Over the years, the BCHL has built a rich history of players being selected at the NHL Draft. From the first player from the league being selected in the 1975 draft to having three first-rounders in the same draft in 2016, the BCHL has had a presence on draft day for over 40 years.
With the 2020 NHL Entry Draft set to begin today, we’re taking a look back at some of the best years at the draft for the BCHL.
2019 NHL Entry Draft – Vancouver, B.C.
Last year’s draft was a banner year for the BCHL. It saw the highest pick of a BCHL player since 2016 and also the eight total players from the league was the most since 2005. Another four incoming players were selected, as well as two others that had previously played in the BCHL.
- Alex Newhook (Victoria Grizzlies) – 1st round (16th overall), Colorado Avalanche: The Avs have been known to select BCHL players in recent years, so it was no surprise Newhook didn’t get past them at 16th overall. In his draft year, Newhook won the BCHL scoring race with over 100 points and was named league MVP. His stock has only risen since then after his outstanding freshman year at Boston College where he had 42 points in 34 games. He was named Hockey East Rookie of the Year and also won the Tim Taylor Award for the top freshman in all of NCAA hockey.
- Alexander Campbell (Victoria Grizzlies) – 3rd round (65th overall), Nashville Predators: Campbell won the Bruce Allison Memorial Trophy for BCHL Rookie of the Year in his draft year. He moved on to play in the USHL last year and is set to begin is college career at Clarkson University in 2020-21.
- Layton Ahac (Prince George Spruce Kings) – 3rd round (86th overall), Vegas Golden Knights: Ahac was a key part of the Spruce Kings dominant Fred Page Cup championship team that went 16-1 in the 2019 playoffs to capture the first title in franchise history. He had a strong regular season that year, but really stepped up in the playoffs, playing at a point-per-game clip with 17 in 17 contests. Last year, he played his freshman season at Ohio State University.
- Carter Berger (Victoria Grizzlies) – 4th round (106th overall), Florida Panthers: Berger played three years in the BCHL, led all defencemen in goals in his draft year and was named a First-Team All-Star. He had a strong freshman season last year with the University of Connecticut, scoring twice and adding eight assists for 10 points in his first campaign. He was the third Grizzlies player selected in 2019.
- Harrison Blaisdell (Chilliwack Chiefs) – 5th round (134th overall), Winnipeg Jets: Blaisdell was the top goal scorer on the 2018-19 regular-season champion Chiefs with 33 markers. He got off to a strong start last year at the University of North Dakota, notching four points in his first three games, including two goals. He finished the year with 12 points in 32 games.
- Logan Neaton (Prince George Spruce Kings) – 5th round (144th overall), Winnipeg Jets: Neaton was the second BCHL player chosen by the Jets in the fifth round, joining Blaisdell. He was a beast for Prince George in 2018-19, leading the league with a 1.92 goals-against average and five shutouts in the regular season. Neaton was even better in the playoffs where he went 16-1 with a 1.46 goals-against and a .940 save percentage, leading the Spruce Kings to a Fred Page Cup title. He saw limited action in his freshman year at UMass-Lowell, but is expected to have a larger role his sophomore season.
- Kevin Wall (Chilliwack Chiefs) – 6th round (181st overall), Carolina Hurricanes: Wall led all BCHL rookies with 31 goals and was named a First-Team All-Star and a member of the All-Rookie Team in 2018-19. Last year, he began play at Penn State University where he had two goals and seven assists in 26 games.
- Massimo Rizzo (Penticton Vees) – 7th round (216th overall), Carolina Hurricanes: The Hurricanes took BCHL players in both the sixth and seventh rounds. Rizzo dealt with injuries in his draft year, which limited him to 37 regular-season games with the Vees, although he still managed to put up 40 points. Last summer, he was traded to the Coquitlam Express where he played his final BCHL season for the league’s top team. Rizzo finished 2019-20 with with 44 points in 42 games, including a career-best 19 goals. He recently de-committed to the University of North Dakota and will hope to join another NCAA Division I program once play resumes.
2016 NHL Entry Draft – Buffalo, N.Y.
If we’re going quality over quantity, this could be the best draft in BCHL history. Only three players from the league were selected, but all three went in the first round, which sets the standard for the most in a single draft.
