Two Calgary Hitmen heard their names called on the draft floor Saturday afternoon.
And the pair weren’t taken far apart — only eight picks separated the two in the fifth round.
Hitmen captain Mark Kastelic heard his name first with Pierre Dorion and the Ottawa Senators calling his name 125th overall. C Carson Focht was taken not far behind, 133rd overall by the Vancouver Canucks.
Kastelic was a near lock for a pick at some point Saturday with myself expecting it to be near the seventh-round. Focht, on the other hand, is a player who flew under many radars this WHL season but a late-season outburst is likely what got him picked.
Below are some of my thoughts on the selections from what I saw this year, and how I think the pair project.
The big-bodied centre is best described as a bull in a china shop. But it’s not just his six-foot-three, 220 lb. frame that’s his best assets.
Kastelic has developed a real knack for the net this past season scoring 47 goals and adding 30 assists in 66 games. Had he not been suspended late in the season, he very likely could’ve hit the 50 goal mark.
Now 20, Kastelic’s 19-year-old season saw him don the captaincy for the club. A leader on the ice, his calm demeanor was felt throughout the locker room and he quickly became a guy his teammates looked up to.
I think he projects best as a bottom-six, two-way player in the NHL one day, or a top-six threat in the American league. There’s a lot to like in his game — especially his ability to fight, create space, and score from in tight to the net.
One weak spot in his game is his skating ability, something I’m sure will be a big focus of his 20-year-old season in the WHL.
Carson Focht was one of the biggest surprises of the second half of the WHL season.
A weak first half of the year for the 19-year-old centre saw him go home at Christmas time and regroup. He returned a different player and down the stretch scored 10 goals and 10 assists in a seven-game stretch; that stretch also saw him score his first three WHL hat-tricks in the span of a week.
He finished the season just under a point per game, notching 64 points in 66 games.
Focht became a jack-of-all-trades type for the Hitmen being used in many different situations for the Hitmen. There isn’t one aspect of his game that jumps out above the rest, but he has very good skating ability and you could see his on-ice vision getting better every night.
The Hitmen suffered a lot of injuries to their offensive ranks in the second half of the season, giving Focht the chance to move up the lineup. He took that opportunity in stride, earning the trust of Hitmen bench boss Steve Hamilton, who often spoke very highly of Focht.
Focht is a little tougher to project than Kastelic, but I think he will have a career in the AHL. If he can up his game, he may slide in as a bottom-six NHLer one day.
On Twitter: @zjlaing