Rockets go local in WHL draft
The Kelowna Rockets didn't stray far from their own backyard when it came time to make their first pick in the annual WHL Bantam Draft.
The Rockets, picking at the end of the first round, selected Kelowna product Jonathan Smart -- a defenceman who played this past season with the Okanagan Hockey Academy in Penticton.
"The thing about Jonathan is his intelligence and play-making ability. He makes excellent decisions with the puck and he competes," said Rockets assistant GM Lorne Frey.
"He's so good offensively; he's another high end offensive guy and I think the defensive side of his game will come. We think his intelligence is as good as anyone out there at this stage and I think we are fortunate to acquire him."
Smart had 42 points in 48 games with OHA this past season.
"I'm so excited," said Smart on learning he had been drafted by his hometown team.
"It's unbelievable. There's no words that can describe it. It's been my dream to play in Kelowna for the Rockets. It's awesome."
Smart said he had heard rumblings he may be taken in the first round of Thursday's draft but expected he would fall to the second round.
He said he's happy to be coming to a team that continues to pump out NHL quality defencemen.
"They are probably in my opinion the team that develops the most d-men and the best d-men like (Duncan) Keith and (Shea) Weber. It's unbelievable."
The Rockets will have to hope for some later round magic if they hope to find some gems to go along with Smart.
Kelowna did not have selections in the second, third, fifth and seventh rounds due to previous deals and had only six picks in the first eight rounds.
They did swing three trades near the end of the draft to pick up two additional selections in the tenth round and an early pick in round 11.
In all, the Rockets drafted 10 players including Smart.
The balance of the players selected include:
- Cooper Haar - left wing (4th round, 73rd overall)
- Jordan Sandhu - centre (4th, 88)
- Conner Bruggen-Cate - left wing (6th, 121)
- Colby Bukes - defenceman (6th, 132)
- Jacob Kennedy - forward (8th, 176)
- David Laurin - right wing (10th, 205)
- Matteo Paler-Chow - goaltender (10th, 218)
- Nick Nordstrom - defenceman (10th, 220)
- Kyle Topping - centre (11th, 226)
A total of 14 players from the Okanagan were selected including eight from Kelowna, two from West Kelowna, one from Vernon and three from Penticton.
Eight players from Kamloops were also selected.
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