Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Blades sign top three WHL Bantam Draft selections

De La Gorgendiere and Crnkovic introduced to local media

Aiden De La Gorgendiere, left, and Kyle Crnkovic signed with the Blades.
    The Saskatoon Blades two newest first round WHL Bantam Draft picks were looking pretty wide eyed on Wednesday afternoon.
    During a news conference at the SaskTel Centre, the WHL club introduced defenceman Aidan De La Gorgendiere and forward Kyle Crnkovic to a sizable gathering of local media. The gather also included a large contingent of Blades coaches, staff and management, seven other players that were selected by the team at the May 4 draft held in Calgary and a large representation of parents.
    De La Gorgendiere and Crnkovic looked a little overwhelmed by the number of people in attendance at the conference. The two 15-year-olds had smiles when they signed their WHL Standard Player Agreements with the club.
    The Blades also announced they signed forward Braden Plaschewsky to a WHL Standard Player Agreement too, which meant the team got commitments from their top three picks from this year’s WHL Bantam Draft. The Blades selected Plaschewsky, who is from Calgary, in the second round and 31st overall.
Aidan De La Gorgendiere, left, signs his WHL Standard Player Agreement.
    “It is just a fun day,” said Blades general manager Colin Priestner. “We spend a lot of time in rinks at bantam games all year.
    “Our scouts spend hundreds of hours each at the rinks. To get a couple first round picks like this signed so quickly, it is a big relief for me. It is a huge thing.
    “I can go on vacation now and enjoy my summer a little more. It is one of those things where we really wanted these two players.”
    The Blades selected De La Gorgendiere in the first round and fifth overall. The Langley, B.C., product, who stands 6-feet and weighs 169 pounds, played with the Abbotsford, B.C., based Yale Hockey Academy bantam squad netting five goals and 21 assists in 30 games. His parents, father Graham De La Gorgendiere and mother Marla Meginbir, are both from Saskatoon.
    De La Gorgendiere still had a lot of family in Saskatoon including grandparents and aunts and uncles. 
Kyle Crnkovic signs his WHL Standard Player Agreement.
    He was pumped to sign with the Blades.
    “It is a great opportunity for me,” said De La Gorgendiere. “I’m looking forward to the future here.
    “I knew I wanted to play here once I got drafted. That was my decision.”
    De La Gorgendiere said one of his favourite WHL players was defenceman Ty Smith, who just wrapped up his 16-year-old rookie season with the Spokane Chiefs, and the NHL players he tries to model his game after are Brent Seabrook of the Chicago Blackhawks and Aaron Ekblad of the Florida Panthers.
    “I feel I am a 200-foot defenceman,” said De La Gorgendiere. “I have a little bit of offensive ability I can put towards the Blades, and I also have a good first pass out of my own zone.”
    Crnkovic was selected in the first round and 10th overall by the Blades. The Chestermere, Alta., product played for the Kelowna, B.C., based Pursuit of Excellence Hockey Academy team racking up 40 goals and 39 assists in 30 games.
Colin Priestner, left, gives a jersey to Aidan De La Gorgendiere.
    He was amazed by the welcoming he received at the press conference.
    “It is pretty overwhelming, but it is also pretty cool at the same time,” said Crnkovic, who stands 5-foot-6 and weighs 149 pounds. “I’m just very excited to be part of the organization.
    “I’m really looking forward to it. When Saskatoon picked me, it was a huge honour. I’ve heard nothing but good things about the organization.”
    Crnkovic said he tries to model his game after Mitch Marner of the Toronto Maple Leafs, and he loves to be a playmaker. The speedy forward said he enjoyed meeting the Blades coaches, management and staffers in person.
    “They’ve been so nice and so welcoming,” said Crnkovic. “I’m just really looking forward to it.
“I just need to get bigger and stronger and just work as hard as I can this summer.”
    The Blades WHL Bantam Draft picks from this year won’t be able to play with the club on a full-time basis until the start of the 2018-19 season. 
Colin Priestner, left, gives a jersey to Kyle Crnkovic.
    They can play in five games in the upcoming campaign as 15-year-olds.
    Blades head coach Dean Brockman was having his initial in person meetings with many of the draft picks and said he doesn’t want to place too many expectations on the newcomers.
    “For us, it is just take your time with the development and make sure that they are ready to come when they are ready to come,” said Brockman. “I don’t want to put the pressure on them that they have to be the guys right off the bat.”
    The bench boss just had a simple hope for the most recent bantam picks in their first visit to the city.
    “You just want them to feel welcomed,” said Brockman. “You also want them to know that this is what it is going to be like.
    “I don’t think there is anybody that has been over the top or out of the ordinary.”

Pats’ Mahura signs with Ducks

Pats D Josh Mahura signed with the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks.
    Josh Mahura had an outstanding post-season for the Regina Pats, and he was rewarded for his efforts with an NHL contract.
    On Wednesday, veteran defenceman signed a three-year NHL entry-level contract with the Anaheim Ducks. The Ducks selected Mahura in the third round and 85th overall in last year’s NHL Entry Draft.
    The St. Albert, Alta., product, who turned 19 earlier this month, was acquired by the Pats in a blockbuster deal on the WHL’s trade deadline day on Jan. 10 from the Red Deer Rebels. Between the Rebels and the Pats, Mahura appeared in 73 regular season games recording 17 goals, 36 assists and a plus-17 rating in the plus-minus department.
    He came through during a number of key moments for the Pats in the post-season as they advanced to the best-of-seven WHL Championship series for the first time since 1984 before falling in six hard fought contests to the Seattle Thunderbirds. Mahura, who stands 6-foot-1 and weighs 185 pounds, recorded eight goals, 13 assists and a plus-seven rating in 23 playoff games.
    The National Lacrosse League’s Saskatchewan Rush will recognize the Pats for their WHL playoff run on Saturday at the SaskTel Centre in Saskatoon. The Rush are hosting the Colorado Mammoth in Game 2 of the best-of-three West Division Final at 7:30 p.m. that night, and they lead the series 1-0.
    Four members from the Pats, who claimed the WHL’s Eastern Conference championship, are from the Saskatoon area including star offensive defenceman Connor Hobbs and forwards Dawson Leedahl, Wyatt Sloboshan and Jake Leschyshyn.
    While the Rush have successfully branded themselves as a provincial team, the Pats should get an interesting reception considering the SaskTel Centre is the home of their traditional long-time rivals, the Saskatoon Blades.

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