You don’t want to put too much stock on the names selected in the WHL’s Bantam Draft. But for the teenage prospects, it is a big deal, and a foot in the door towards the dream of the NHL.
For the first time since 2014, Saskatoon could have a hometown kid getting his name called in the first round when the draft gets underway in Calgary Thursday morning.
Connor Saleski, a forward on the Saskatoon Stallions, is ranked among the top-20 players on some draft boards heading into the big day.
“Last year was probably when I realized I could have a shot,” Saleski said on the thought of one day being a WHL player. “Worked to get stronger and worked on my defense this year and just try to get all around better.”
Hockey talent isn’t new to the Saleski family. Uncle Don played over 500 games in the NHL, mostly with the Philadelphia Flyers.
“That whole side of the family loves hockey and once I was old enough they had me on skates.”
One team the 15-year-old forward got to know well growing up in Saskatoon was the hometown Blades. A team that holds two first round picks heading into Thursday.
“That would be great,” Saleski said. “If I could ever make the team my family could all come out and watch me whenever.”
The Blades have the 5th and 10th overall picks in the first round, along with two second rounders.
“He’s a skilled player with offensive gifts and we have a good book on him being from Saskatoon,” Blades general manager Colin Priestner said. “It’s promising for the city that we have a good crop coming up.”
In 30 regular season games, Saleski scored 43 goals and added 42 assists for an 85 point season. He then continued that form at the SaskFirst bantam tournament, which collects the best players in Saskatchewan and pits them against each other in front of WHL scouts.
BEST PLAYER at this weekends SaskFirst – hands down, @cohner_saleski … reviews from the event coming asap …
— The Scouting News (@hockeyscouting) April 18, 2017
Looking ahead to draft day, Saleski seems to have his priorities straight. The draft begins at 8:30 a.m. Thursday, or for Saleski, a school day.
“I was just planning on going to school and just find out what happens from there.”