- Tyson Jost (Penticton Vees) – 1st round (10th overall), Colorado Avalanche: After a solid showing for Team Canada at the U18 World Championships, Jost shot up the draft rankings and became the third-highest pick in BCHL history and the third ever to go in the top-10. He played the following season at the University of North Dakota and has since been a regular in the Avalanche lineup.
- Dante Fabbro (Penticton Vees) – 1st round (17th overall), Nashville Predators: The fourth-highest BCHL player to be selected and the second-highest defenceman behind former Vernon Laker Jason Marshall in 1989, Fabbro went on to play three years at Boston University and also won a gold medal at the 2018 World Junior Championship with Team Canada. He signed his entry-level contract this past March and finished the season in Nashville, getting in four regular-season games and six postseason contests.
- Dennis Cholowski (Chilliwack Chiefs) – 1st round (20th overall), Detroit Red Wings: After being drafted out of Chilliwack, Cholowski took an unusual path to the pros. He played the following season at St. Cloud State University, then played in the Western Hockey League (WHL) in 2017-18, before making the Red Wings out of camp last season, where he split time between the NHL club and the Grand Rapids Griffins of the AHL.
2007 NHL Entry Draft – Columbus, Ohio
This draft has both quality and quantity. At the top, you have two first-rounders, including the highest-ever selection out of the BCHL and you have a late-round pick that is one of the league’s most prolific alums. Plus, the seven total players selected are tied for third-most in BCHL history.
- Kyle Turris (Coquitlam Express) – 1st round (3rd overall), Phoenix Coyotes: Heading into the draft ranked as the number-one North American prospect by NHL Central Scouting, Turris remains the highest-ever selected player out of the BCHL. After his draft year, he played one year at the University of Wisconsin, won a gold medal at the World Juniors then finished the season in the NHL with the Coyotes. Now an 11-year veteran of the NHL, Turris is playing for his third team, going from the Coyotes to the Ottawa Senators and now suiting up for the Nashville Predators. He’s also represented Canada at the World Hockey Championships three times, including being named team captain in the most recent tournament in May.
- Riley Nash (Salmon Arm Silverbacks) – 1st round (21st overall), Edmonton Oilers: Nash played three years at Cornell University after his draft year and was then traded from Edmonton to the Carolina Hurricanes. He played one year in the AHL for the Charlotte Checkers before making his NHL debut in the 2011-12 season. Now nine years into his pro career, Nash has played for the Hurricanes, the Boston Bruins and most recently the Columbus Blue Jackets.
- Casey Pierro-Zabotel (Merritt Centennials) – 3rd round (80th overall), Pittsburgh Penguins: After leading the BCHL in scoring in his draft year with 115 points, Pierro-Zabotel split the following season between Merritt and the WHL’s Vancouver Giants. He would play one more year with the Giants before beginning his pro career where he has mostly spent time in the ECHL.
- Corbin McPherson (Cowichan Valley Capitals) – 3rd round (87th overall), New Jersey Devils: McPherson played one more year in Cowichan after being drafted then spent four years at Cornell University, playing his senior season as team captain. He went on to play four years with the Devil’s AHL affiliate in Albany before retiring in 2016.
- Ben Winnett (Salmon Arm Silverback) – 4th round (104th overall), Toronto Maple Leafs: The second Silverback taken in this draft, Winnett played four years at the University of Michigan before playing one professional season in the Central Hockey League.
- Jamie Benn (Victoria Grizzlies) – 5th round (129th overall), Dallas Stars: Possibly the biggest steal of the 2007 draft, Benn has since established himself as an NHL superstar. After his draft year, Benn played two seasons in the WHL for the Kelowna Rockets and also won a gold medal at the 2009 World Juniors. Since making his NHL debut with the Stars in 2009, Benn has become one of the league’s best power forwards and has been Dallas’ team captain since the 2014-15 season. Benn won the Art Ross trophy as the NHL’s leading scorer when he had 87 points in the 2014-15 season and he also made Canada’s 2014 men’s Olympic team where he won a gold medal.
- Justin Courtnall (Coquitlam Express) – 7th round (210th overall), Tampa Bay Lightning: Courtnall played two more seasons in the BCHL after being drafted, joining the Victoria Grizzlies from 2007 to 2009. He went on to play three years at Boston University before playing four more seasons as a pro split between the AHL and the ECHL.
