By GREGG DRINNAN
Daily News Sports Editor
Craig Bonner, the general manager of the Kamloops Blazers, anticipates having two of the WHL team's players selected in this weekend's NHL draft.
After that, well, as he says, it's the NHL draft and anything can happen.
“The draft gets going and sometimes the European thing goes crazy,” Bonner says, “or (there's a run) on Minnesota high schoolers. Every year seems to be different.”
This year's draft runs Friday and Saturday in Los Angeles, and Bonner is certain - or as certain as he can be - that defenceman Austin Madaisky and left-winger Brendan Ranford will be selected.
“I'm pretty confident Madaisky and Ranford are going to go,” he says, before catching himself and softening it a bit. “I think Madaisky and Ranford are going for sure. . . . I'd be shocked if Ranford doesn't go.”
Madaisky and Ranford are eligible for the draft for the first time.
Ranford, the 15th overall selection in the 2007 WHL bantam draft, came into his own after last season's Christmas break. He finished with 65 points, including 29 goals, in 72 games. He picked up 38 of the points, including 18 goals, after the break.
He also played hard virtually every night and proved to be a fearless competitor. He was one of only two Kamloops players, the other being defenceman Bronson Maschmeyer, to play in all 72 regular-season games.
Bonner also has had a lot of conversations with various NHL team scouts and officials and has a feeling that centre Dalibor Bortnak also may be drafted.
Bortnak, a 19-year-old Slovakian, missed the start of his sophomore season after suffering a spleen injury in training camp. But, at 6-foot-4, he has good size and NHL teams covet big centres.
Bortnak wasn't drafted in 2009 but was to have gone to camp with the Edmonton Oilers on a free-agent tryout deal. The spleen injury ruined those plans.
“I've been told by two different teams that he is going to get drafted,” Bonner says of Bortnak. “But that could change.
“But I look at a guy like that. . . . Why wouldn't you draft him?”
There also is speculation that defencemen Josh Caron, 19, and Brandon Underwood, 18, centre Chase Schaber, 19, and right-winger Jordan DePape, 18, could be drafted.
“NHL teams have contacted (head coach Guy Charron) or me about those guys,” Bonner says. “We have a lot of those guys who are in that (later-round) category.”