Hunter Mayo plays a position that teams, including the Red Deer Rebels, hold in high regard.
As a result the Rebels snared the right-shot defenceman with their first pick of the WHL bantam draft.
“There was no other right-shot defenceman (available) which is the thing you’re always looking for as an organization,” said Rebels assistant GM Shaun Sutter, following the annual lottery held Thursday at the Cambridge Hotel and Conference Centre.
“You look at your team right now, where it’s at and what’s lacking. We drafted two defencemen with our first two picks. Both are guys who can skate and move the puck, but they’re also guys who are real hard to play against. They have a lot of leadership and they are guys who when they play, the other team knows they’re on the ice.”
Along with Mayo, a five-foot-11, 173-pound product of Martensville, Sask., who was taken with the 23rd overall pick — the first selection of the second round — the Rebels used their other second-rounder, No. 38, to take another offensive rearguard in Jace Weir of Coldstream, B.C.
Mayo scored 15 goals and collected 42 points in 28 games with the Martensville bantam AA Marauders (Saskatchewan AA is the equivalent of AAA in other provinces) while also racking up 66 minutes in penalties in 2018-19.
When contacted at his home following the draft, Mayo said he was “excited” to hear he was selected by the Rebels.
“Red Deer was higher up on my list of where I wanted to go, so that worked out pretty good,” he said, adding that he’s a “two-way offensive defenceman.”
“I take pride in my puck-moving and skating skills.”
The Rebels entered the draft without a first-round selection and with their initial pick slated to come in at 31st overall. Sutter suspected Mayo wouldn’t be there at 31 so the team swung a deal to acquire Brandon’s pick at 23, relinquishing the 31st selection and a fourth-round pick in the process.
“With not having a first-round pick you often wonder how it’s going to go and you play the waiting game,” said Sutter. “Hunter is a player we targeted, same as Jace with our other second-round pick.
“When we communicate with them through interviews we ask them to communicate with us if they get a feel if any team has interest. We knew there was a team in front us who had communicated with the (Mayo) family and was probably going to take him, so we moved in front of that team. It was as simple as that.
“We really like Hunter. He’s a right-shot defenceman like Kyle Masters who we drafted last year. They are guys who our coaches are going to like and they’re leaders.”
Like Mayo, the six-foot-one, 162-pound Weir put up impressive numbers last season while playing with the BC tier one bantam Northern Zone Kings, scoring 14 goals and adding 31 assists for 45 points in 38 games. He also had 20 minutes in penalties.
And, like Mayo, he was extremely pleased to be selected by the Rebels.
“Super excited. Red Deer was at the top of my list,” said Weir. “They showed a lot of interest before the draft and I’ve heard a lot of good things about Red Deer, that it’s a great city.”
As for his playing style . . .
“I’d consider myself as a two-way defenceman,” he said. “I can play offence and defence and play the power play and penalty kill.”
The Rebels drafted centre Carter Anderson with their third-round pick at No. 51. The five-foot-seven, 159-pound native of Thompson, Man., garnered 28 points (17g,11a) in 29 games with the Rink Hockey Academy bantam prep squad in 2018-19 and also racked up 62 minutes in penalties.
“He’s from northern Manitoba and plays a real gritty game and can score goals,” said Sutter. “He going back to the Rink Academy (in Winnipeg) next season, which we like. They did a real good job with him on the strength and developments sides and we were thinking about that.”
The Rebels selected 11 players in the draft, taking goaltenders Justen Maric and Merik Erickson in the fifth and 11th rounds, forwards Parker Lalonde, Jhett Larson. Michael Valdez and Declan Cosford in the sixth, eighth, ninth and 10th rounds, and defencemen Kody Norberg and Logan Wright in the ninth and 12th rounds.
The Rebels’ fifth- to 12th-round selections: (Including draft position, size, 2004 birth date, hometown, 2018-19 team and stats and quotes from Shaun Sutter.)
G Justen Maric, fifth round, 98th overall (from Victoria); 5-9, 140 pounds; Aug. 1; Edmonton; OHA Edmonton bantam prep 16GP, 2.37 GAA, .915 save %.
