Marshall Skapski

Marshall Skapski

Abbotsford trio picked in WHL bantam draft

For teenage hockey prospects, the Western Hockey League bantam draft is a signpost on the journey that they're headed the right direction.

For teenage hockey prospects, the Western Hockey League bantam draft isn’t the final destination, but it is a signpost on the journey that they’re headed in the right direction.

A trio of Abbotsford players received that affirmation on Thursday, as they had their names called in the WHL’s annual talent lottery for 15-year-old (1998-born) athletes.

A pair of local defencemen came off the board in the third round, within minutes of each other. The Prince Albert Raiders spent the 46th overall pick on Cody Paivarinta, while the Medicine Hat Tigers snapped up Marshall Skapski with the 54th selection.

In the 10th round, versatile forward Brett Clayton was picked by the Saskatoon Blades (206th overall).

All three are teammates with the Abbotsford Hawks bantam Tier 1 squad, and are classmates in the hockey academy at Yale Secondary.

Paivarinta, still a month shy of his 15th birthday, is a towering presence at 6’5″, 185 pounds. He was named top defenceman at the prestigious Kamloops International Bantam Ice Hockey Tournament (KIBIHT) in March.

“I was at home watching the draft (online), and I saw my name pop up,” he said, reflecting on his draft day experience. “I was pretty happy.

“Defensively, I’m pretty solid. I can play physical, and I can be out there on the power play and penalty kill.”

Brad Bowen, head coach of the Hawks Tier 1 bantam team and head instructor with the Yale hockey academy, said Paivarinta is just starting to scratch the surface of his potential.

“He’s a big boy with a strong skill set,” Bowen said. “He’ll be better once he gets to play with bigger players. Every time he hits somebody (in minor hockey), he gets a penalty.

“Once he’s able to play his type of game – which he will get to – he’ll be real tough to play against.”

Both Skapski and Clayton are following in the footsteps of family members in being drafted to the WHL.

Skapski’s eldest brother Mackenzie is the starting goalie with the Kootenay Ice, while Mitch, a forward, just completed his rookie campaign with the Everett Silvertips.

The youngest Skapski may be traveling a well-worn path, but he did earn some bragging rights – at 54th overall, he was drafted earlier than either Mackenzie (57th overall in 2009) or Mitch (86th in 2011).

“I’m not going to say anything until they say something to me, and then I’ll bring it up,” Marshall said with a chuckle.

“I know all about it (playing in the WHL), and I just want to get playing. I don’t really have that decision, (whether to play) college or the Dub, because I just want to do what my brothers did. It makes things a lot easier.”

Bowen said Skapski’s work ethic is what sets him apart.

“He out-works every player on the ice all the time,” he said. “He’s tough to play against, he’s real mean, but he’s got a work ethic above every other player.”

Like Skapski, Clayton has two siblings who have preceded him in the draft. Chase, a centre, just completed his third season with the Calgary Hitmen, while Kyle, a blueliner, was selected by the Spokane Chiefs in 2011.

Brett Clayton, a solid two-way forward with good speed, said he’s “psyched” at the prospect of playing against his brothers in the WHL one day.

“I wasn’t really worried today about where I’d be picked,” he said. “I just wanted to go somewhere and get the opportunity to go to camp and get that experience under my belt.”

Bowen said the Blades got great value by picking Clayton in the 10th round.

“He’s a complete hockey player,” Bowen said. “He doesn’t to anything great, but he does everything real well. He’ll step into that league as a shutdown player – that’s what we used him as – and he’ll be real effective.”

The flip side of bantam draft day is the inevitable disappointment felt by players who go unselected.

But Bowen said it’s important for prospects not to let the draft define them, whether they’re picked or not. There are plenty of NHL stars who weren’t drafted as bantams, including Jarome Iginla, Milan Lucic and Dan Hamhuis. Closer to home, Abbotsford native Derek Grant made his NHL debut this season with the Ottawa Senators. He was passed over in his bantam draft year.

“It doesn’t matter if you get picked, it doesn’t matter if you go through,” Bowen asserted. “When everything is said and done, if you let someone tell you you’re not a hockey player, then you’re not a hockey player. You just have to compete, work hard and believe in yourself, and prove everybody right or wrong.

“Take one or two days to enjoy it (if you’re drafted). . . but then take that accomplishment, put it on the back shelf, and get back to work.”

ABBOTSFORD’S WHL BANTAM DRAFT HISTORY

The following is a list of Abbotsford players picked in the WHL bantam draft over the past decade.

2004 – D Chris Ickert, F Trent Fussi, D Mark Isherwood

2005 – F Geordie Wudrick, G Ian Curtis, F Clayton Cumiskey, D Spencer Lockert, D Brendan Nadolny

2006 – F Riley Boychuk, F Kellan Tochkin, G Nathan Lieuwen, D Jeff Regier, F Ryan Kowalski, D Scott Ramsay, D Joel Rogers, F Mike Cassivi

2007 – F Brandon Regier, C Grayson Downing, D Brett Kolins, C Sahir Gill

2008 – F Joe Kornelsen, D Tyler Pavkovich

2009 – F Jason Siebert, F Dalton Sward, F Chase Clayton, G Mackenzie Skapski

2010 – G Alex Orth, F Austin Ferguson

2011 – F Jake Virtanen, F Ryan Simpson, F Mitch Skapski, D Kyle Clayton, F Jared Virtanen, F Francis Bamford

2012 – D Noah Juulsen, F Jordan Kawaguchi