2004 NHL Entry Draft – Raleigh, N.C.
The 2004 draft is known as the Alexander Ovechkin draft, but this was also a good year for the BCHL as the league fell one short of the record for most players taken with 10, but set the record for most first-rounders with two (since broken in 2016). We also saw two players from the same BCHL team taken in the first round for the first time ever (would be repeated in 2016 with Jost and Fabbro) and four in total from the same team.
- Travis Zajac (Salmon Arm Silverbacks) – 1st round (20th overall), New Jersey Devils: Zajac lit up the BCHL in his draft year, finishing second in scoring with 112 points. He played two years at the University of North Dakota before making his Devils debut in the 2006-07 season. At 34-years-old and heading into his 14th NHL season, all with New Jersey, Zajac is still a productive NHL player.
- Kris Chucko (Salmon Arm Silverbacks) – 1st round (24th overall), Calgary Flames: The second Silverbacks player taken in the first round, Chucko played two seasons at the University of Minnesota before embarking on a five-year AHL career. He managed to get called up for a pair of games for Calgary in the 2008-09 season.
- Andrew Sarauer (Langley Hornets) -4th round (125th overall), Vancouver Canucks: After he was drafted, Sarauer, who has dual citizenship between Canada and Hungary, played four years at Northern Michigan University and then moved on to play several seasons split between the AHL and ECHL. In 2013-14, he went to play in Hungary and has been playing club and international hockey there ever since.
- Jordan Foote (Nanaimo Clippers) – 6th round (169th overall), New York Rangers: Foote played four years at Michigan Tech University after being drafted before playing three professional seasons in minor leagues across North America. He retired in 2011.
- Mike Santorelli (Vernon Vipers) – 6th round (178th overall), Nashville Predators: Santorelli exceled at Northern Michigan University after his draft year and, after three NCAA seasons, made his professional debut with the Predators AHL squad, the Milwaukee Admirals, in 2007. He went onto play eight NHL seasons, suiting up for Nashville, the Florida Panthers, the Winnipeg Jets, the Vancouver Canucks, the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Anaheim Ducks before playing his last professional season in Switzerland in 2016-17.
- Tyler Eckford (Surrey Eagles) – 7th round (217th overall), New Jersey Devils: After being drafted, Eckford played one more season in Surrey then moved on to three years at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks. He went on to play six seasons in the AHL, getting called up to the Devils for seven games along the way.
- Brandon Yip (Coquitlam Express) – 8th round (239th overall), Colorado Avalanche: Yip returned to Coquitlam for a year before making the jump to college where he played four years at Boston University and won a national title his final year in 2009. He made his NHL debut with the Avalanche the next season and enjoyed a six-year career in North American playing in the Avalanche, Nashville Predators and Phoenix Coyotes organizations. He made the move overseas in 2015 and has played in Germany and in China since.
- Spencer Dillon (Salmon Arm Silverbacks) – 9th round (267th overall), Florida Panthers: The third Silverback taken in 2004, Dillon played the next year for the Green Bay Gamblers in the USHL before playing two years at Northern Michigan University.
- Matt Siddall (Powell River Kings) – 9th round (270th overall), Atlanta Thrashers: Siddall played for three BCHL teams in his draft year (Powell River, Victoria Salsa, Langley Hornets) and produced at each stop. He then played four years at Northern Michigan University before playing three professional season in North America, mostly at the ECHL level. He made the jump overseas in 2011 and spent time playing in Great Britain, Croatia, Italy, Austria and Germany.
- Craig Switzer (Salmon Arm Silverbacks) – 9th round (275th overall), Nashville Predators: The fourth Silverback taken in the draft, Switzer jumped to the NCAA after his draft year and spent four years at the University of New Hampshire. He played three years in the ECHL after college then played in Denmark, Austria and Japan before retiring in 2015.
2003 NHL Entry Draft – Nashville, Tenn.
This year set the mark for most BCHL players selected in a single draft with 11. It’s also a unique year in that it saw two ninth-rounders from the league end up playing significant time in the NHL and it saw a future Canadian country-music star get drafted by his hometown team.
- Ryan O’Byrne (Nanaimo Clippers) – 3rd round (79th overall), Montreal Canadiens: O’Byrne spent three years at Cornell University after being drafted, then played a year in the AHL before starting a six-year NHL career split between Montreal, the Colorado Avalanche and the Toronto Maple Leafs. He played the last three years of his career in the Czech Republic, Switzerland and Sweden before retiring in 2016.
