“We just think he has a ton of advantages and could become a top defenseman in the future as he’s a mobile and versatile guy who has offensive instincts and only scratch the surface because of his birthday in December.

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The Saskatoon Blades went with what they knew and with the most familiar.

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After so many unknowns, from a screening standpoint, through the COVID-19 pandemic, the Blades returned to dip their skates in the same pool of talent in the WHL priority draft in the United States on Wednesday they had previously operated – the Los Angeles Jr Kings Program.

The Blades have selected defenseman Ethan Weber and forward Samuel Houston from the Kings Under-15 team.

“We are happy to have acquired two teammates here and to have obtained their rights,” said Blades general manager Colin Priestner.

“It’s a program (Jr. Kings) that we’ve had two defenders in our current roster, (Pavel) Bocharov and (Spencer) Shugrue. We’re pretty confident about the schedule they have and their interest in the WHL. ”

While the Blades believed they would be able to land Weber with their fifth overall pick, they were unsure if Houston would still be available in the second round, 40th overall.

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“We didn’t really have a clue,” Priestner admitted Wednesday. “We were pretty sure on the first pick, that he was going to be there. He was definitely a guy we had targeted and we’re really happy he’s here. With our second pick, it was more about seeing who was there, as it was certainly unpredictable as you walked through – not having been familiar with all players across the United States. “

Weber, from Manhattan Beach, Calif., Is rated at 5 feet 11 inches and 165 pounds. He has 15 goals and 13 assists for 28 points in 33 games played this season.

“He’s a guy who is improving quickly,” Priestner noted, adding that Weber plays for former NHL player Kyle Calder on the Kings.

“We just think he has a ton of advantages and could be a better defenseman going forward because he’s kind of a mobile and versatile guy who has offensive instincts and just does that. really scratching the surface because of his December birthday and I don’t even think he’s been a very competitive hockey player for many years.

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“Talking to some of the people there and his coach, they felt the advantage with him was extremely high and we just thought that made him a very easy choice for us.”

Houston, listed at 6 feet tall and 148 pounds, has 10 goals and seven assists for 17 points in 34 games.

“It’s a big, tough, right-handed body that we’re looking to target,” Priestner said. “In the Bantam Draft, it’s hard to find the big bodies that can play the specific role you’re looking for. It’s getting harder and harder to find every year. He’s a guy our scouts saw him in person and felt he was competing really hard every shift and might not have the best skill sets at the moment, but we think there are a lot of things to work with.

“We really like his competitiveness and his energy and his ability to set up a front failure and be heavy. He’s a 6-foot right winger. These guys are hard to find. He had a great interest in the Western League and it was an easy choice for us.

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DRAFT OUTLOOK FOR THE WHL THURSDAY

The Blades head to the WHL Prospects Draft on Thursday – which features a number of highly touted Saskatoon players as potential top picks – with no first-round selection but five picks over the next three rounds.

Priestner described the draft talent as “very strong” in the first two or three rounds and then a drop in certainty after that.

“We have this small group of players (under 15) playing under 18 hockey right now, so it’s pretty easy to identify the kids who are in their draft year and are already thriving at the level. midget, ”he said. “Where I think there will be a lot of variety, offside stuff, will be after your second or third round when you maybe have a player who hasn’t made his midget AAA or U- team. 18 in his own region for some reason and maybe he has three points per game in the Under-16 division with younger players.

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“It’s hard to really judge how they would fare if they played in the older division, so I think you’re going to have a ton of variety where the guys are going to come out of the board where you are, like, ‘Damn it. we didn’t even have this guy in the top 100 ”but if a certain scout leader or someone sees these kids playing in a different league with younger players but there’s always something projectable there , or they haven’t grown it yet, it’s certainly possible. It’s going to be all over the map.

dzary@postmedia.com

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