Lemonade From a Lemon Draftby Marcel Cormier | September 23, 2018, 5:01 PM ET
"Unless you were picking inside the top 15 or so, it wasn't going to be a banner year for anyone"
That was Bears GM Guy Flaming at the conclusion of the 2018 SICHL Draft during which his team made eleven selections and completed a couple of trades. Acadia's first turn at the podium was with the 23rd overall selection and, as you would expect to hear after the pick, Flaming insists their choice of high schooler Jay O'Brien was a surprise opportunity.
"We had tried all week to move up half a dozen positions to be able to select him but simply couldn't get anything done," Flaming said, "I really expected that a couple of teams ahead of us were going to choose him just based on how similarily we've drafted over the years. But when Reykjavik, Banff and Edmonton all went in different directions...it was a pleasant surprise for us."
O'Brien had unbelievable numbers playing at Thayer Academy last year, scoring 43 goals and 80 points in just 30 games. That production saw him get a rare invite from the US-NTDP to play a stretch of games with them as well. Now finished playing for former NHLer Tony Amonte at Thayer, O'Brien is headed to Providence College for the coming season.
"People will say that he posted those numbers playing high school hockey and not major junior or the USHL and that's fair, but we think he will transition really well to the college game, play 2-3 years with the Friars and then be ready for us," said Flaming.
Acadia had five selections to make in the 2nd round.
38th overall: Jonny Tychonick (D) - The defenceman from Calgary, AB has spent the last couple of seasons in the BCHL with the Pentiction Vees where he was a point per game player in 2017-18. His performance earned him a spot on Canada's U18 squad in late April. This year he is headed to the University of North Dakota.
40th overall: Jack Drury (F) - The son of former NHLer Ted Drury and the nephew of Chris Drury, Jack is a versatile, character forward. Skating is average but hockey sense and his production make up for any other deficiencies. Drury set a new USHL record with a 22-game scoring streak and is now headed to play college hockey at Harvard.
44th overall: Calen Addison (D) - An elite offensive defenceman at the junior level, Addison has to sort out the defensive side of his position but has the potential to do that this year in Lethbridge. A bit undersized at 5'11, Addison is quick with the puck, a fast skater and a dynamo on the power play.
52nd overall: Riley Stotts (F) - Last season, Stotts began the year with the powerhouse Swift Current Broncos but was buried on their depth chart. After he was dealt to the rebuilding Calgary Hitmen, his ice time and production went through the roof. From 3 points in 22 games with the Broncos to 17 goals and 41 points in 47 games with Calgary. Stotts will be a top line player for the Hitmen this season.
55th overall: Sampo Ranta (F) - At 6'2 and 190 lbs, the Finnish forward already has pro size. Ranta began the season slowly with the USHL's Sioux City Musketeers and wasn't living up to pre-season expectations. By the end of the year he had scored 23 goals and 37 points in 53 games plus appeared in the World U18s for Finland. He was originally set to join the Univeristy of Wisconsin but has detoured to join the Minnesota Golden Gophers for 2018-19.
Acadia made five more selections on draft day after completing a pair of deals to add late round picks, and one more swap to jetison three of those acquired picks.
81st overall: Cole Fonstad (F) - One of the most overlooked draft eligible prospects from the WHL last year, Fonstad had an impressive campaign with the Prince Albert Raiders. The Saskatchewan prodcut scored 21 times and totalled 73 points in 72 games for the Raiders. Undersized, Fonstad has already picked up 5 points through the first two games of the new WHL season.
110th overall: Jermaine Loewen (F) - The 6'4, 220 lbs power forward from Jamaica has an amazing backstory. Orphaned by his birth parents as an infant, Loewen was adopted by a Canadian couple when he was 5, didn't start playing hockey until he was 10 and made the roster of the Kamloops Blazers at 16. Last season Loewen's production jumped from 6 goals and 17 points to 36 goals and 64 points. Loewen is now entering his final year of junior eligibility with Kamloops.
139th overall: David Tendeck (G) - The only goaltender chosen this weekend by the Bears, Tendeck is coming off of a strong season with the vancouver Giants. The local product was one of the main reasons why the Giants made it back to the post season for the first time in years and he's posted back to back wins to begin the 2018-19 campaign with Vancouver.
143rd overall: Trey Fix-Wolansky (F) - At 5'7 and 182 lbs, Fix-Wolansky is not built like the ideal pro hockey player. But what he lacks in size he makes up for in talent. Fix-Wolansky is a unbelievabley creative forward who can set up scoring opportunities out of nothing and possesses a deadly accurate shot of his own. The forward notched 89 points last season and is a favorite to finish in the top 5 of WHL scoring this year.
168th overall: Gavin Hain (F) - Another average sized forward with some skill, Hain played on the second line for the strongest edition of US-NTDP U18 squad in years. His production was respectable (15G, 35 Pts) but overshadowed by the stars on the top line. Hain will dress as a freshman along side Jonny Tychonick at the University of North Dakota this coming season.
The biggest deal the Bears completed was a couple of weeks ago when they moved winger James Neal to the St. Louis Spartans. In moving Neal, Acadia aquired a pair of 2nd round picks, one for this year that was used to select Tychonick, and the other for 2019. Asked why he felt the need to trade the veteran scorer, Flaming cited team depth.
"When we projected our line up this year, we saw Brock Boeser, Mikko Rantanen and Jordan Eberle all slotting ahead of Neal on our depth chart," said Flaming, "Having a guy of his calibre on our fourth line wouldn't have been good for him and might have led to issues in the room so we were proactive and moved him to a club where he will fit in higher, as he deserves to."
During the draft, Acadia sent prospect forward Boo Nieves to Dublin for a pair of 2018 picks used to take Tendeck and Fix-Wolansky.
"We identified a couple of players we wanted to select and when we looked at our depth chart, we don't see Boo cracking our line up any time soon so felt it was a move that made sense for us."
In a curious decision, Flaming also sent veteran defenceman Dan Girardi to the Philadelphia FireAnts for a 6th and 7th round pick which he then packaged and dealt to Seattle for a 5th in 2019 and a 5th in 2020. Acadia also parted with another 6th round pick in 2018 in the swap with the Grunge.
"I'll be honest, as we were making the deal with Philly, there were 5 players left on our draft list," Flaming said, "We made that deal and the one with Dublin at the exact same time so added 4 picks at once. We grabbed two guys and then saw the other 3 on our list all get chosen so we no longer needed the remaining picks. I got a call from [Seattle GM] Phil and so we made the deal."
So in the end, Girardi ended up being traded for a pair of 5th round picks which may not seem like enough for someone with his resumé. However, Flaming argued that for his club it was more about addition by subtraction.
"We wish Dan the best and thank him for his contributions to our team over the last three years including our Continental cup with in 2015," Flaming said, "However, his contract was a restriction that removing allows us to bring in both Brandon Montour and Shayne Gostisbehere full this year which we feel is a bigger plus for us."
- Acadia lost back up goaltender Jacob Markstrom to the Seattle Grunge in the expansion draft. That leaves starter Braden Holtby as the team's only netminder with SICHL experience. Expect Acadia to address that by the start of the season.
- The Bears were sad to see Markstrom go but were happier that veteran defenceman Justin Braun was not taken. Acadia sees Braun as a premier shutdown defenceman on an extremely affordable contract.