The Moose Jaw Warriors are hoping a Saskatchewan connection will help see at least one of their selections in the 2023 Western Hockey League U.S. Priority Draft land on the team in the near future.
The Warriors selected defenceman Zachary Schmidt from Highland Ranch, Col. with the 16th overall pick in the first round, with the just-turned 15-year-old bringing a bit of size to the equation at 6-foot-0, 168-pounds.
Interestingly enough, Schmidt was born in Regina, which Warriors general manager Jason Ripplinger hopes will play a factor in the youngster making the trip north.
“They’re familiar with the Western Hockey League and what it’s all about, he grew up watching it, so that could make it easier to recruit,” Ripplinger said on www.mjwarriors.ca.
Schmidt played just 12 games in 2022-23, put up two goals and five points in eight regular-season contests before adding another goal and three points in four playoff games.
“He’s a defenceman that skates pretty good, he’s got a lot of upside,” Ripplinger said.
The Warriors then continued their interest in Texas hockey players, adding forward Trevor Hill from San Antonio with the 38th overall pick in the second round. In the four years the WHL U.S. Priority Draft has existed, the Warriors have selected at least one player from the Lone Star State each year.
Hill, 5-foot-10 and 134 pounds, had 30 goals and 51 points in 21 games playing for the 14U AA San Antonio Jr. Rampage.
“He’s a skilled player, skates really well and he could potentially put some pucks in the net for us,” Ripplinger said. “When you’re drafting these Americans, you want to get skill, guys that can score — we can find the third-line checkers in Canada.”
As one might expect, the U.S. Priority Draft is a bit of crapshoot, with players outside of the top handful of picks more often than not opting to play closer to home. The Warriors haven’t had a selection crack their line-up since the Draft began in 2020.
Their first-round pick that season, forward Cameron McEwan of Austin, Tex., played two seasons at Shattuck St. Mary’s before suiting up for three clubs in 2022-23 and putting up 10 goals and 23 points in 51 games. Their second-round pick, forward Josh Holliday, has played three seasons of high school hockey out of Santa Clarita, Cal.
Dallas-based defenceman Austin Doyle was Moose Jaw’s first-round pick in 2021, and he played for the Dallas Stars Elite 16U AAA and Tier 1 Elite Hockey League teams last season, putting up six goals and 19 points in 69 games.
Moose Jaw’s second-round pick in 2021, forward Tyler Chiovetti from the Los Angeles Jr. Kings, suited up for St. Andrew’s College last season and had eight goals and 25 points in 58 games.
The Warriors’ selections in 2022 are heading into their 16-year-old seasons, with defenceman Carter Murphy from the Dallas Stars AAA having put up two goals and 24 points in 53 games last season, while Los Angeles Jr. Kings goaltender Kyle Jones had a 1.38 goals against average and .936 save percentage for the 15U AAA team.
There will be little rest for the Warriors’ scouting staff in the next 24 hours, as the Western Hockey League Prospects Draft begins at 10 a.m. on Thursday. The Warriors select 16th in the first round.