May 21st, 2024

Canes grab American prospects in U.S. Priority Draft


By Lethbridge Herald on December 9, 2021.

With the Western Hockey League Prospects Draft set for today, the Lethbridge Hurricanes – along with the rest of the teams across the WHL – did a little shopping south of the border on Wednesday.
As the WHL completed its 2021 WHL U.S. Priority Draft Wednesday, the Canes took advantage of the second overall pick to snag forward Jackson Lackas and then selected defenseman Tristen Azelton in the second round and 43rd overall.
A total of 44 players were selected by the WHL clubs over the course of two rounds with the Seattle Thunderbirds using the first overall pick to select forward Macklin Celebrini, who hails from North Vancouver, of Shattuck-St. Mary’s Sabres Prep.
Lackas, 14, hails from Las Vegas and currently plays for the Phoenix Jr. Coyotes 15U AAA team. This year he has seven goals and eight points in eight games.
Last season in limited action, the five-foot-seven, 150-pound left-shot forward had nine points (five goals and four assists) with the Arizona Bobcats 14U AAA. Lackas added six goals and 11 points in four playoff games.
“I’ve seen him play a couple times this year and last year,” said Hurricanes’ head scout Rob MacLachlan of Lackas. “I liked him last year as an underage. This year, I watched him play and he just catches your eye. He’s a very good skater, he’s fast, he can do things at high speed, he scores goals and not only that, he plays a 200-foot game. He does pretty much everything. He’s got the total package. He’s a smaller player, (but) he’s a player who goes to the hard areas in front of the net and the corners.”
Azelton, 15, is from Gilbert, Arizona and has totalled nine points on five goals and four assists with the Arizona Bobcats 16U AA team in the 16U League.
The five-foot-10, 185-pound rearguard has also collected two goals and 10 points with the Bobcats in the NAPHL 16U league.
Azelton is a skilled defenceman, said MacLachlan.
“He’s got pretty good size and plays a tough game. He can skate the puck out of his own end and he scored quite a bit. Every game I watched him play, he scored. He’s a really good, steady defenceman.”
With the U.S. shopping done, the Canes now turn their attention to the WHL Prospects Draft today, which starts at 10 a.m. and will be livestreamed.
The Hurricanes pick 10th – a pick acquired from the Regina Pats – and 17th in the first round.
“I’m not keying on one guy, but I have two or three guys in that 10 spot and three, four or five guys in that 17 spot,” said MacLachlan. “It’s all got to mold together and hopefully we walk out of there with some pretty good hockey players with the picks we do have.”
While each draft year brings in the obvious high-end players that aren’t difficult to spot, MacLachlan noted the importance of finding those later-round diamonds in the rough.
“If you don’t pick in that probably top-10 or 12 players there may be a bit of a drop off,” said MacLachlan. “But that being said, we don’t have a crystal ball and it’s like I tell the coaches, I just draft the package. I bring back a package that can develop and be a player and if I don’t bring back a package, we probably don’t have a chance to have a player.
“I think most teams can pick out the top-20 players, where it makes a difference with your hockey team is those sixth, seventh and eighth round picks. You’re not going to be right on all of them, but you get a couple in those later rounds that can step in and play and contribute to your team, that’s what makes you a good hockey team.”
Whoever they take with their 10th and 17th picks today, MacLachlan said the goal is to have the players be able to step in next season.
“So we feel the first two kids we pick are going to be in our lineup next year, for sure. So I had better not be wrong on those two guys. I think we have it down to a good couple of players. All I can do is put my top-17 guys down and I know I’m going to get one of those 17 guys. I deal with those 17 guys I have down and hope those guys can play next year.”
The Spokane Chiefs have the top pick in this year’s draft – as determined by the 2021 WHL Prospects Draft Lottery on June 2 – while the Tri-City Americans pick second.
The Brandon Wheat Kings have the third and fourth selections with the Red Deer Rebels rounding out the top-five.
Real time picks of today’s draft can be viewed at https://whl.ca/draft.

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