The big news came from Seattle on the eve of the draft as the Thunderbirds parted ways with overage goaltender Roddy Ross to Regina. Ross burst on the scene in January 2019 after backstopping the Camrose Kodiaks of the Alberta Junior Hockey League. Many a time, Ross stole the show and a few wins along the way, but Seattle is looking to go even younger. After playing 49 games this year in the COVID-19 reduced schedule, Ross heads to Regina, which is closer to his home of Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan.
Regina traded all picks for Ross, a second-round in this year’s draft and a fourth-round in 2022. There is a conditional second-round pick in 2024, presumably based on the number of games played. The Pats get Ross and an eighth-round pick this year. Like many Eastern Division teams, the Pats are no stranger to overage goaltenders. The older goaltenders seem to get a great deal of work in the East, and Ross should be no exception.
Regina also inked an exceptional status player. The distinction is given to a 15 year old who normally gets to suit up for five games during the season and as many as they can once their home based team has been eliminated. Connor Bedard was signed a couple days prior to the draft and so as no surprise his first overall draft to Regina went like clockwork. As an exceptional status player, Connor can play as many games as the Pats are willing to play him. The status is not given to very many players. That two players from one year to the next were granted is certainly not the norm.
Bedard is on the heels of Matt Savoie, chosen by the Winnipeg Ice last season also as an exceptional status player. Savoie logged into many games, before his season was cut short at New Years due to a concussion. Bedard at 5’8″ 165lbs out of West Vancouver, BC will make an immediate impact with the squad and looks to pull Regina from the 21 wins last season. The East promises to be a tough division with Prince Albert looking at keeping top spot again like last year and the other teams will be looking at improving even more so than the past season.
The Portland Winterhawks also took part in the 2020 draft with everything being held online. The Hawks ended up selecting a total of eleven players, two in the fifth round with the first draft choice coming in at 23. Just outside of the first round, the Hawks selected center Jaydon Perron. At 5’7″ 125lbs, Perron is built like Nic Petan who was a force for the Hawks for four years. In 83rd spot Rhett Rhavidal, was chosen by the Hawks as a defenseman. Already 6 feet tall, he will fill in at 152 pounds. The Hawks then went with another defenseman in spot 97 as Carter Sotheran was chosen. Another 6 footer weighing 160 pounds, he will make a strong impact at camp and in years to come. With their first actual non-traded-pick, the Hawks picked up Tanner Breunder from Minnesota. At 5’9″, 150 pounds, this late-birthday player won’t hit his 15th birthday until nearly Christmas. Portland waited until the seventh round to nab their first goaltender. Donovan Bodnar from Manitoba was selected. At 5’9″ 161 pounds and a November birthday, he is already starting to show to be a larger sized netminder. Portland chose last in the seventh round and picked up Dante Nunes from West Kelowna. Though he is a defenseman, the almost 5’8″ Nunes is just 124 pounds. Portland chose in the ninth round, Josh Zakreski, another forward, but a small 5’4″ and 140 pounds. The product of Saskatoon is another late birthday with it being just a week prior to Christmas and ample time to grow. At the end of the ninth round, Portland chose Aiden Sotas. At 6’1″ and 141 pounds, he still may add one or two inches and could add some size prior to camp.
The Hawks chose a couple of players in later rounds, Center Nicholas Johnson, Goaltender Carsen Musser and finally Forward Matt VanderVort. The latter three were chosen at the end of the tenth, eleventh and twelfth rounds. With Portland passing at the end of the thirteenth round, all teams had passed on potential drafts and as a result the draft was now over.
Now begins the daunting task of signing players and placing them on the 50-man protected list. The list includes the roster and, as such, the list remains very fluid throughout the year. Players who are not signed to standard WHL contracts can participate in camps, but they are not allowed to take part in any games outside their own in house scrimmage games.