Cowichan Valley plundered in WHL bantam draft

Kabore Dunn was in French class when his name was called. Corson Hopwo was in the school gym.

Kabore Dunn was in French class when his name was called. Corson Hopwo was in the school gym, but his phone had died, so he didn’t know what had happened until his classmates told him.

Dunn and Hopwo, who came up through the Cowichan Valley Minor Hockey Association and now play for Canadian Sport School Hockey League teams at Delta and at Shawnigan Lake School, respectively, were picked in the Western Hockey League’s bantam draft on May 5. Two of Dunn’s Shawnigan teammates, Jacson Alexander and Cody Shepheard, were also selected.

“We were just kind of following the draft in class, and when I saw my name, it was pretty exciting,” said Dunn, who was picked in the fourth round, 70th overall, by the Kootenay Ice.

With several players from Shawnigan’s hockey academy eligible for the draft, it wasn’t unusual for players to be keeping track on their phones.

“It’s a pretty big deal for all the Grade 9s,” Dunn said. Alexander, a Victoria product, went in the first round, 17th overall, to the Swift Current Broncos, and Shepheard, from Qualicum Beach, went in the eighth round, 155th overall, also to Kootenay.

Hopwo was taken in the seventh round, 138th overall, by the Medicine Hat Tigers. Like at Shawnigan, the Delta academy players were closely following the draft, although Hopwo had a technology issue.

“My phone died, so I didn’t know what was going on,” he recalled. “Everybody started saying my name and crowding around me. I didn’t even know what team drafted me.

“At first it didn’t really kick in, then everyone started saying congratulations. When it started to kick in, I felt pretty good about it.”

A six-foot, 156-pound defenceman, Dunn had three goals, three assists and 24 penalty minutes in 22 games for the Shawnigan bantam prep team last season. He also got into four games with the varsity team, scoring once. He knew he was on a lot of teams’ radar, but wasn’t sure when, or if, he would be draft.

“I was happy that I went where I went,” he said. “It was just a really good feeling. I wasn’t really expecting it. I knew before that there was a chance. A lot of people from different teams had been talking to me before the draft and said they were interested.”

Also a blueliner, the five-foot-10, 146-pound Alexander led Shawnigan’s bantam prep team with 22 points on nine goals and 13 helpers in 24 contests. Shepheard, a five-foot-11, 150-pound forward, scored nine goals and assisted on seven others for 16 points in 25 bantam prep games.

Hopwo averaged a point a game with Delta, putting up nine goals and 13 assists in 22 games, while leading the entire bantam prep league with 60 penalty minutes. The five-foot-five, 120-pound forward was one of a CSSHL-high 12 players picked from the Delta team. He was one of two Delta skaters picked by Medicine Hat.

“They said they were excited to have me,” Hopwo said of the Tigers. “They think I’m a hard worker.”

The excitement is mutual.

“I’ve heard they’re a really good organization,” Hopwo said. “And I’ve heard the coaching staff is really good and their arena is really nice.”

Hopwo should get his first look at Medicine Hat’s new Canalta Centre when he attends a rookie camp later this month. Like Dunn and the other Shawnigan players, he will also attend the main camp with his new team in August, but won’t be looking to crack the roster this year.

“I won’t be able to make it next year, but hopefully in my 16-year-old year, I might be able to make it,” Hopwo said. “I’ll put in the hard work and effort and see where it takes me.”