It is not where you are picked, it is what you do with the opportunity.
That was the message from coach Yaroslav Svejkovsky to a handful of his players selected in Thursday’s (May 7) WHL bantam draft.
“I always tell the guys, it is not how high you get drafted,” Svejkovsky said.
“The most important thing is you get drafted in the place where they value who you are.
“That is far more important than the number you were drafted.”
Four local players from Langley — who all played this past season with the Delta Hockey Academy bantam prep team under Svejkovsky — heard their names called in the annual draft for 14 and 15-year-olds.
Brendan Budy was the first Langley player selected, taken in the fourth round, 69th overall, by the Red Deer Rebels.
And later that same round, the Kamloops Blazers nabbed Luke Zazula 82nd overall and Brodi Stuart 84th overall.
Bobby Russell went in round six (123rd overall) to the Kootenay Ice.
Two other Langley players went in rounds four and nine, respectively.
Baxter Anderson, a five-foot-nine, 145-pound centreman, went to the Medicine Hat Tigers in the fourth round, 83rd overall, right between Zazula and Stuart.
And Sean Gulka, (photo right) went to the Victoria Royals in round nine (182nd overall).
Both Anderson and Gulka play with the Burnaby Winter Club.
Aldergrove had one player drafted, Jonathan Rees.
Rees, who plays for the Okanagan Hockey Academy, went in round nine (193rd overall) to the Portland Winterhawks.
Budy, Stuart and Russell were all at school following the draft online while Zazula was on vacation in Hawaii — but still tracking the draft — and Gulka was on a plane ride home from Hawaii.
All five were excited to be drafted, as well as relieved to have that phase of their hockey development done and over with.
“It feels really good now that it is over,” admitted Budy.
“The last couple of weeks were getting a bit stressful. You are just curious to see where you are going.”
While the other four all have said the Western Hockey League is the goal, Budy admits to being undecided between major junior and playing junior A and then going the NCAA route.
His father played NCAA hockey with Colorado College.
“Both are great leagues. I will probably think about it for quite a while,” Budy said.
“My parents support me either way; it will be my decision.”
Budy is a five-foot-eight 155-pound forward. He plans on returning to the hockey academy for next season.
“He has got a real special shot, a very dynamic player,” Svejkovsky said, adding that Budy’s intelligence in the classroom extends to the ice.
Zazula, a five-foot-eight, 150 pound defenceman and Stuart, a five-foot-nine, 150-pound forward, were both thrilled to be chosen by the same organization since they are best friends.
“We are both pretty excited to be going to the same organization,” Stuart said.
He figured he was bound to get some good-natured ribbing from Zazula since Kamloops selected him two picks ahead of grabbing Stuart.
“It feels unreal, especially to go to Kamloops,” Zazula said. “It is an honour.”
“They have just had so many good players come out of their organization so it will be a treat to go there.”
Svejkovsky said that Zazula is very intense.
“We always joke that Luke is the guy you would want with you if you had to go in a back alley or bad part of town,” the coach said.
“I don’t think anything will shake him up in life, he is pretty intense.”
As for Stuart, Svejkovsky said he has gotten better and better over the past couple of seasons through hard work.
“Brodi has gotten better every single year and now he has caught up to the players who were at one point ahead of him,” Svejkovsky said.
“You wonder what’s next for him because he just keeps getting better.
“Everything he has gotten, he has had to earn.”
Russell is a strong two-way defenceman who can skate very well.
“I saw my name pop up, and it was tons of excitement,” he said.
“It took a little while to sink in, but it was mostly excitement.”
Russell is five-foot-10 and 155 pounds.
“He looks like a hockey player,” Svejkovsky said.
“He has a really good skill set, from his skating, to his shot, to how he thinks the game.
“I think he still has a couple of years of physical maturity which will help him become a better player.”
All four players were with the Delta Hockey Academy for the first time this past year and Svejkovsky said they came to the program with a good skill set and foundation from their minor hockey days.
“Those guys have been coached well since they were younger kids, that’s why they are enjoying so much success this time; they had good habits,” Svejkovsky said.
“They had good habits and good compete level. When we got them, they were already among our better players so that makes it easier for us.”
“Those kids, they love the game.”
Gulka started playing with the Langley Minor Hockey Association, but has been on the move the past couple of years.
He played with the Burnaby Winter Club as a peewee and has since played with the Richmond Minor Hockey Association and the North Shore Winter Club before rejoining Burnaby.
And Gulka, a five-foot-10, 145-pound centre, was having himself a good season when he broke his collarbone.
He is almost recovered, but just waiting for the go-ahead from the doctor to resume training.
“Getting drafted is something I have looked forward to so I was pretty happy about it,” he said.
He described his game as being a good two-way player who likes to move the puck.
One area he can improve on is his selfishness, or rather, he needs to be more selfish, said his coach this past season, John Batchelor.
“He has to learn to be a bit more selfish and shoot the puck,” Batchelor said.
The coach also said Gulka is a good two-way player with great vision and his season-ending injury was a big blow to the team.
Rees is a five-foot-11, 160-pound forward from Aldergrove. He played this past season with the Okanagan Hockey Academy.