December 13, 2019

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Winnipeg Ice make number of bold moves at WHL Bantam Draft 

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This article was published 2/5/2019 (225 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Matt Cockell is not one for bold, public pronouncements.

But Thursday, all bets were off. The Winnipeg Ice GM held the No. 1 overall pick in the WHL Bantam Draft and with the status of consensus top prospect Matthew Savoie in doubt, Cockell went ahead and chose the 15-year-old St. Albert, Alta., phenom first and then engineered two major trades that netted him the No. 2 overall choice.

With that second pick, Cockell plucked Conor Geekie, a highly coveted 6-foot-3, 175-pound centre from Strathclair.

Geekie, who turns 15 on Sunday, and Savoie are not eligible to play fulltime in the WHL until the fall of 2020, but the possiblity of having both players in the Winnipeg lineup one day could be a terrifying prospect for opposing coaches.

The Winnipeg Ice used their first overall pick to nab 15-year-old phenom Matthew Savoie from St. Albert, Alta in the WHL Bantam Draft, Wednesday despite his verbal commitment to attend the University of Denver in the 2021-22 season.

JUSTIN KUEBER / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES

The Winnipeg Ice used their first overall pick to nab 15-year-old phenom Matthew Savoie from St. Albert, Alta in the WHL Bantam Draft, Wednesday despite his verbal commitment to attend the University of Denver in the 2021-22 season.

On March 18, however, Savoie made a verbal commitment to attend the University of Denver beginning with the 2021-22 season. Geekie, whose father Craig and oldest brother Morgan played in the WHL, was thrilled to be selected by a team from his home province.

WINNIPEG ICE SELECTIONS (9)

First Round

1. Matthew Savoie, C, St. Albert, Alta. (Northern Alberta X-treme midget prep); 2. Conor Geekie, C, Strathclair (Yellowhead AAA bantam).

First Round

1. Matthew Savoie, C, St. Albert, Alta. (Northern Alberta X-treme midget prep); 2. Conor Geekie, C, Strathclair (Yellowhead AAA bantam).

Fourth Round

68. Rieger Lorenz, C, Calgary, Edge bantam prep.

Sixth Round

120. Daniel Hauser, G, Chestermere, Alta., Edge bantam prep; 127. Brayden Edwards, F, Abbotsford, B.C. (Yale bantam prep).

Seventh Round

142. Hayden Pakkala, C, High River, Alta. (Okotoks AAA bantam).

Eighth Round

156. Josh Mettimano, D, Cochrane, Alta. (Edge bantam prep); 157. Owen Boucher, D, Bonnyville, Alta. (Fort Saskatchewan AAA bantam); 169. Carter Spirig, RW, Peace River, Alta. (Fort Saskatchewan AAA bantam.

Did he have any advance notice the Ice would pick him?

"No, I didn't," said Geekie via telephone while en route to Winkler where he will play doubles at the high school badminton provincials beginning Friday. "I mean, the trade kinda boggled me, too, with everyone else in the hockey world but it was pretty cool. Me and my mom were watching it, right? So when I got to see they made the trade, I had an idea of what was going on. And when they took me I was pretty excited."

Convincing Savoie to sign with the Ice is the essence of Cockell's gamble. But Winnipeg still has time to sell Savoie on its program while also hoping Savoie's talented 17-year-old brother Carter, whose WHL rights were acquired from Regina last month, will join him in the 'Peg.

ICE President and General Manager Matt Cockell, right, pulled off a number of daring trades during the WHL Bantam draft, Wednesday.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

ICE President and General Manager Matt Cockell, right, pulled off a number of daring trades during the WHL Bantam draft, Wednesday.

Matthew Savoie was not immediately available for comment.

"We believe so strongly in what we're doing and the development model we're setting up for all of our players; our philosophy is we're going to take the best player available and trust in our program and what we're doing," said Cockell. "That's the mentality we've had."

Cockell telephoned Matt Savoie, a 5-foot-9, 165-pound centre, and also touched base with Geekie Thursday morning.

"We congratulated him on being taken first overall in the best development league in the world," said Cockell. "It's a real honour and it was a real special day for him. He was certainly excited to be taken first.

"Matt is able to skate and think the game and play at the today's pace, quite frankly, in terms of being a Western Hockey League player. Conor's development path? He's grown four or five inches this year alone — so he needs time to let everything catch up to where he's at. But you look two or three years out and (Savoie and Geekie) might be a very interesting combination."

Conor Geekie of Strathclair, MB was selected second overall by the Winnipeg Ice.

PERRY BERGSON / THE BRANDON SUN FILES

Conor Geekie of Strathclair, MB was selected second overall by the Winnipeg Ice.

Geekie and Savoie have faced each other only once before, going head-to-head at the Canada Winter Games under-16 tournament earlier this year in Red Deer, Alta. Geekie had a goal and Savoie had an assist in a Alberta's 6-5 victory.

MANITOBANS CHOSEN (33)

First Round

2. Winnipeg, Conor Geekie, C, Strathclair (Yellowhead AAA bantam); 6. Brandon, Tyson Zimmer, C, Russell, OHA Penticton bantam prep; 11. Moose Jaw, Denton Mateychuk, D, Dominion City (Eastman AAA bantam).

