For most teenage hockey-loving boys, hearing their name called in the Western Hockey League’s bantam draft is something they dream about.
But for Langley’s Josh Williams, he did not actually hear his selection.
Following the draft online before he went to school on Thursday (May 5) morning, Williams missed his name being announced as the Medicine Hat Tigers selected him in the first round, fifth overall.
“I didn’t even hear my name being called,” the 15-year-old said. “When he said ‘Langley, B.C.’, my mom screamed so loud I couldn’t hear my name.
“It feels amazing.”
Completely honoured to be selected to the Medicine Hat Tigers @tigershockey . Thank you to all the people that have helped get here.
— josh williams (@willie142001) May 5, 2016
And Williams selection was a historic one as well, as he became the highest-ever Langley Minor Hockey Association product.
Hollett was previous high for Langley Minor Hockey
Goaltender Jordan Hollett previously held that distinction, having been selected 13th overall in the 2014 WHL bantam draft.
Ryan Hollweg was the first overall selection in the 1999 draft, but was originally from California and moved to Langley for junior hockey.
Williams knew he had a good shot to go in the first round and didn’t know he was the top Langley pick ever until afterwards.
“It means a lot. Being the highest one ever out of Langley is a pretty good feeling,” he admitted.
“It is a big accomplishment and I have been looking forward to getting drafted to the WHL since I was a little kid.”
Williams is a six-foot-one, 178-pound power forward.
Coaches impressed with top pick
“He’s got great wheels, great hands, a great shot,” said Tigers head coach and general manager Shaun Clouston on the team’s website.
“He plays a physical, gritty game, he’s going to be a real good player for us.
“His stats tell you that too, he put up big numbers.”
In 25 games with the Yale Hockey Academy’s U15 bantam prep team, Williams had 35 goals and 59 points. He was the Canadian School Sport Hockey League most valuable player and top scorer.
“Josh competes hard and loves to score goals,” said Brad Rihela, Yale’s head coach.
“Medicine Hat got a good one there. He can finish his checks and score goals.”
The coach said Williams’ game progressed over the season.
“He became more of a 200-foot player and improved his defence and his offence just took off accordingly,” Rihela added.
“He was league MVP for a reason.”
This was Williams first year with the Abbotsford-based program and he said the academy played a big role in him getting drafted so high.
He played his minor hockey primarily with the Langley Minor Hockey Association.
Williams plans on playing for Yale’s U18 team next season as he readies himself physically to play major junior down the road.
“It is the best development league in the world and my end goal is to make it to the NHL,” he said.
“(The WHL) is the best league to get me there.”
Four Langley players drafted altogether
Two of Williams’ Yale teammates from Langley — defenceman Alex Cotton and goaltender Alex Rolfe — were also selected in the fifth and ninth rounds, respectively, of the WHL draft.
Cotton was the 99th overall pick to the Lethbridge Hurricanes while Rolfe went 192nd overall to the Calgary Hitmen.
Very Honoured to be selected by the Lethbridge Hurricanes @WHLHurricanes . Just want to thank all the people that help me get to this point.
— Alex Cotton (@cotton272001) May 5, 2016
Rihela said Cotton significantly improved over the course of the season.
“He comes to the rink looking to get better every day,” the coach said, citing his skating and decision making as areas he really improved.
Cotton is five-foot-10 and 144 pounds. He registered three goals and eight points in 25 games from the blue-line for Yale.
“(Getting drafted) has been the goal since I began playing hockey, to be honest,” said Cotton, who turns 15 on May 12.
Cotton said he is leaning towards playing major junior in a few years time as opposed to the junior A B.C. Hockey League route.
He played his minor hockey with Langley and this is his second year with the Yale program. Cotton figures he will be back on the academy’s U16 squad in the fall.
And getting stronger this summer is the goal.
Rolfe had no idea on if he would be drafted or not.
The five-foot-10, 144-pound goalie was 11-2 with an .896 save percentage and a 2.71 goals against average in league play. Including tournament play, he had an overall record of 25-5 with a 2.25 goals against average.
Completely honoured to be drafted by @WHLHitmen thanks to everyone that has helped along my career and can’t wait for the future #hitmen
— Alex Rolfe (@AlexRolfe35) May 5, 2016
“(Alex) was real solid for us when he had to be,” Rihela said.
The team had quite a bit of pressure on it the coach admitted.
“I thought he managed that pressure better and better as the season wore on.”
The team would wind up winning the league title and Rolfe took that momentum forward.
“After that, I really picked up my training and had a really good BC Cup tournament (last month),” he said.
Rolfe is not sure if he is leaning major junior or junior A.
He has already attended some camps with the BCHL’s Powell River Kings.
The plan is to play with the Yale U16 team next year.
Another Langley teen, goaltender Boston Bilous of the Delta Hockey Academy, was taken in the fourth round by the Edmonton Oil Kings.
Langley’s Alex Rolfe (below left) and Alex Cotton were also selected in the WHL bantam draft.