WHL calls on trio of bantam Capitals

Bantam Tier 1 Cowichan Valley Capitals head coach Derek Topping wasn’t surprised when three players from the team were selected in the Western Hockey League draft on May 1. In fact, he thought there might be more players picked.

“I was expecting there might have been a couple more,” he said. “I had some calls on other kids. The 1999 age group this year is very strong.”

Cowichan’s Ben Berard went in the seventh round, 140th overall to the Victoria Royals, followed by Dawson Frank, who the Royals nabbed with the 161st pick in the eighth round. Kyle Topping went to the Kelowna Rockets in the 11th round, with the 226 pick overall.

“It kind of surprised me, especially to be picked along with Ben,” Frank said.

Frank and Berard also attend Cowichan Secondary School together at the Quamichan Campus, where they were part of the school’s hockey academy this year.

Coach Topping, whose team finished fourth at the provincial championships in Vancouver in April, had good things to say about all three players.

“Ben is very gifted offensively,” he said. “I think he had 120 goals [in 62 games] this year. He can also play other parts of the game. He’s a good penalty killer, stuff like that. Dawson is such a phenomenal skater; it’s effortless. He’s a power forward who can beat the defence with speed and create plays for himself and his teammates that way. Kyle is a gritty forward who can get in and dig the puck out. He’s definitely the playmaker of the three. He can put the puck in the net, but his vision and his set-up ability make him the player that he is.”

Berard and Topping were on the bantam Tier 1 team in 2012/13, teammates of Josh Anderson and Dawson Haines, who were selected

last year by the Prince George Cougars and Moose Jaw Warriors, respectively. Both Anderson and Haines suited up for the major midget South Island Royals this past season, and Anderson got into a pair of WHL games with the Cougars.

For the players from the bantam Caps who weren’t picked in the WHL draft, there are still many chances to play elite-level hockey.

“It’s by no means the end of the road, even for kids who weren’t getting interest necessarily,” Topping said, noting that there are other options, including the junior A B.C. Hockey League. About 20 per cent of the players who skated in the WHL this past season, he added, were never drafted.

For the trio who were drafted, it was a bonus to see them go to B.C. teams.

“It’s nice for their families to have the opportunity to see them,” Topping said. “It’s as close by as they could hope for. And Victoria and Kelowna are fantastic organizations.” Berard agreed “It’s good to be close to home like that,” he said.

There are other reasons to be excited about being Royals property.

“Their coach [Dave Lowry] just got named Coach of the Year, so he’s got to be good,” Frank said.

Regardless of where they end up, the Cowichan players have already accomplished a lot.

“I’m very proud of all three of them,” Topping said. “We had a heck of a year.”