Talented Arizona names selected during USHL, WHL Drafts
Each year, early May brings the two-part United States Hockey League (USHL) Draft and the Western Hockey League (WHL) Bantam Draft.
And as has become the norm, several players with Arizona ties were selected in both drafts.
Phase I of the USHL Draft, held May 2, was strictly for 2000 birth year players, while Phase II, which was held the day after, was for all players born in 1996 on down to 2000. The WHL Draft was exclusively for players born in 2001 and took place May 5.
In Phase I of the USHL Draft, current Jr. Coyotes’ 16U AAA forward and Arizona State University recruit Demetrios Koumontzis (pictured) was taken in the second round (31st overall) by the Green Bay Gamblers, while former Jr. Coyotes forward Ryan Savage, who skated this past season overseas for the EC Red Bull Salzburg 18U club in Austria, was selected seventh overall in the first round by the Fargo Force.
Savage played 14U AAA for the Jr. Coyotes in 2013-14 and 16U AAA in 2014-15 before heading to Austria. He’s committed to Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, after his junior hockey career. In 16 games last year, he scored 22 goals among 37 points.
Then the following day, Jr. Coyotes alum Johnny Walker, another ASU commitment, was off the board in the first round (11th overall) to the Chicago Steel. Walker, who split this past season in the North American Hockey League between the Minot Minotauros and Topeka RoadRunners, played three games for the Steel in 2015-16 on a call-up basis. In his youth days, Walker also played for the Phoenix Polar Bears and Phoenix Firebirds.
“It really was awesome seeing my name pop up on my phone,” said Walker. “I had been in contact with Chicago for a while, but it was still exciting to be picked in the first round. I am honored to be picked by such a great organization.”
Walker added that this summer will be crucial to making the Chicago roster and then skating for the Sun Devils in 2017-18.
“Sticking with your summer program is always important,” Walker said. “I am excited for this summer and to work hard to set myself up for a big year and hopefully, making an impact in the USHL to help my transition into ASU.”
Later in Phase II, former Jr. Coyotes’ 16U and 18U defenseman Joseph Kinsella went to the Waterloo Black Hawks in the 13th round (208th overall) and forward Brett Pickler, who skated for the Jr. Coyotes’ 18U AAA team last season, was taken eight picks earlier by the Des Moines Buccaneers.
“These boys make us very proud and their hard work and determination has paid off for this recognition,” said Mike De Angelis, the director of hockey for the Jr. Coyotes Elite AAA program. “Our Wall of Fame on the Coyote Rink side in Scottsdale is a reminder of all the standout players who have come through the program and are now playing high-level junior or college hockey. Helping players develop, get exposed to scouts and directed to the next level is something that our whole program takes pride in.”
De Angelis added that the four USHL draft picks all have one thing in common.
“They are all high-character kids and each have a work ethic that is always at the top of the class,” De Angelis said. “Their compete level is extremely high compared to others.”
At the WHL Draft, Keegan Craik, a former member of the Arizona Bobcats AAA organization, was chosen by the Prince George Cougars in the fifth round (97th overall).
“This is a great pickup for our organization,” said Prince George scout Trevor Sprague. “Keegan plays the game with a lot of energy and physicality. He’s got a nose for the net and isn’t afraid to go to the tough areas to score goals.”
— Matt Mackinder