Up for grabs

Val­ley Wildcats host MHL draft in Ber­wick


The Val­ley Wildcats hosted the an­nual Mar­itime Hockey League Draft June 9, as clubs from around the 12-team league sought to add young tal­ent from across At­lantic Canada.

One hun­dred and twenty names were called at the draft as the ju­nior clubs claimed the rights to mid­get-aged play­ers.

The County Aces from St. Stephen, NB had the first three selec­tions, pick­ing Zachary Alcorn of the Saint John Vi­tos, Jack Mor­ris from Cape Bre­ton West and Ethan Stuck­less from New­found­land first, sec­ond and third, re­spec­tively.

The Grand Falls Rapids, re­cently re­lo­cated from Wood­stock, NB, se­lected Yan­nick Bas­tarache from the Monc­ton Fly­ers fifth over­all, the team’s first ever draft pick.

Val­ley made two ap­pear­ances in the first round as the host ju­nior A Wildcats picked sixth, se­lect­ing En­field’s Liam Kid­ney from the Cole Har­bour Wolf­pack of the Nova Sco­tia Ma­jor Mid­get Hockey League. The Truro Bearcats picked sev­enth, draft­ing Damian Hartt from the Kohltech Val­ley Wildcats Ma­jor Mid­get team.

‘A good feel­ing’

The 16-year-old Kid­ney scored 38 points in 34 games last year with the Wolf­pack. He was also drafted in the 11th round of the 2017 Que­bec Ma­jor Ju­nior Hockey League Draft by the Cape Bre­ton Scream­ing Ea­gles, and was called up to Syd­ney for a few games last sea­son.

De­spite be­ing se­lected sixth over­all, Kid­ney was the first player in at­ten­dance at the draft to re­ceive his new jersey at the podium.

“I got the call from Val­ley and they said I should come down to the draft,” says Kid­ney. “It’s a good feel­ing get­ting drafted to Val­ley. I’m a hard-work­ing, two-way, power for­ward. I never give up on bat­tles, like the gritty stuff, go­ing into the corner. I have some fin­ish and I like to set some team­mates up too.”

Wildcats gen­eral man­ager Nick Gree­nough says the club iden­ti­fied Kid­ney a while ago as one of the play­ers it re­ally wanted to draft.

“We weren’t sure if he was still go­ing to be there, but we let him know to be down here, and if he was there, we were go­ing to se­lect him. He has an op­por­tu­nity to make Cape Bre­ton. Hope­fully for him, that’s where he is next year, The Val­ley Wildcats chose Cam Al­laby, third from left, dur­ing the 2018-2019 draft. Ri­ley Macin­nis, fourth from left, was the sec­ond over­all pick by Val­ley in the 2017-2018 draft.

but if not, this is a great place for him to play and de­velop.”

In all, the Wildcats se­lected 13 play­ers at the draft, in­clud­ing five with lo­cal con­nec­tions. Gree­nough says he’s ec­static with all the play­ers the team was able to se­lect.

“We got some lo­cal guys… Brent Levy and Brady Burns. We got Colby Ram­sey and Jonathan Pick­rem. He’s from the city but played for our ma­jor mid­get pro­gram. We al­ways want to make sure we get a few of th­ese guys. There’s a cou­ple of play­ers we iden­ti­fied. We know they’ll be in mid­get next year, but when the fu­ture comes, they’ll be ready to play for us.”

Ter­ri­to­rial picks

Levy was also at the draft to re­ceive his Wildcats jersey. The 16-year-old de­fence­man was one of two ter­ri­to­rial picks for the Wildcats, and he says it’s a huge hon­our.

“I’ve been play­ing here for a while… ban­tam and mid­get last sea­son, so to stay in the same or­ga­ni­za­tion, it’s nice,” says Levy.

The rear guard de­scribes him­self as a ‘de­fen­sive de­fence­man.’

“I don’t get too many points, just try to shut down the other team. I have a good stick, try to keep a good gap, and make a good break­out pass to get go­ing the other way.”