“He wasn’t at the Alberta Cup and I think that kind of hurt his draft standing. But through the whole year he was one of the best goalies so we get one of the best goalies in the fifth round, which is great value.”
F Parker Lalonde, sixth round, 114th overall (from Prince George); 5-8, 130 pounds; Jan. 22; Aberdeen, Sask.; Warman Wildcats bantam AA31GP, 24g,26a,50 pts., 40 PIM.
“He’s a guy who’s going to play for the (midget AAA) Saskatoon Blazers next season and they have real good coaching. He’s a good all-around player.”
F Jhett Larson, eighth round, 163rd overall; 5-7, 145 pounds; Feb. 3; Delisle, Sask.; Notre Dame Hounds bantam prep 27GP, 7-10-17-48; also Notre Dame midget AAA Hounds 6-2-3-5-0.
“Jhett Larson is going to play midget AAA at Notre Dame. He’s a smaller guy who plays a good 200-foot game and has skill and sense.”
D Kody Norberg, ninth round, 181st overall (from Kelowna); 5-11, 175 pounds; April 2; Warman, Sask.; Warman Wildcats bantam AA 31-3-13-16-26.
“Norberg is going to play midget AAA at Battleford. He can skate and is a defensive guy.”
F Michael Valdez, ninth round, 185th overall; 5-10, 140 pounds; Jan. 20; Westminster, Colo.; Colorado Thunderbirds bantam AAA 13-6-6-12-8.
“He’s one of the best American forwards in the draft. You roll the dice and take a long shot on a guy and if you get him it’s a home run. He’s an elite player, he’s going to be a pro.
F Declan Cosford, 10th round, 207th overall; 6-0, 166 pounds; March 4; Regina; Regina Monarchs bantam AA; 30-27-18-45-66.
“He’s a Regina kid and the only guy I’ve ever seen do the moonwalk after he’s scored. He can score some goals and is a bigger guy with skill, so we’re hoping maybe he can get a chance to play midget AAA.”
G Merik Erickson, 11th round, 229th overall; 5-11, 160 pounds; March 31; Delta, B.C.; Burnaby Winter Club H.A. bantam prep 15GP, 3.08 GAA, .913 save %.
“Even though we’d already drafted a goalie, we just felt that he’s better than a lot of guys and why not roll the dice on a guy like that and see where that kind of shakes out?”
D Logan Wright, 12th round, 251st overall; 6-4, 170 pounds; Aug. 14; Coleraine, Minn.; Wayzata Trojans U14 AA; statistics unavailable.
“Usually you go to Minnesota for skill, with Logan he’s a big, tough guy. He’s got some development in front of him but he’s a hard guy to play against, a guy that other teams know when he’s on the ice. He has size 14 skates and is six-foot-four. He’s a big rig and we’ll see where that goes and how he kind of develops over the next couple of years.”
Notable: The Winnipeg Ice selected forward Matthew Savoie, widely regarded as the best player available, first overall, then acquired the second overall pick from Swift Current and picked Manitoba forward Conor Geekie . . . Eight members of the 2018-19 Red Deer major bantam Rebels were selected, headed by forward Nate Danielson who went fifth overall to Brandon. Also picked were defencemen Kaiden Ellertson (fifth round, Brandon), Avery Trotter (fifth round, Spokane), Porter Pennock (seventh round, Prince Albert) and Connor Claughton (ninth round, Prince George), and forwards Tyler MacKenzie (sixth round, Medicine Hat), Ty Daneault (seventh round, Saskatoon) and Noah Bamford (seventh round, Kamloops) . . . The Calgary Hitmen made a splash just prior to the draft by acquiring outstanding defenceman Jett Woo, a second-round pick of the Vancouver Canucks in last year’s NHL entry draft, from Moose Jaw. In return, the Warriors received import defenceman Vladislav Yeryomenko, forward Ryder Korczak, the 11th overall selection in today’s bantam draft and a second-round pick in 2021.