You know what? This could have been the Broncos year. I mean the last few have been rebuilding seasons. We've drafted reasonably well and have made some good trades. We are average to strong at the 17 year old age group (Postma,Claffey, Tassone, Toulmin) very strong at the 18 year-old group (Nelson, Bortis, Wiese, Mcavoy, Benke, Stieler, Smith, Yonkman) we have a great 1-2 goaltending punch and a veteran captain and good leader in Myles Rumsey. So why on paper, isn't it our year? It's simple.
The dreaded summer of 2002 and the WHL bantam draft.
The 2002 crop would be the teams' 19 year olds this season - the core of any junior hockey club looking to put it together for a long playoff run. Presently our 19 year-olds on our team are as follows:
Dane Crowley - stole him from Saskatoon in a trade deadline gaff by Saskatoon
Daniel Rakos - good solid import draft pick from two summers ago
R.J Larochelle - got him in a trade with Lethbridge (Redenbach trade)
Brady Leavold - listed player. Traded to Everett last season. Long story short - now back with Broncos
So as you can see from the above list we don't have any 2002 bantam picks on this years team. Here's why. That June day at the bantam draft in Calgary. Consider this as well, we had TWO 1st round picks that year, TWO. Let's review shall we.
1st round (14th overall) - "The Broncos are proud to select Ryan Sawka." Looked good on paper but what a bust! Sawka played 5 career games with the Broncos spread over two years and never picked up a point. He was later picked up by Everett for half a season collecting 1 goal in 40 plus games. Could I get an APB on Ryan Sawka please?? Maybe we need a "Where Are They Now" feature on this guy. This was only the start of it, it gets worse.
1st round (18th overall acquired from the Kootenay Ice in the Milroy/Boxma for Rome/Harvey/Jaffray and a 1st round bantam pick) - The Broncos proudly select from Alaska, Billy Smith. Till this day I don't even know if such a player exists. He never came to Broncos camp, never set foot on WHL soil. Actually, all kidding aside, Smith is playing for the University of Anchorage, Alaska after two very average seasons in the USHL in Green Bay with the Gamblers. A first round to forget!
2nd round (37th overall) - The Broncos select Clayton Bauer from Kelowna. Well apparently, Clayton felt the WHL started and ended with his hometown Rockets. You see, Clayton didn't want to play in Swift Current and from my understanding only wanted to play in Kelowna. The Broncos eventually granted him his wish. They traded him to the Rockets for a bantam pick.
3rd round (45th overall) - The Broncos select Marc Defoe. The big lumbering d-man never really grew into it and after almost two years of being the team's 7th or 8th defenseman they cut him loose to Trail of the BCJHL. The Calgary Hitmen brought him in for a look at the start of this season but re-assigned him back to Trail shortly after he arrived.
4th round - no pick.
5th round (94th overall) - The Broncos select Micheal Hengen (and his dad Tom). Micheal came in as a 16 year-old with a big offensive upside. It never really worked out though. Costly defensive errors was his undoing here. He was traded to Saskatoon in that Dane Crowley deadline deal steal. He was later picked up by Chilliwack and then traded to Calgary all in a span of a few months. It seems he has found a home in Calgary so far. As far as his Dad Tom goes, he is a very hands-on hockey dad. Some WHL teams don't really go for that.
6th round (102 overall) - Jerrid Sauer - Good pick! A hardworking good character kid that provided the Broncos with two plus years of good service. He was traded to Medicine Hat for Dale Wiese and Spencer Mcavoy in trade that fit both the needs of the Broncos and Tigers.
7th round (132nd overall) - Ted Gauthier? . It just never worked out for him. He is the step-brother of former Bronco Duncan Milroy. He never played a game as a Bronco.
8th round (151st overall) - Alex Laseen . . . hmm. Doesn't ring a bell. Actually the Redondo Beach, California native never panned out either. You could say Alex was "Laseen" playing hockey in the USHL in Indiana after two years in the hockey hotbed that is Des Moines, Iowa.
Well folks there you have it, the Class of 2002 in all it's glory. To be honest 2002 was not a good year for a lot of WHL teams. Take Calgary for example. Only 1st rounder Riley Merkley is on the team today. The other picks haven't landed anywhere.
The only team to make hay in the draft that year was the Medicine Hat Tigers. Consider this, they didn't have a pick higher than the 4th round that year! Take a look at this gold:
4th round - David Schlemko
4th round - Gord Baldwin
8th round - Kris Russell - a future WHL defenseman of the year!
9th round - Darren Helm - what a 9th round pick!
Of course hindsight is 20/20. Let's look at some of the players the Broncos passed on:
Codey Burki - 17th overall
Moises Guiterrez - 31st overall
Scott Jackson - 42nd overall
A.J. Thelen - 49th overall
Tyler Plante - 55th overall
David Schlemko - 62nd overall
Gord Baldwin - 68th overall
Steve Dasilva - 71st overall
Brandon Dubinsky - 88th overall
Brendan Mikkelson - 108th overall
Kevin Undershute - 131st overall
Kris Russell - 138th overall
Darren Helm -157th overall
Ryan Russell - 204th overall!
Kyle Deck - 225th overall
So 2006 on-paper might not be the best. But look-out, the future only gets brighter with the strength we have coming up the ranks in the younger age groups. Anyone who attended Broncos rookie camp can attest to that.
Broncos and Wheaties Wednesday night - It's a battle for 1st place in the division!!