Neepawa Natives are draft ready

Hundreds of hours spent on long roads and in cold arenas across the prairies will finally pay off this weekend for the Neepawa Natives at the Manitoba Junior Hockey League (MJHL) Bantam Draft.

The annual event, which is set for Sunday, June 4 in Winnipeg, will feature all 11 MJHL clubs selecting 66 Manitoba players born in the year 2002. In a media release, league commissioner Kim Davis noted that the draft is always a special event, in that it propels teams forward when they select young players with the potential to develop into stars on their MJHL clubs.

For this year, Davis announced that the league has partnered with Hockey Tech to assist in the real time operation of the draft proceedings. Hockey Tech will provide computer software enabling automatic updates to teams on player availability. It’ll also maintain a draft website for media and fans to reference.

As for Neepawa, the team will select fourth overall in the first round, with additional picks in subsequent rounds. Natives general manager Myles Cathcart said that scouting staff had been busy throughout the season, watching prospects and speaking with those that the club have an interest in.  He stated that head scout and director of player personnel Byron Billett, along with the rest of the scouting team, have been working diligently and tirelessly compiling notes on those players. The scouts then sent the information to coaches and management, who proceeded to create a master list that they’ll take with them to the draft. This player wish list are the building blocks for the franchise moving forward.

Byron Billett noted that while he and the rest of the scouting staff have been in regular communications with Cathcart and head coach Dustin Howden throughout the year, a face to face meeting also occurred on May 30. That gathering was the final opportunity for everyone to talk about the prospects and review the selection list.

As for draft day on June 4, the staff will be present in Winnipeg. Cathcart said the selection process is an exciting time for the entire organization, as it represents the future of the team and finalizes the hard work put in by all the staff during the hockey season.

Heading into the draft weekend, the team remained optimistic that they’ll be able to find some talented players from this very solid draft class.

In the 2017 draft, Neepawa has seven draft choices in total, their six assigned picks as well as the rights to the Selkirk Steeler’s six round pick, through a previous trade. The Waywayseecappo Wolverines have the first selection in the draft.