The Valley Wildcats got “exactly what we wanted” at the Maritime Hockey League draft in Summerside, PEI on June 14.
Five defencemen, three forwards and two goalies became Wildcats property, and head coach Nick Greenough couldn’t be happier.
“We addressed all our needs going into this draft and we’re really excited about our picks,” Greenough said. “I think we’ve built a strong team for well into the future.”
First pick for the Wildcats was Brandon Worthen from the Newbridge Gladiators, who was the fourth overall pick. Worthen, who will turn 17 next month, is a defenceman from Dartmouth.
“Brandon Worthen was our first pick, he was a draft pick of the Moosehead, and if he doesn’t play for them next year, I’m sure he’ll be suiting up for us.”
In the second round, the Wildcats chose Cape Breton West forward Josh Stewart.
“The young Josh Stewart kid from Cape Breton West was a real good pick, he’s a real good player,” Greenough said. “But really, if any of them come ready to play to our camp, they have a good shot at making the team.”
The Wildcats did not have a pick in the third round, but had two in the second round. They chose Kentville native Eli Hughes who spent last season as a forward with the midget Wildcats, and Iain Gamba, a defenceman from the St. John's Maple Leafs in Newfoundland.
“We got a couple of midget Wildcat players, and we were happy about that. We’ve seen them develop over the last couple of years and I’m sure they will make a good contribution to our club,” Greenough said.
In round five, the Wildcats picked defenceman Nathan Sanderson, who played for Stanstead College last season. The round six pick was also a defender, Nicolas Welsh. Round seven pick was from the Kensington Wild on PEI, goalie Cameron Visser.
The eighth round pick was Dominic O'Halloran, a forward who played for Rothesay in NB last year. O'Halloran hails from Kentville.
The ninth round pick was another forward, Adam Caines. He spent last year with the St. John's Maple Leafs in NL. The 10th round pick is another goalie, Ryan Huestis, who played for Lockview High school last year. In back-to-back picks, the Wildcats also chose defenceman Brandon Sarloos of Appleby College.
“One thing I wanted to do going into this was add depth to all three positions, and I think we did great with that,” Greenough said. “We have some good goaltenders now, but wanted to get a few more goaltenders on our protected list. They’ll probably be playing midget this year, but we’ll be looking to them to fill a hole in the future.”
Several midget Wildcats were also drafted. In the fourth round, forward Michael Dill was picked by the Pictou County Weeks Crushers. Forward Alex Rawding was drafted in the fifth round by the Yarmouth Mariners. Forward Ryan Parker went in the seventh round and will play for the Bridgewater Lumberjacks next year.
Having a strong team is even more important this season, as a new playoff format, which eliminates the miniseries between the fourth- and fifth-place teams in the Eastlink Division, was approved during the league’s annual general meeting June 13.
The Wildcats squeaked into the playoffs this year after defeating the Yarmouth Mariners in the miniseries in March.
“That’s part of hockey,” Greenough said when asked about how he felt about the playoff change. “We expect to be further up in the standings and make the playoffs this year.”