Heavier, bigger hockey teams win championships and six-foot-four forward Parker Bell, of Campbell River, and six-foot-six defenceman Eli Barnett, of the Victoria Grizzlies, have the kind of size NHL teams covet.
The Calgary Flames, one of the NHL’s smallest teams, selected Bell out of the Tri-City Americans of the Western Hockey League as the 155th pick in the fifth round Friday in the 2022 draft. The former Campbell River Storm player in the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League had 18 goals, 31 assists and 49 points last season for the Americans.
Barnett, a defensive-minded 2019-pound rearguard from Riverview, N.B., had three goals and 10 assists for 13 points in 53 games last season in the B.C. Hockey League for the Grizzlies and went 195th overall in the seventh round to the San Jose Sharks.
“I was in the middle of golfing and my phone just blew up,” said Barnett, who is back home in the Maritimes.
“I was in disbelief. This has been a childhood dream of mine.”
But he realizes the work is just beginning for him at The Q Centre.
“I’ve got to put in a lot of work in the gym,” said the 18-year-old, who is committed to the University of Vermont Catamounts in NCAA Division 1 for 2023-24.
“Being in the BCHL brought me to a new level.”
As a Grizzlies returnee, his role will shift as a drafted veteran. “I will need to be a leader in the room next season for Victoria,” said Barnett.
“I watched the leaders last season, especially [graduated captain] Ellis Rickwood and his personality, and how he carried himself in the room.”
Brayden Schuurman’s dramatic drop continued as the quick Victoria Royals WHL forward was overlooked in the draft after being rated the 58th North American skater in the mid-term rankings and falling to 76th for the season-ending ranking. That is despite being selected to the Canadian team for the 2022 World Under-18 Championship in Germany. Schuurman’s fall is likely due to the fact he had much of his success earlier last season with 21 goals through the first 34 Royals games and only eight more after that in finishing with 29 goals over 68 games.
A total of 28 WHL players were drafted, including six in the first round. Twelve WHL teams were represented in the 2022 draft while the Royals were among 10 teams not to have a player selected.
The Swift Current Broncos led the WHL with five players chosen. The Kamloops Blazers and Seattle Thunderbirds each had four players selected and Winnipeg Ice three players. The Prince George Cougars, Everett Silvertips, Moose Jaw Warriors and Spokane Chiefs had two players each picked and Tri-City, Portland Winterhawks, Red Deer Rebels and Saskatoon Blades one player selected.
Barnett was among five BCHL players selected.