Reaching For The Stars

The Banff Rockies 2023 SICHL Entry draft could be summed up in one word, "reach".
by Ed Whalen | October 13, 2023, 12:16 AM ET

After picking 4 times in the first round of the 2022 Toronto Summit Entry Draft, the Banff Rockies were going into this years draft with no first round picks. GM Constable was not enjoying that reality in what was shaping up as a very good draft year. With not a lot of movement in the first round this year, it was looking like the Rockies would be shut out of the first round unless they did something drastic, and that they did. In a move that seemed to come out of left field, the Rockies pulled the trigger on a deal to move into the 20th overall selection of the draft. How'd they do it? With a lot of interest coming from The Jacksonville Gators over prized defenceman Lane Hutson, GM Constable, not seeing any other way back into the first round begrudgingly moved the record breaking superstar BU dman. To move such an elite piece for a 20th overall pick, Banff must have had their eye on someone, and they did. In what seemed to shock the SICHL community, the Rockies selected goalie Michael Hrabal. Hrabal was ranked 38th by SICHL Central Scouting and was the second highest ranked goalie behind Acadia pick Adam Gajan. Even with Banff holding the 36th overall pick, GM Constable thought he needed to jump up, way up to have the chance to select Hrabal. Was this a reach? Many in the SICHL draftrooms thought so. But Banff was sticking to its guns. They were very high on Hrabal, a huge goalie at 6'6 who battles in the crease to keep aware of the puck at all times. "There were 5 goalies we liked a lot in the draft that we would have taken by pick 36 and Hrabal was the clear leader of the bunch in our opinion. Heads above the rest you might say."

3 of the other 4 goalies Banff was quite interested in went before the frnachise was able to pick again at 36. The team was ecstatic that Jacob Fowler was still available at 36 and selected him. "We wanted two goalies in this group and we feel we got the best of the bunch." Fowler once again was a very big reach. Ranked 69th by SICHL Central Scouting, the Rockies once again heard the murmers from the crowd in the draft room. "Him?" But Banff was very happy to select the USHL goaltender of the year and USHL playoff MVP. "We believed Fowler was the most underated of all the goalies in the draft and truth be told had him ranked second in our own goalie rankings only to Hrabal. 

That was twice now the Rockies had jumped up to almost half of the ranking number to select a player. Surely the next selection would be more in the range of the SICHL rankings. But no, The Rockies next selection at 55th overall was Alexander Rykov who SICHL Central Scouting had ranked 100th. "What the heck are they doing over there!" was heard quite loudly in the rooms. "Reach!" was not well hidden soon after. But GM Constable was quite high on Rykov and loved his combination of slick hands and playmaking abilities. "We felt the Russian factor and the injury he sustained midseason that kept him out a number of games in his draft year held the scouting community back on a player we feel is quite skilled.

At this point the Rockies stopped "reaching" for players and with the 59th pick, they made Lenni Hameenaho a memeber of the Banff Rockies. Hammenaho was well known going into the draft for his hockey IQ, especially away from the puck. However, This year in the Top Finish pro league, Liiga, he has 8 goals already in his first 11 games. Banff is very happy with his development and expect him to play another year there before coming over and attempting to challenge for a roster spot. Hameenaho was actually ranked 58th.

In the 4th round Banff jumped again at a player ranked much lower and once again it was a goalie. Yegor Yegorov who was ranked 176th went 96th to the Rockies. Yegorov who was one of the youngest players in this year's draft,  didn't play a lot last year in the MHL, but when he did, he shone. Banff is hoping to see a lot more of him in the next couple of years.

Cole Knuble, the son of Mike Knuble was an overager in this draft and played very well in the USHL last year putting up 66 points in 57 games for Fargo. He was a favorite of coaches at the summer evaluation camp for the USWJ Team and is expected to challenge for a spot this Christmas. Banff selected Cole with the 140th selection. He had been ranked 103rd.

Banff finished off the draft with Dman Chase Cheslock in the 7th round at 183, Cheslock was ranked 154 and is a very physical player who makes life miserable for opposing players who try to come near his net. 

While many look at what Banff came away with as very underwhelming, the Rockies are quite hopeful. Hopeful that these reaches turn into stars... or players, or maybe GHA starters?


(in my best Sea Captain voice) Yarrr, I don't know what I'm doing.


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