Saturday’s National Hockey League entry draft saw five BCHL players and one BCHL alum snapped up by big-league teams.
The draft was held in Philadelphia, and Abbotsford native Devon Toews was the first junior A grad taken. The former Surrey Eagle went to the New York Islanders in the fourth round, 108th overall. Toews currently plays NCAA division one hockey with the Quinnipiac Bobcats and this was his third time through the NHL draft.
After going unselected in his first two years of eligibility, the 20 year old defenceman said his phone has barely stopped ringing.
“It’s something you dream about as a kid,” he told the Abbotsford News. “You just smile and try to soak it all in.”
Toews’s road to NHL prospect status was unconventional and inspirational. He was never selected in the Western Hockey League bantam draft due to his physical stature – as a second-year bantam player, he stood 5’2” and weighed 102 pounds.
But over the next two years, he hit a huge growth spurt while losing none of his mobility, coordination or skill with the puck.
Toews helped the Surrey Eagles to BCHL and Western Canada Cup victories in 2013, earning best defenceman honours at the RBC Cup, the national junior A championship tourney.
As a freshman this past season at Quinnipiac, he posted 17 points (second-best on the team among defenceman) in 37 games to go with a +9 rating
Another Surrey Eagle, Danton Heinen was next off the board, going to the Boston Bruins in the fourth round (116th overall).
Vernon Viper forward Liam Couglin was picked in the fifth round (130th overall) by the Edmonton Oilers. Victoria Grizzly goalie Alec Dillon was selected by the Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings in the fifth round (150th overall).
Langley Rivermen centre Matt Ustaski went to the Winnipeg Jets in the seventh round (192nd overall).
Penticton Vees forward Jack Ramsey was picked by the Chicago Blackhawks in the seventh round (208th overall).
The BCHL had seven players selected last year.
The high-water mark was 2004 when the league had 12 players picked.