Amid the backdrop of the Ed Chynoweth Cup playoffs, Western Hockey League clubs already had an eye on the future during the 2022 WHL Prospects Draft on May 19. This year’s draft follows just six months after the 2021 WHL Prospects Draft, which was delayed due to COVID-19.
One of the busiest teams on draft day was the Saskatoon Blades. Fresh off of a playoff appearance under first-year head coach Brennan Sonne, Saskatoon kick-started their off-season by making 12 selections in the prospects draft, including Isaac Poll 21st overall, and tabbed six players in the top four rounds.
President and general manager Colin Priestner was wheeling and dealing, completing a series of trades to accumulate picks. He got the day started by sending the 13th overall pick to the Kamloops Blazers in exchange for three picks including 13th overall, which the Blades then sent to the Vancouver Giants in exchange for the 21st overall pick and a fourth-rounder, 70th overall.
Also during the fourth round, forward Noah Boyko was shipped to the Prince George Cougars for the 72nd overall pick. Boyko skated in 20 games for the Blades in 2021-22 after being acquired midseason from the Lethbridge Hurricanes. The Hurricanes’ first-round selection in 2017 netted five goals with 13 points with Saskatoon.
After dealing the 2002-born Boyko, the Blades roster includes four players who will be overage in 2022-23, including leading scorer Kyle Crnkovic in the forward ranks and captain Aidan De La Gorgendiere on the blue line.
The Blades were busy in the early rounds, selecting the following six players in the top four rounds.
#21 D Isaac Poll
A right-shot defenseman, Poll stands 6’1’’, 160 lbs and is regarded as a player with a very high ceiling thanks to his combination of size, skill and mobility. This past season, the native of White City, SK registered 38 points in 26 games for the U15 Prairie Storm in the SAAHL.
“Isaac is a big, rangy, and mobile defender on an excellent development trajectory that we think is just starting to scratch the surface,” said Blades director of scouting Dan Tencer. “He’s a very strong defender who also has very good stick skills and offensive vision and we think he projects to be a high end 2-way player with excellent size and leadership”
Poll is committed to the Regina Pat Canadiens U18 AAA for the 2022-23 season and is expected to attend Blades training camp in the fall.
#35 F Hudson Kibblewhite
A 5’10’’ right-shot centre from Vernon, BC, Kibblewhite amassed 19 goals and 61 points this past season playing with the Rink Hockey Academy (RHA) in Kelowna, BC where he is coached by Hockey Hall of Famer and former Kamloops Blazer Jarome Iginla.
“(Kibblewhite) is a high character player who shows up in big moments and plays the game the right way,” Tencer said. “His habits, on and off ice, are excellent and his coach this past year – Jarome Iginla – spoke extremely highly of him in our pre-draft conversation.”
Kibblewhite is committed to return to RHA in 2022-23 and attend Blades training camp.
#41 D Jordan Martin
A physical right-shot defender, Martin stands 6’0’’, 180 lbs. The native of Abottsford, BC netted seven goals with 35 points with the Yale Hockey Academy this past season. Tencer said that Martin plays with “bite and tenacity” with a strong shot while being a quick puck-mover, and is able to play big minutes while matched up against high-end talent.
#62 Lochlan Tetarenko
The Blades’ final deal of the day acquired a third-round pick, 62nd overall from the Portland Winterhawks. Saskatoon used that selection on forward Lochlan Tetarenko. The 5’8’’ sniper racked up 26 goals and 50 points in 26 games this past season with the Okotoks Oilers (Alberta U15 AAA).
Born in Houston, TX, Tetarenko is a dual citizen and is the son of Joey Tetarenko who captained Portland to a Memorial Cup victory in 1998 and went on to play in 73 NHL games.
#70 D Brayden Klimpke
The Blades stayed in Alberta for the selection of Klimpke, a 5’5’’ defenseman from Calgary, AB who plays for the Northern Alberta Xtreme. He is described as having effortless footwork while making effortless reads, which Tencer said could help him develop into an elite player as he matures physically.
#72 C Max Hamelin
A highly skilled forward from Winnipeg, MB and the Winnipeg Bruins (Manitoba U15 AAA), Hamelin piled up 48 goals and 92 points in 32 games this past season, and is described as playing at a high pace with high-end offensive intelligence.
“We see a player that has the skill and compete level to show up at big times in big games and really produce at our level,” said Tencer.
In all, the Blades added six forwards, five defensemen and one goaltender at the 2022 prospects draft.
The Blades finished third in the WHL’s East Division with 80 points including 38 wins, and bowed out in the first round to the Moose Jaw Warriors in five games. The freshman campaign for Sonne as head coach continued the trend set during the tenure of previous bench boss Mitch Love who notched 95 wins in 155 games over three seasons (2018-21) and guided the team to a first-round playoff victory in 2018-19.
The 35-year-old Sonne played three seasons in the WHL (2005-08), spending the most time with the Everett Silvertips, and served as an assistant coach in Everett for three seasons prior to landing the Blades head coach post.
In addition to possible decisions regarding overage players for next season, the Blades graduated three 20-year-old players at the conclusion of this season, leaving large holes to fill in each zone.
Tristen Robins (San Jose Sharks 2020 2nd round) was second in team scoring this past season (33-45-78). He formed a dynamic duo on the Blades top line with Crnkovic for much of the past three seasons and led the squad in scoring during the 2019-20 campaign (33-40-73). For his WHL career, Robins tallied 85 goals and 200 points in 212 games.
Rhett Rhinehart led Blades’ defenseman with seven goals and added 27 points in 2021-22 while logging major minutes in all situations. The former first-round pick of the Prince Albert Raiders was acquired from Prince George in a midseason deal in 2019-20. Rhinehart had 12 goals and 46 points in 95 games in the Bridge City, and totalled 23 goals and 90 points in 261 career WHL games.
Nolan Maier put together one of the greatest goaltending careers in the illustrious history of the Blades franchise. The native of Yorkton, SK was a second-round pick of Saskatoon in 2016. He played 216 games, posting 72 wins and 12 shutouts with a goals against average of 2.89 and a .905 save percentage.
The past four seasons have represented the Blades strongest run of sustained success since the club’s five-consecutive playoff appearances (2008-13) under Blades’ coaching legend Lorne Molleken. It may not take long for members of the 2022 draft class begin to make an impact on SaskTel Centre ice in the iconic Pacman sweater.