- Byron Bitz (Nanaimo Clippers) – 3rd round (107th overall), Boston Bruins: After his draft year, Bitz played four years at Cornell University then went on to play a four-year professional career with the Bruins and Vancouver Canucks organizations.
- Tyson Strachan (Vernon Vipers) – 5th round (137th overall), Carolina Hurricanes: Strachan went on to play four years at Ohio State University after being drafted, then enjoyed a 10-year career playing NHL and AHL games for the St. Louis Blues, Florida Panthers, Washington Capitals, Buffalo Sabres and Minnesota Wild organizations. He finished his career playing in England in 2017-18.
- Brady Murray (Salmon Arm Silverbacks) – 5th round (152nd overall), Los Angeles Kings: Murray played two years at the University of North Dakota after his draft year and also won a gold medal with team USA at the 2004 World Juniors. He went from college to play in Switzerland for two years, played one season in the Kings organization in 2007-08, including four games with the NHL club, before returning to Switzerland for another seven years.
- Zach Tarkir (Chilliwack Chiefs) – 5th round (167th overall), New Jersey Devils: After being drafted, Tarkir played four years at Northern Michigan University before playing three seasons split between the AHL and ECHL. In 2009 he won the Kelly Cup as the ECHL champions with the South Carolina Stingrays. He jumped to Germany for the 2010-11 season, returned to the ECHL the following year and finished up his career in Denmark and Sweden.
- Mike Hamilton (Merritt Centennials) – 6th round (175th overall), Atlanta Thrashers: Hamilton played four seasons at the University of Maine following his draft year, then played six professional seasons split between the AHL, ECHL, Italy and England.
- Chad Brownlee (Vernon Vipers) – 6th round (190th overall), Vancouver Canucks: Now best known as a successful country-music artist, Brownlee was once an NHL prospect drafted by his home team in Vancouver. He played four years at Minnesota State University following his draft year and played one season in the ECHL before switching gears to country music.
- Brett Hemingway (Coquitlam Express) – 7th round (225th overall), Colorado Avalanche: Following the draft, Hemingway played four seasons at the University of New Hampshire, then went on to play three ECHL seasons, one in England and another in the Central Hockey League.
- Matt Zaba (Vernon Vipers) – 8th round (231st overall), Los Angeles Kings: Zaba went to Colorado College for four years after being drafted, then spent three years playing in the minors in North America. His big break came in the 2009-10 season when he was with the New York Rangers organization and he made his lone NHL appearance in relief for Henrik Lundqvist against the Montreal Canadiens. He played out the last five years of his career in Italy and Austria.
- Tanner Glass (Nanaimo Clippers) – 9th round (265th overall), Florida Panthers: Glass played four years at Dartmouth College after his draft, then went on to play over 500 NHL games over an 11-year career split between the Panthers, Vancouver Canucks, Winnipeg Jets, Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Rangers and Calgary Flames. He played this past year in France and retired at the conclusion of the season.
- David Jones (Coquitlam Express) – 9th round (288th overall), Colorado Avalanche: After being drafted, Jones played three years at Dartmouth College then played nine professional seasons, suiting up for the Avalanche, Calgary Flames and Minnesota Wild. Of all the BCHL players selected in 2003, he played the second-most games.
- Greg Agar (Merritt Centennials) was the first BCHL player ever selected in the NHL draft, 10th round (162nd overall) by the California Golden Seals in 1975
- Ray Ferraro (Penticton Knights) was selected in the 5th round (88th overall) by the Hartford Whalers in 1982
- Brett Hull (Penticton Knights) was selected in the 6th round (117th overall) by the Calgary Flames in 1984
- Jason Marshall (Vernon Lakers) was the first BCHL player selected in round one of the NHL draft, ninth overall by the St. Louis Blues in 1989
- The highest player selected in last year’s draft was Jonny Tychonick (Penticton Vees) who was selected in the 2nd round (48th overall) by the Ottawa Senators
- The most BCHL players selected in a single decade was 59 between 2000 and 2009
- The Penticton Vees/Knights/Panthers lead the way with 32 players selected in total
- There has been at least one BCHL player selected at the NHL draft since 1992 and only once was a player from the league not selected since 1980
Resource: Brian Wiebe (BCHL Network): https://www.bchlnetwork.ca/