The Victoria Royals’ two top picks in the 2013 bantam draft relish playing against type.
Forward Dante Hannoun of Delta throws his weight around on the ice. Not that there’s much of it yet, to toss around at five-foot-five, 140 pounds.
Albertan Matt Phillips’s nickname is ‘Bubba,’ which is sort of ironic for a five-foot-six, 130-pound hockey player.
The pair of undersized forwards were the centre of attention Tuesday at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre as the Royals opened camp for the players the club selected in May during the Western Hockey League draft of bantams.
Hannoun, plucked 11th overall by the Royals after scoring 63 goals and accumulating 151 points for the the North Shore Winter Club Bantam Triple-A team, was the smallest player taken in the first round.
Phillips, who had 40 goals and 77 points with the Calgary Bisons, came 33rd overall to Victoria and was the smallest player selected in the second round.
“They are both dynamic players,” said Royals head coach Dave Lowry, after watching them take a spin Tuesday.
“I’m not about size [when it comes to coaching philosophy]. I’m about skill.”
Hannoun admitted to a bit of nervousness.
“This is a big rink [7,006 seats]. I’ve never played in anything like this before,” he said.
Don’t worry about it, said Lowry. This is just a get-to-know-you session.
“They can’t play this season, regardless [15-year-olds are limited to five regular-season WHL games]. This is about gaining experience and seeing what we [Royals] are about,” said the bench boss.
Outside the Royals organization, Hannoun has no shortage of people to look up to for guidance. Of Lebanese and Italian descent, he grew up in a family passionate about hockey. Brother Demico Hannoun is a touted 18-year-old forward committed to Michigan Tech of the NCAA, who played with the BCHL-champion Surrey Eagles and was traded over the summer to the Vernon Vipers, who are hosting the 2014 RBC Cup national Junior A championship. Here’s a tantalizing factoid — Demico Hannoun’s WHL rights are held by the Royals.
The Hannouns and Delta’s Nicolas Petan — the 166-pound and five-foot-nine 2012-13 WHL co-leader in points with the Portland Winterhawks and second-round draft pick this year of the Winnipeg Jets — are first cousins.
Those family road-hockey games were thunderously no-holds-barred and Dante Hannoun came out of them feisty. That has translated to the ice, where he belies his size by lacing lustily into full-throttle body checks.
“My brother is a physical player and I learned a lot from that,” he said.
Any advice from big bro heading into Royals draft camp?
“He told me to work hard and be yourself,” said Dante, who will play this season for the Greater Vancouver Canadians of the B.C. Major Midge League.
And cousin Petan is certainly proving size isn’t an issue for him.
“Size is not a concern for me . . . you just have to be quicker,” said Hannoun.
Phillips, meanwhile, found his first WHL practice session “challenging but good.”
Like Hannoun, he is not one-dimensional, despite his size.
“I’m a quick, two-way forward who tries to do the little things well,” said Phillips.
Much of his dexterity comes from his encompassing background in sports. Phillips, who will skate this season for Calgary Buffaloes of the Alberta Triple-A Midget League, is an all-rounder who has played everything from golf to volleyball.
Victoria had two picks in the second round of the bantam draft with six-foot-one defenceman Ralph Jarratt of Grande Prairie taken 37th overall to add some size to the draft Class of 2013. Jarratt played for Kelowna-based Pursuit of Excellence.
Rookie camp, for unsigned players born in 1997 and 1998, runs Thursday to Sunday. Main camp opens Monday.
The annual intra-squad game goes Aug. 28 at 7 p.m. at the Memorial Centre and is admission by donation.
The Royals’ five-game exhibition schedule commences Aug. 30 in Everett, Wash.
Victoria’s regular-season opens Sept. 20 at the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver against the Giants, with the first home date the next night at the Memorial Centre against the Giants.
© Copyright 2013