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WHL mines local talent

It's been quite a day for the bantam hockey program at Okanagan Hockey Academy in Penticton.

During the first round of Thursday's WHL Bantam Draft, an unprecedented five players from OHA were taken.

OHA bantam coach Mike Needham expects more to be taken through the rest of the day.

The group of five drafted in round one include:

  • 7th Michael Rasmussen - Centre (Tri-City)
  • 11th Griffin Mendel - Defence (Kootenay)
  • 13th Jordan Hollett - Goaltender (Regina)
  • 18th Scott Wolford - Defence (Victoria)
  • 21st Jonathan Smart - Defence (Kelowna)

"We are very excited. "I've been coaching bantam hockey for seven years now and I don't think I've ever seen that number going from one program," said Needham following the first round.

"It's great for the kids, they've put in the work this year and we've had a successful season. But it comes down to the individuals and they did a hell of a job this year."

This is only the third year OHA has offered a bantam program.

Despite that Needham says it's not a small program anymore.

"We're establishing ourselves as a pretty good place to develop young kids and I think hopefully the future is going to be even brighter.

For me it's just the start of the path for these kids. Getting drafted is great but the way I measure success here is where they go to next year. Are they playing at the highest level possible."

Neddham says he was surprised Griffin Mendel was taken as high as he was (11th overall) considering he missed five months of the season with a broken leg.

"Had he been healthy he might have been the first overall pick, he's that good."

All five players are expected to return to play first year midget with OHA next season.

They are only eligible to play six games in the Western Hockey League next season while their midget team is still playing.



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