the fifth round, and one in the sixth round. Five were drafted out of Alberta, three from B.C., and two from Saskatchewan.
“It’s so exciting, the three first rounder picks we got are just exceptional players that are going to fit in very well with the future of the other players we have drafted in recent years. We couldn’t be happier with the players we took today,” said Cougars’ General Manager and Head Coach, Mark Lamb.
The Cougars used their first pick, second overall, to take Saskatoon, SK product Riley Heidt from the Saskatoon Contacts in the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League. Widely considered one of the top forwards in the 2020 WHL Bantam Draft, Heidt played in 44 games for the Contacts and was fifth in team scoring with 37 points (17G-20A). Impressive numbers considering he was playing against competition up to three years older than him. Prior to playing at the midget level this season, the 5’8, 150-pound winger spent the previous two years playing for the Martensville Marauders in the Saskatchewan Bantam AA Hockey League (SBAAHL), where he compiled 153 points (58G-95) in 62 games. He won a SBAAHL championship with the Marauders in 2019.
“Whoever he plays with, he makes them better players and that’s a great compliment. His skillset is incredible, and his competitiveness was high on our list. For us, it was a no-brainer that we were going to take Riley,” said Lamb.
Cougars’ Director of Scouting, Bob Simmonds, echoed Lamb’s comments, “For us, Riley was one of the crown jewels of the draft. He’s an elite level forward and for us he was the best player available. He does everything at a high level, he thinks the game so well, and he prepares the right way. We expect big things from Riley looking ahead.”
Prince George used their second pick, 17th overall, to select forward Caden Brown from Delta Hockey Academy Bantam Prep Green in the Canadian Sport School Hockey League (CSSHL). The Fort St. John, B.C. product was named the captain of the team this season and he had 65 points (35G-30A) in 30 games. Over the past two seasons with Delta at the Bantam Prep level, the 5’9 forward has compiled 95 points (50GA-45A) in 60 games.
“Caden is an elite level scorer, who plays a hard, heavy game. He’s a northern B.C. kid who has ties to Prince George and is very familiar with the community. We were thrilled to draft him and he’s the perfect complement to Riley Heidt,” said Simmonds.
With their third selection of the first round, 22nd overall, the Cougars took forward Ryker Singer from the Lloydminster Bantam AA Bobcats in the Alberta Major Bantam Hockey League. The Lloydminster, AB native led his team in scoring with 51 points (30G-21A) in 32 games and was fifth in league scoring. The 5’8, 157-pound winger was captained his team and was named the AMBHL Top Forward and Most Valuable Player.
“We were absolutely thrilled to have Ryker available to us with the twenty-second pick. Like Brown, he’s an elite scorer in his age group. His shot and release are exceptional, he’s hard to play against, and he plays the game the right way,” stated Simmonds.
With their only selection of the second round, the Cougars took their first defenceman of the draft in Bauer Dumanski from the Humboldt Bantam AA Broncos, in the SBAAHL. Dumanski led his team in scoring with 33 points (16G-17A) in 30 games. The Lockwood, SK product was also affiliated with the Tisdale Trojans in the SMAAAHL and collected one assist in five games. Dumanski is described as very consistent with no holes in his game and was labelled as the most complete defenceman in his province (DraftGeek’s 2020 WHL Bantam Draft Guide). In two seasons at the Bantam AA level, Dumanski accumulated 65 points (31G-34A) in 65 games.
With their first of two selections in the third round, Prince George took defenceman Rylan Brown with the 46thoverall pick. Brown played this past season for OHA Edmonton Bantam Prep in the CSSHL. In 27 games the Sherwood Park, AB native collected 24 points (7G-17A). Rylan is the son of former NHL defenceman, Sean Brown. He is described as an offensive defenceman with impressive offensive abilities inside the blue line.
The Cougars took forward Zackary Shantz with their second pick of the third round, 66th overall, from the Grand Prairie Bantam AAA Storm. Shantz led his team in scoring with 52 points (34G-18A) in 33 games and finished fourth in league scoring. He, like Singer, was a co-winner of the AMBHL’s Most Valuable Player award. The Grand Prairie, AB product is described as an up-tempo, goal-scoring winger.
In the fourth round, the Cougars used their 70th overall pick to take forward Chase Walker from the Red Deer Bantam AAA Rebels in the AMBHL. The product of Byemoor, AB had 30 points (18G-12A) in 28 games finishing third on his team in scoring. In two seasons at the Bantam AAA level, Walker has amassed 50 points (26GA-24A) in 50 games.
The Cougars had two more selections in the fifth round. First, they took Walker’s teammate, Ephram McNutt, with the 92nd overall pick. The defenceman from Red Deer, AB had 18 points (2G-16A) in 30 games. McNutt is known as a skilled offensive defenceman, with great vision and poise.
With their second pick in the fifth round, 102nd overall, the Cougars took another defenceman in Dylan Compton. The Victoria, B.C. product played on Vancouver Island at Shawnigan Lake School at the Bantam Prep level in the CSSHL. Compton had 18 points (5G-13A) in 24 games this past season and was his team’s second-highest point producer from the blue line.
With their final selection of the 2020 WHL Bantam Draft, the Cougars selected goaltender Liam Hallett from the West Van Warriors Academy in the CSSHL. At the Bantam Prep level, the 6’2, 166-pound goaltender had 10 wins in 13 games, owning a .900 save percentage and boasted one shutout. Last season, at the Bantam Varsity level, the Victoria, B.C. native won 13 of the 15 games he played and had an impressive .923 save percentage.
“I think we’re going to look back at this draft as a whole and it’s going to be a game changer for our organization,” concluded Lamb.
Players eligible for the 2020 WHL Bantam Draft were 2005-born players residing in Alberta, B.C., Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Northwest Territories, Yukon, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.