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Island talent cited in final rankings for 2024 NHL draft

Draft goes in late June in Las Vegas
Red Deer Rebels forward Ollie Josephson, who hails from ­Langford, is ranked No. 40 among North American ­skaters for the upcoming NHL draft. ­DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

If there ever was a hockey documentary made to match Hoop Dreams, it might be titled Ice Dreams. Central Scouting’s final rankings for the 2024 NHL draft, released Tuesday, has unleashed plenty of those dreams.

Childhood friends Ollie Josephson and Seth Fryer began shooting pucks together in the Juan de Fuca Minor Hockey Association and Jesse Heslop came down from Nanaimo to join them. They have now shot themselves into consideration for the 2024 NHL draft as the trio have been listed in Central Scouting’s final rankings.

“Ollie and I played hockey and lacrosse in Juan de Fuca all the way up and Jesse came down to join our hockey team in ­Peewee,” said Fryer.

They are now rivals in the Western Hockey League, Fryer with the hometown Victoria Royals, Josephson with the Red Deer Rebels and Heslop with the Everett Silvertips.

“This [draft recognition] is sweet and something I have been working toward all year,” said the six-foot-six, 200-pound defenceman Fryer.

“I feel I have improved my game overall but still need to gain muscle mass and get to 205 to 215 pounds.”

The breakout player among the Island trio appears to be Josephson as the 40th-ranked North American skater, which would make him a second-round or early third-round selection June 28-29 at Sphere in Las Vegas.

“Ollie is an unreal player, one of the strongest guys I know, and one of the best players I’ve played with,” said Fryer.

The six-foot centre Josephson won gold with Canada last summer at the 2023 Hlinka Gretzky U-18 Cup in Slovakia and Czechia and had 12 goals and 35 assists for 47 points this WHL season with the Rebels.

Josephson is a product of the Spectrum Community School hockey academy, South Island Royals and the Langford-based Pacific Coast Hockey Academy.

“It’s cool to get the recognition at this stage but you can’t read too much into it because there’s a lot of hockey yet to be played,” Josephson has told the Times Colonist, about his attitude to the draft and his career.

“I just take it one day at a time and not think about [scouts] too much.”

It’s in the genes for Josephson. His dad Mike Josephson, an Oak Bay firefighter, played five WHL seasons with the Kamloops Blazers and Lethbridge Hurricanes and won the 1997 WHL championship with the Hurricanes and went to the Memorial Cup championship game that year. Mike Josephson is best remembered locally as a quick pro forward with the Victoria Salmon Kings of the ECHL.

Josephson, Fryer and Heslop are among the 57 WHL players ranked for the 2024 NHL draft. The list includes three players from the Royals — defencemen Nate Misskey and Fryer as the respective 89th- and 206th-ranked North American skaters and six-foot-eight Ryan Tamelin as the 29th ranked North American goaltender. Tamelin, the potential Victoria goaltender of the future, is Royals property and the big Invermere product played this season for the Okanagan Hockey Academy U-18 Prep team and was named the B.C. Division first-team all-star goalie and appeared in one game for the Royals.

The five-foot-11 Heslop, who had 19 goals and 54 points in the regular season for the Silvertips, is the 136th-ranked North American skater.

Six-foot-three blue-liner Misskey, in his second year of eligibility, got noticed despite being overlooked in the 2023 NHL draft and missing 24 Royals games this past season due to injury. His ranking projects him as a fourth-rounder.

“This is recognition for all the hard work I put in this season in Victoria,” said Misskey, from Calgary, where he spends his summers working out.

“I didn’t let the injury stop me and logged a lot of minutes after my return and continued to grow. Being drafted would be a big step. But I know there are more steps after that. My goal is to improve every year. Adding muscle mass is a big part of that this summer.”

There are 15 current, past or in-coming B.C. Hockey League players on the final NHL draft list for 2024. Current Nanaimo Clippers defenceman Matt Lahey is the 110th-ranked North American skater and ­Victoria Grizzlies forward-recruit Drew Waterfield, coming to The Q Centre next season from ­Shattuck St. Mary’s Academy in Minnesota, is the No. 207-ranked North American skater.

Grizzlies forwards Tobias Pitka and Patrick Murphy were ranked earlier in the season by Central Scouting but left off the final rankings list.

The top BCHL player ranked is forward Jack Pridham of the West Kelowna Warriors, rated as the No. 65 North American skater.

The top-ranked North American skater is NCAA Boston University centre Macklin Celebrini from the Lower Mainland. The top-ranked Euorpean skater is Russian blue-liner Anton Silayev of Torpedo in the Kontinental Hockey League.

Celebrini, a 17-year-old ­freshman from North Vancouver, led the Terriers with 64 points (32 goals, 32 assists) in 38 games this past season en route to winning the Hobey Baker Memorial Award as the NCAA’s top men’s hockey player.

Defenceman Artyom ­Levshunov (Belarus, Michigan State, NCAA), centre Cayden Lindstrom (Dawson Creek, Medicine Hat, WHL), defenceman Zeev Buium (San Diego, University of Denver, NCAA) and defenceman Zayne Parekh (Markham, Ont., Saginaw, OHL) round out the top-five North American-based skaters.