(Story and photo courtesy of Perry Bergson, The Brandon Sun) — Jake Chiasson can’t wait to skate for the Brandon Wheat Kings.
A product of Abbotsford, B.C., Chiasson was selected with the 15th overall pick during the Western Hockey League draft in Red Deer, Alta., on Thursday morning.
“I’ve been pretty committed to the WHL for just over a year and a half,” Chiasson said. “It’s the league that best fits my game because I’m a bit of an earlier player to develop. I think if I can step into that league it would be the best opportunity for me.”
The six-foot-one, 162-pound forward scored 20 goals and added 48 assists on the Yale prep school’s bantam team playing right wing after growing up in the game at centre.
He was at home watching the live stream with his family in the living room when he learned the news.
“It’s surreal,” said Chiasson, who served as Yale’s captain and is considered to have elite leadership skills. “You work your whole life, and your whole bantam career I guess for this moment. You put in the work in the gym and off the ice to get here but having said that, it starts now. It’s kind of the end to a new beginning.”
The right-handed shot plans to return to Yale, which is in his hometown of Abbotsford, to play on the midget prep team next season.
The Wheat Kings selected nine other 2003-born players on Thursday, including a trio of second-rounders, forwards Brett Hyland of Edmonton and Dylan James of Calgary as well as defenceman Jacob Hoffrogge of Saskatoon.
The Wheat Kings selected one player each from B.C. and North Dakota, three each from Manitoba and Alberta, and two from Saskatchewan.
General manager Grant Armstrong was pleased with the team’s haul, which ended in the eighth round after the team traded its two 10th rounders to the Portland Winterhawks for a ninth-round pick in 2019. Brandon didn’t have a ninth-round pick.
“It’s Christmas twice a year,” Armstrong said. “The way the draft played out for us really worked well. I thought that we had some great momentum going into the draft from our meetings. We went in with a very positive attitude, we knew we had lots of picks early in the draft and our list was tight. We were able to accomplish what we wanted. The players we got were extremely high end and we were able to get what we needed throughout our lineup.”
Brandon didn’t draft a goalie for the second year in a row, with 2001-born Ethan Kruger set to potentially join the team next season and 2002-born list player Connor Ungar waiting in the wings.
Armstrong chuckled that he was looking to move up in the first round, but would have been looking to pick Chiasson anyway so it was fortunate it didn’t happen.
In fact, no teams moved up in the first round this year on draft day.
He said there are always surprises at the draft, but most of them fell on the happy side for the Wheat Kings this year.
“We were certainly very pleasantly surprised that Jake Chiasson was there when we got the chance to pick him,” Armstrong said. “I didn’t expect that he would fall to us. We certainly had him a lot higher … For me that was the first surprise, but I look at the nine other players who we got and we are just so happy that we got to call out each and every one of their names. Our list was tight and we were able to get what we wanted.”
James was thrilled to be picked. He stayed home from school in the morning to find out where he was going, and was happy with his destination.
“I was sitting on the couch with my mom waiting for my name to pop up and I kind of jumped,” James said. “I was really excited.”
The left-handed shooting left-winger hopes to land a spot with the Calgary Buffaloes midget program next season. James said he sees the ice well, skates well, passes well and is a good leader but said he is working to improve his stick handling and shot release.
He has no doubt where he wants to play.
“It’s the Dub,” he said. “It was a goal to get drafted.”
It’s a similar story for Hoffrogge.
The Florida-born youngster, who was adopted into his Saskatoon home, went to school and found out he had been picked during gym class.
“A lot of people thought I was going to go the NCAA route because I’m American-born but I always wanted to play in the WHL,” Hoffrogge said.
Hoffrogge said he skates and passes well and has a strong hockey IQ, and wants to get stronger and shoot better. He is looking to land a spot with the Saskatoon Contacts AAA midget team.
The right-handed defenceman, who usually plays right defence, is excited about the future.
“I’ve always wanted to get drafted and it felt really good when I heard my friend call my name,” Hoffrogge said. “I’m really excited.”
While Chiasson chuckles about his concerns about Manitoba’s winters, he said he considers the Wheat Kings one of the top producers in the Canadian Hockey League of NHL prospects.
He said he’s continuing to improve his body checking, because with his size he can separate players from the puck, and he said he’s always working on his foot speed.
Brandon’s first-rounder knows what he can bring to the table, and hopes he can display it in Brandon.
“I’m a big, 200-foot player,” Chiasson said. “I really like to bring that to my game. If you focus on your D-zone, you get to move the puck up the ice and have fun in the offensive zone. I like to bring a bit of physicality to my game, and I’m a hard-working goal scorer. I take a lot of pride in leadership. I find if you have a good leadership group, your team will fall into place and sail from there. That’s what I like to bring.”
Brandon Wheat Kings director of scouting Darren Ritchie discusses what he likes about each of the 10 players the team drafted on Thursday.
• 1. (15th) Jake Chiasson (Yale prep)
F, 6-1, 160 pounds, Abbotsford, B.C.
30gp, 20g, 48a, 68p, 26pim
“Leadership. He’s a guy you can build a championship team around. He’s going to be a real good player who can play with our top guys going forward.”
• 2. (24th) Brett Hyland (Northern Alberta prep)
F, 5-11, 159 pounds, Edmonton
17gp, 10g, 25a, 35p, 14pim
“Hard worker, very competitive, smart, good compete level.”
• 2. (37th) Dylan James (Calgary Bisons)
F, 5-10, 151 pounds, Calgary
35gp, 26g, 30a, 56p, 25pim
“Speed. He’s real fast, real skilled, has a real good stick. Good vision. A real fast player.”
• 2. (41st) Jacob Hoffrogge (Saskatoon Contacts)
D, 5-10, 148 pounds, Saskatoon
30gp, 10g, 32a, 42p, 26pim
“A real smooth-skating defenceman. Sees the ice real well, runs the power play. A smart player.’
• 3. (59th) Cabrel LaBossiere (Eastman Selects)
F, 6-4, 188 pounds, Lorette
32gp, 26g, 30a, 56p, 32pim
“A big body, a good stick. Has good hands, good vision. He’s a big, big man.”
• 5. (95th) Owen Weihs (Rink prep)
F, 5-9, 167 pounds, Winnipeg
30gp, 21g, 18a, 39p, 20pim
“Real good shot, real good skater, real smooth, fast skater. Skilled, plays a 200-foot game.”
• 5. (101st) Logen Hammett (Regina Monarchs)
D, 6-0, 160 pounds, Regina
31gp, 13g, 35a, 48p, 28pim
“Good puck-moving guy. Good skater, competes, good on the power play, can get across the offensive blue-line real well.”
• 5. (108th) Jaxon Dube (St. Albert Sabres)
F, 5-11, 167 pounds, St. Albert, Alta.
34gp, 20g, 12a, 32p, 61pim
“A hard-working guy who is hard to play against. He goes to the hard areas, will go stand in front of the net and is a real good net-front guy on the power play. Good competitive player.”
• 6. (125th) Tyler Teasdale (Winnipeg Monarchs)
D, 5-11, 156 pounds, Winnipeg
33gp, 6g, 13a, 19p, 30pim
“Good mobile defenceman. Good vision, real smart. Probably understands what he is and plays within his ability.”
• 8. (169th) Charles Larsen (North Dakota 14)
D, 6-2, 157 pounds, Minot
24gp, 7g, 6a, 13p, 50pim
“Another good-sized body defenceman who moves the puck real well. Good shot. He can skate the puck out of trouble. Heavy shot.”