Sunday, June 27, 2010

Bonner changes focus to import draft

By GREGG DRINNAN
Daily News Sports Editor
With the NHL draft in his rearview mirror, Craig Bonner's focus now is on Tuesday's CHL import draft.
Bonner, the general manager of the Kamloops Blazers, will exercise one selection in the draft that is to begin at 6 a.m. Bonner, with the 22nd pick, will make his pick at 10 a.m.
The Blazers came out of last season with two Slovakian forwards - freshman Matej Bene and sophomore Dalibor Bortnak - on their roster. Bene was released after producing just 14 points in 59 games, but Bortnak will return for a third season.
Bortnak, 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds, came up with 27 points in 45 games and showed marked improvement after missing the regular season's first 27 games with a spleen injury suffered during the club's intrasquad game.
The Prince George Cougars hold the import draft's first selection, followed by the OHL's Sarnia Sting and the QMJHL's Halifax Mooseheads.
Bonner said Sunday that while he is keeping all options open, the club is leaning towards taking a goaltender or a forward. With the acquisition of defenceman Corey Fienhage, who is leaving the U of North Dakota to join the Blazers, Bonner feels they are deep enough on the back end.
While he isn't about to spill the beans, it would seem that a goaltender would be at the top of Bonner's want list. That's because in recent days they have lost two prospects, at least for 2010-11.
Last month, Josh Thorimbert, the SJHL's rookie of the year with the Kindersley Klippers, committed to the Colorado College Tigers. The Blazers had hoped that Thorimbert, 18, would come to camp and challenge veteran Jon Groenheyde, 19, for the starting job.
Now the Blazers have had prospect John Keeney, who is from Twin Peaks, Calif., commit to a second season with the USHL's Omaha Lancers. Keeney, 17, and his parents, Sharon and Mike, met with the Blazers during the NHL draft on the weekend. The meeting was held at the request of the Blazers, not the family, as was reported last week.
The Blazers have two other goaltenders on their protected list - Troy Trombley, a 16-year-old from Sherwood Park, Alta., who has signed a WHL contract, and Taran Kozun, 16, from Nipawin, Sask.
“We would consider a goalie. We're pretty open,” Bonner said. “We've got some names in the (import) draft . . . I've got some different ideas.”
As for the NHL draft, which wrapped on Saturday at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Bonner had said he expected two Blazers to be selected. And he was correct, although it went right down to the wire.
Defenceman Austin Madaisky, who went in as NHL Central Scouting's 57th-ranked North American skater, was taken by the Columbus Blue Jackets with the fourth pick of the fifth round (No. 124).
Left-winger Brendan Ranford, ranked No. 111, went to the Philadelphia Flyers in the seventh round. The Flyers used the draft's second-last pick, No. 209, to take Ranford, a nephew of former NHL goaltender Bill Ranford.
“It was interesting,” Bonner said of the way things went. “It wasn't a total surprise.”
Bonner had been “pretty confident the two guys would get drafted” and was “hopeful that one or two other guys would slide in.”
The latter didn't happen as the NHL's 30 teams combined to take a record 22 U.S. high school players among the 210 selections. All told, 107 CHL players were taken, with 43 of those from the WHL. That latter figure included eight players from the Portland Winterhawks.
Undrafted Blazers like defencemen Josh Caron and Brandon Underwood, centre Chase Schaber, Bortnak and right-winger Jordan DePape are likely to end up with free-agent tryout deals.
Caron already has an offer on the table from the Boston Bruins, but Bonner said the 19-year-old from Campbell River will have more options than that.
“At the end of the day, it's the opportunity you want,” Bonner said.
“It's a little frustrating when you see those Minnesota high school players being drafted.”
Madaisky was one of three major junior defencemen selected by the Blue Jackets. They also took Brandon Archibald, a 6-foot-4, 200-pounder, from the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds with the 94th selection and, at No. 154, grabbed Dalton Prout, 6-foot-3 and 209 pounds, from the Barrie Colts.
While a lot of draft-eligible players spent Saturday hitting the refresh button on their computers, Ranford wasn't one of them. He spent most of the day in bed, having had four wisdom teeth removed Friday.
“I've been sleeping all day,” he said moments after being drafted. “I've been sore . . . sitting in bed. I didn't even watch the draft . . . only a little bit of it.”
Ranford was thrilled to be taken by the Flyers.
“They're a great organization,” he said, noting that the Flyers' style is “kind of the hockey I play . . . don't give a crap about what other people think of you, just work your butt off.”
JUST NOTES: F Riley Nash of Kamloops, who has played three seasons at Cornell, was traded by the Edmonton Oilers to the Carolina Hurricanes for the draft's 46th selection. Edmonton, which hadn't been able to sign Nash, selected Slovakian D Martin Marincin. . . . The Oilers had selected Nash with a first-round pick, 21st overall, in the 2007 draft after he had played a season with the BCHL's Salmon Arm SilverBacks. Last season, Nash had 35 points, including 12 goals, in 30 games with the Big Red. . . . F Luke Walker of the Portland Winterhawks, the son of former Blazers F Gord Walker, was taken by the Colorado Avalanche in the fifth round. Walker, 20, was in the draft for the third time but this was the first time he had been selected.

gdrinnan@kamloopsnews.ca
gdrinnan.blogspot.com

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