First Round

2. Winnipeg, Conor Geekie, C, Strathclair (Yellowhead AAA bantam); 6. Brandon, Tyson Zimmer, C, Russell, OHA Penticton bantam prep; 11. Moose Jaw, Denton Mateychuk, D, Dominion City (Eastman AAA bantam).

Second Round

25. Medicine Hat, Cayden Glover, LW, Brandon (Brandon AAA bantam); 29. Seattle, Spencer Penner, D, Blumenort (Eastman AAA bantam); 31. Brandon, Zach Turner, D, Boissevain (Southwest AAA bantam).

Third Round

45. Swift Current, Reid Dyck, G, Winkler (Pembina Valley AAA bantam); 46. Swift Current, Sam Court, D, Winnipeg (Monarchs AAA bantam); 51. Red Deer, Carter Anderson, C, Thompson (RHA bantam prep); 52. Brandon, Jesiah Bennett, RW, Winnipeg (RHA bantam prep); 53. Brandon, Owen Harris, D, Wawanesa (Southwest AAA bantam); 63. Regina, Matthew Kieper, G, Winnipeg (Sharks AAA bantam).

Fourth Round

67. Swift Current, Josh Filmon, C, Winnipeg (RHA bantam prep); 77. Calgary, Ethan Buenaventura, G, Winnipeg (RHA bantam prep).

Fifth Round

89. Saskatoon, Benjamin Saunderson, D, Carberry (Yellowhead AAA bantam); 105. Portland, Ryder Thompson, D, Russell (RHA bantam prep).

Sixth Round

111. Swift Current, Karson King, D, Warren (Interlake AAA bantam); 117. Moose Jaw, Jaden Waddell, D, Winnipeg (RHA bantam prep); 123. Prince Albert, Owen Savoie, G, Winnipeg (Hawks AAA bantam); 125. Spokane, Michael Cicek, F, Winnipeg (Monarchs AAA bantam); 129. Medicine Hat, Ben Bonni, D, Winnipeg (Sharks AAA bantam); 132. Prince Albert, Bryce Warkentine, F, Landmark (Eastman AAA bantam).

Seventh Round

139. Seattle, Kyle Grysiuk, RW, Winnipeg (RHA bantam prep); 147. Spokane, Carson Buydens, Gladstone (Central Plains AAA bantam); 152. Everett, Dexter Whittle, D, Virden (Yellowhead AAA bantam).

Eighth Round

159. Lethbridge, Kaden Dyck, D, Plum Coulee (Pembina Valley AAA bantam); 162. Kelowna, Daimon Gardner, C, Winnipeg (RHA bantam prep); 167. Seattle, Tyler Dodgson, D, Winnipeg (Warriors AAA bantam).

Ninth Round

177. Swift Current, Owen Pickering, D, St. Adolphe (Eastman AAA bantam); 178. Moose Jaw, Luke Robson, Carberry (Southwest AAA bantam); 192. Moose Jaw, Dakota MacIntosh, C, Winnipeg (Warriors AAA bantam).

10th Round

214. Moose Jaw, Darien Schaan, D, Portage la Prairie (RHA bantam prep).

12th Round

262. Everett, Ryder Ringor, F, Winnipeg (Ontario Hockey Academy bantam).

"Everyone's right; he can skate, he can shoot and he can play," said Geekie of Savoie. "He's a perfect first overall kid... Winnipeg got lucky with him."

Cockell paid handsomely to move up to the No. 2 slot, shipping a third-round pick in 2020 and Thursday's third overall choice, which had been acquired earlier in the day from the Saskatoon Blades, to the Prince George Cougars.

In order to make that deal, the Ice obtained overage defenceman Reece Harsch and the third overall choice from the Blades for Thursday's ninth overall pick, acquired prior to the trade deadline from the Red Deer Rebels, Thursday's second-round pick (24th) and a second-rounder and a fifth-rounder in 2020.

The Ice also added overage forward Isaac Johnson to their lineup in exchange for a fourth-round draft pick in a trade with the Tri-City Americans.

DOUG WESTCOTT / ELITE PROSPECTS

The Ice also added overage forward Isaac Johnson to their lineup in exchange for a fourth-round draft pick in a trade with the Tri-City Americans.

"We really felt strongly about both those players," said Cockell. "We felt fortunate to leave the draft with both Matthew and Conor, both exciting and exceptional talents, and really look forward to adding them to our very talented young nucleus."

Winnipeg's next pick, coming in the fourth round, was another calculated gamble. The Ice picked centre Rieger Lorenz, a Calgary product playing for the Edge School bantam prep team. Lorenz was considered a likely first-rounder before he recently made a verbal commitment to Denver.

"We certainly think he's someone who has the talent to have gone (in the first round)," said Cockell. "When he was there in the fourth round, it was an easy decision for us."

In another draft day deal, the Ice added overage forward Isaac Johnson in a trade with the Tri-City Americans. In exchange, the Americans got a fourth-round draft pick.

Johnson, who hails from Andover, Minn., scored 12 goals and added 20 assists for 32 points in 31 regular-season games for the Americans in 2018-2019 campaign.

"Today was an important day for our franchise," said Ice owner and governor Gregg Fettes. "Our team has worked hard to build a young core group of players that are ready to take a step and adding the first and second overall pick in addition to Reece Harsch and Isaac Johnson addresses our current needs in addition to adding what we believe were the best players available in the draft."

mike.sawatzky@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @sawa14

Mike Sawatzky

Mike Sawatzky
Sports Reporter

Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.

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