Thursday, May 5, 2011

Blazers take Manitoba product in first round

Daily News Sports Reporter
Any stress Jordan Thomson felt on Thursday was of his own doing, and it didn't last very long.
Thomson, a 15-year-old from Wawanesa, Man., was the Kamloops Blazers' first selection in the WHL's bantam draft, held Thursday in Calgary. Thomson went fourth overall, the highest the Blazers have ever selected in the first round.
It was a self-proclaimed “great day” for the 5-foot-11, 165-pound defenceman, but it started a little earlier than he might have liked.
Thomson had been nervous a few days prior to the draft, but slept like a log Wednesday night.
The only problem?
“I got up a bit too early,” admitted Thomson, who got out of bed at around 7 a.m., then had to kill 2-1/2 hours before the Calgary Hitmen made the draft's first selection, forward Jake Virtanen of Abbotsford.
Fortunately for Thomson, he didn't have to wait long once the draft started.
“I was pretty nervous,” Thomson said. “But more so four or five days before. I couldn't sleep. But last night, I actually slept really well.”
The top three picks in the draft went as expected - after Virtanen, the Swift Current Broncos took Calgary defenceman Brycen Martin and the Lethbridge Hurricanes selected defenceman Ryan Pilon of Duck Lake, Sask.
Thomson, who was the third-ranked defenceman heading into the draft, was chosen fourth.
He certainly wasn't surprised at being drafted early - he took the day off school and was watching the webcast - but he was prepared to wait a little longer than he had to Thursday.
“Everyone was saying (between) seven (and) 10, seven to 10,” Thomson said. “So I was expecting to go seven to 10. Then my named popped up at four . . .”
That brought about a celebration from his family and a phone call from the Blazers, who told Thomson they like his style of play.
“I'm mostly an offensive defenceman,” Thomson explained. “I can jump in and jump out . . . I'm solid defensively.
“Hopefully I have a little more growing to do,” he added, noting that he's already taller than his father, Brian, who stands 5-foot-8.
Thomson was one of only two players in Western Canada to play midget AAA as a 14-year-old. He starred for the Brandon-based Southwest Cougars of the Manitoba AAA Midget Hockey League, finishing with 16 points, 14 of them assists, and 42 penalty minutes in 40 games.
The Cougars won the league's West Division, but were swept out of the league final by the Winnipeg Thrashers, who went on to win the Telus Cup national championship in St. John's, N.L., last month.
All in all, it was a great experience for Thomson, who plans to play for the Cougars again next season.
“It was a great experience,” he said, “playing against bigger, smarter players. I had to pick up my game . . . it definitely made me better.”
Thomson already was thinking about the future Thursday, but not before celebrating with his family in Brandon.
Wawanesa, which is about 50 kilometres southeast of Brandon, is home to about 500 people and, most notably, the Wawanesa Insurance Co., which is housed in “the biggest building in town,” according to Thomson.
Because there's not a lot going on there, Thomson and about six or seven relatives from Wawanesa and Virden, which is about an hour west of Brandon on the Trans-Canada Highway, were to converge in Brandon for dinner.
Thomson will spend part of the summer at his family's cabin on Clear Lake, located about 100 km north of Brandon, before hitting the gym.
“I'll be at the lake for a bit, then it's back to Brandon to work out for the summer,” he said.

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