Val­ley’s other ter­ri­to­rial pick was Port Wil­liams’ Brady Burns, who scored 39 points in 26 games for the ma­jor mid­get Wildcats last sea­son. Burns was re­cently se­lected in the sec­ond round of the QMJHL draft by the Saint John Sea Dogs, but Gree­nough says he was still worth se­lect­ing at the ju­nior A level.

“At this draft, you al­ways take a few fly­ers on a cou­ple of guys, and we did that. You swing for the fences. If they come, they come. If they’re play­ing at a higher level, that’s the chances you take.”

Val­ley also drafted Mem­ber­tou’s Sonny Ka­batay in round five and Fal­mouth’s Bailey Peach in round seven. The 15-year-old Ka­batay scored well over a point a game last sea­son in ma­jor mid­get and was se­lected by the Hal­i­fax Moose­heads in the fifth round of the QMJHL draft. Peach spent last sea­son in the QMJHL with the Sher­brooke Phoenix and played for Canada at the World Un­der 17 Chal­lenge.

“Those are guys who, pos­si­bly as a 20-year-old, could play here,” says Gree­nough.

“And Bailey be­ing a lo­cal prod­uct, we wanted to take a chance on him. Same with Sonny. He was drafted fairly high by the Moose­heads, so there’s a good chance he’ll be in a Moose­heads uni­form, but if not, I think it’ll be a good fit for him here.”

The Wildcats se­lected Cole Har­bour’s Matthew Power and Kin­non Wil­liams from the Cape Bre­ton Trades­men in round three, goal­tender Chad Arse­nault of the Kens­ing­ton Wild and Dar­ren Water­man from the Cape Bre­ton West Is­lan­ders in round four, Kens­ing­ton’s Ethan Beaulieu in round five, and right winger Sam Grant from Cape Bre­ton West in round six.

Val­ley ma­jor mid­get Wild­cat Gre­gor Yoell was picked in round five by the Truro Bearcats.

Val­ley’s fi­nal picks were both from the ma­jor mid­get Wildcats, se­lect­ing goal­tender Jonathan Pick­rem in round seven and cen­tre Colby Ram­sey in round eight.

Gree­nough says it was a fun week­end.

“All the kids we talked to are ex­cited to be here. We’re looking for­ward to get­ting the sum­mer over and get­ting back on the ice. We were in a for­tu­nate po­si­tion with 14 picks com­ing into the draft. We wheeled and dealed a lit­tle bit, moved some around for higher picks and dif­fered some to next year. We got our­selves in a pretty good po­si­tion mov­ing for­ward.”

Also at the draft, Val­ley traded Adam Nolan to Mi­ramichi to com­plete an ear­lier trade, and ac­quired de­fence­man Quin­ten John­son as com­ple­tion of a deal done last year with Pic­tou County. Gree­nough says John­son, a 20-year-old de­fence­man from Yar­mouth, will bring much needed ex­pe­ri­ence to the Wildcats back line.

“He’s a safe de­fence­man, he’s a big body. He’s go­ing to help us out in our de­fen­sive game, and he’s a good kid off the ice, so we’re looking for­ward to hav­ing him here. He was part of the Re­hill deal. We’ve got a pretty young D core back there, and he’s ex­cited to be here.”

‘Pos­i­tive’ draft: pres­i­dent

MHL pres­i­dent Brian White­head says the en­tire draft week­end in Ber­wick was fan­tas­tic, with great Val­ley hospi­tal­ity.

“We had some very pos­i­tive meet­ings. There’s a few ini­tia­tives com­ing for­ward as we move the nee­dle on mak­ing the ex­pe­ri­ence bet­ter for play­ers, and we had a good healthy dis­cus­sion on a num­ber of top­ics.”

Next year’s draft will be held in Ed­mund­ston, New Brunswick, hosted by the league cham­pion Bl­iz­zard or­ga­ni­za­tion. The 20182019 MHL sea­son be­gins in Septem­ber.



Mitch Bon­ner, right, owner of the Yar­mouth Mariners, was awarded the Moe Bent Builders Award by Ce­cil Taylor, vice-pres­i­dent of the MHL ex­ec­u­tive.

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