Whirlwind entrance to SICHL for Banff Rockiesby Ed Whalen | September 4, 2017, 4:59 AM ET
They had actually been in existance for a few weeks, but on Friday August the 18th, 2017, The Banff Rockies were truly born. That was the date of the dispersal draft of the former teams The Winnipeg Falcons and The Toronto Titans to form the Banff Rockies and the Toronto Metropolitans. These two bold new franchises began to take shape right in front of the Commisioner and Assistant Commisioner.
Banff GM Ian Constable beamed as he explained, "Getting to draft first was a real bonus for me, I was able to select David Pastrnak who is quite young and already producing at a very high level. My scouts and I all agreed that he was the clear choice to go #1." With Toronto picking another pair of great young talents Jake Allen and Brandon Saad, Constable went with the future and selected prospect Mikhail Sergachev and young rising star Kyle Connor. "Our game plan was simple. Build for the future and and acquire what we perceive to be the best assets at the most reasonable rates." Toronto was not making it easy on the Banff GM, nor vice versa. Many times there were groans from the other side when a player or players were "sniped". A number of GMs around the league were surprised how long it took before the Titans draft package which included the #2 overall pick in the upcoming draft was taken. GM Constable explained, "We didn't feel that the difference in talent between #2 and #6 overall in this years draft was severe enough to give up a high end prospect like a Borgstrom, so we waited until we had our last priority pick of the draft before taking it." When Banff did take the Titans draft package, the Metropolitans could sit on the Falcons draft package until the end of the dispersal draft. Both franchises were allowed to select one UFA from the two teams to select as their Franchise player. Banff had their eyes on Nick Foligno and Henrik Lundqvist. When Toronto selected Foligno, it made the choice easy and Banff could then sit on that pick until the end of the draft. That also allowed GM Constable to not worry about getting a goalie like Crawford, but when Toronto selected him as their second goalie, it made Banff quickly grab Eddie Lack and Troy Grosenick as to not be forced into taking on the contract of Ken Appleby. "The rules of the draft stipulated that we had to select a minimum of 2 rated goalies and a maximum of 3. We had to make a quick adjustment to our draft strategy." The same scenario went the other way with defencemen. The max you could select was 6 rated dmen, the minimum was 5, so when Banff selected its 6th rated defenceman, The rest could only be taken by Toronto. "All in all I was very pleased the way the way the dispersal draft played out." said GM Constable, "Toronto GM Chris Baker gave us a good run this evening. We look forward to meeting his team on the ice and wish The Metropolitan franchise the best success... well, maybe the second best."
Soon when the news broke of the results of the dispersal draft GM Constable had many inquiries into a number of his new players and of course that #2 overall pick in the upcoming draft. The most sought after piece was of course David Pastrnak. "I had no intention of trading him, but I will always listen to offers." remarked Constable. "I told people I would listen, but it would have to be a significant offer for me to move him. It would have to make sense." GM Constable had also been kicking the tires on some prospects around the league. Tyler Parsons was one prospect that he had a very big interest in, but was told basically the same thing that he had been telling GMs about Pastrnak. So when GM Gary Graves of the Boston Colonials came asking about Pastrnak, GM Constable saw a possibility. "I let him know that whatever i got back would have to start with Parsons and then add on firsts. At the same time I had offers from others , but they weren't quite there." The two GMs came to an agreement that would see Banff send David Pastrnak and Philadelphia's 3 round pick in 2017 to Boston for Tyler Parsons and Bostons first round draft picks for 2017, 18 and 19.
GM Constable wasn't done there, he then sent prospect Jake Evans, a 2017 7th rounder and a 2018 4th rounder to Montreal for Brett Kulak and a 2017 6th rounder. "We think Brett is going to make an impact on our D very soon and for years to come and this allows us to make some other moves." Stated GM Constable. Banff would make some of those later that week at the SICHL Summit.
GM Constable had been looking forward all summer to this summit, "Getting to meet so many of the GMs who have been so welcoming to me as a new GM, people with very similar interests, it was wonderful! Edmonton Supersonics GM Mike Franceschini organized an unbelievable event." Some of the GM's started off by visiting West Edmonton Mall on the Thursday before heading to Edmonton's trendy Whyte Ave for some drinks at Beercade. The next day was the first official day of the summit and a group of 16 GMs started the day off with some good old fashioned axe throwing. This was followed by a visit to the Gretzky statue at the brand new Rogers Place Arena and then a surprise tour of the state of the art facility. The group got to go behind the scenes and and GM Constable took notes for the new building expected to be erected in Banff very soon. The excitement was not held to GM Constable alone, other GMs were "Twooping" about their experience from the first class box seat level bathrooms. Rumors of a Connor McDavid trade at the end of the tour were never substantiated.
It was sometime between the Rogers Place tour and the next meeting at the Canadian Brewhouse that Banff GM Constable pulled the trigger on a deal to move all start defenceman Kristopher Letang. This time it was Banff GM that had been throwing Letangs name around and their were a couple of interested parties. The Southern Alberta neighbour Calgary Mustangs were the lucky team that was able to wrestle the swift skating puckmover from Banff. GM Matthew Burch and I would normally meet in the foothills of Morley between Calgary and Banff, but this setting in the heart of Edmonton proved much more fruitfull for a deal. Banff sent Letang to the Mustangs for Matthew Benning, prospect Stepan Falkovsky and Vancouver's 2017 3rd round draft pick. "We drafted Letang as an assett in the dispersal draft, we didn't envision him playing ofr us and we thought we could get some good young talent in a deal for him and were pleased with the deal we made. We think Calgary makes a significant upgrade on their D now, but we feel Benning will be with us for a long time. Stepan is a massive young blueliner at 6'7" and 225 lbs who scored 21 goals in only 54 games in his first year as a pro last year, we find him very intriguing." remarked Constable.
At the Canadian Brewhouse 17 GMs sat back amongst a sea of Edmonton Eskimo and Saskatchewan Roughrider fans. The busses were about to leave for the CFL game that evening and it was a packed house. The wings, pizza and pops kept coming and as they did, so did more and more activity between the GMs on the trade front. This did not exclude Rockies GM Constable. "I saw the surprise in London GM Micheal Oram's face when he asked me if I'd consider moving the #2 overall pick and I said yes." Halfway through the evening the two GMs struck a deal that sent the #2 overall pick in the 2017 draft and Banff's 5th rounder in 2017 to London for London's first round pick in 2017 (#12 overall), Las Vegas first round pick in 2018 and London's first round pick in 2019. Banff GM Constable commented, "We really liked having that #2 pick, but we felt that we could get more out of it by turning it into 3 first rounders. The player that London will acquire with that pick will most likely help them within 2 years. we know we are not in a situation where that is as beneficial to us as it is to them. At the same time, we think we can get 3 solid players that can help us a lot in about 5 years out of this. It was the same mindset we had in the Pastrnak deal." The two GMs asked the commisioner and GM Jeff Prozeller of the Havana Revolution who had been sitting with Oram and Constable when the deal was made to keep it hush hush until the draft the next day.
Over the course of one week, Constable had drafted a dispersal team, thrown axes, toured Rogers Place, hobknobbed with SICHL GMs that he had watched from afar building or rebuilding their teams and traded countless players and draft picks in 4 separate deals.
David Pastrnak, Kristopher Letang, Jake Evans, Banff's first round pick in 2017 (#2 overall), Philadelphia's 3rd round pick in 2017 (#84 overall), Banff's 5th round pick in 2017 (#116 overall), Banff's 7th round pick in 2017 (#172 overall) and Banff's 4th round pick in 2018.
Tyler Parsons, Brett Kulak, Matthew Benning, Stepan Falkovsky, London's first round pick in 2017 (#12 overall), Boston's 1st round pick in 2017 (#20 overall), Las Vegas first round pick in 2018, Boston's first round pick in 2018, London's first round pick in 2019, Boston's first round pick in 2019, Vancouver's 3rd round pick in 2017 (#67 overall) and Montreal's 6th round pick in 2017 (#141 overall)
When asked to comment on the questioning from some fans of giving up Pastrnak, Letang and the #2 overall selection in this year draft, Constable nodded and said, "We know fans were excited to see these players, but we believe our greatest weakness going into the Summit weekend was organizational depth and we feel we addressed that in huge way. We came away with 5 more first round picks in the next 3 years than we had going in. We also added one of the top goalie prospects in the world as well as depth in youth on the backend, a place where we were quite lacking going in. All in all I'm very pleased with our first week in the league."
In Part 2 of Banff's 9 day whirlwind entrance to the SICHL, we will review Banff's very first entry draft day at the 2017 SICHL Summit.