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Josephson, pair of Royals, Grizzlies on first rankings for 2024 NHL draft

Victoria product Josephson plays for Red Deer Rebels
Royals defenceman Seth Fryer was one of two Victoria players to make the early list for players to watch for the 2024 NHL draft. (DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST)

Ollie Josephson of Victoria continues to glide into his hockey future by being billed as a potential second- or third-round selection in the 2024 NHL draft in Central Scouting’s Preliminary Players to Watch List released Wednesday.

The six-foot centre won gold with Canada over the summer at the 2023 Hlinka Gretzky U-18 Cup in Slovakia and Czechia, and has followed up with two goals and seven points in 11 games this season with the Red Deer Rebels of the Western Hockey League.

A product of the Spectrum Secondary hockey academy, South Island Royals and the Langford-based Pacific Coast Hockey Academy Sea Devils program, Josephson returns to his hometown Nov. 7 to play the Victoria Royals at Save-on-Foods Memoria Centre in a game he has circled on his calendar. Josephson was also a star in lacrosse with the Juan de Fuca Whalers.

“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,” said Josephson, displaying a sense of perspective.

Josephson learned a lot about hockey from his dad Mike Josephson, an Oak Bay firefighter, who played five WHL seasons with the Kamloops Blazers and Lethbridge Hurricanes. The elder Josephson won the WHL championship with the Hurricanes in 1996-97 and went to the Memorial Cup championship game. Mike Josephson is best remembered locally as a swift-skating pro forward with the Victoria Salmon Kings of the ECHL.

Meanwhile, the blue line of the Royals is regarded as the strength of the team and that is reflected in two rearguards from the WHL club being ranked with sophomore Nate Misskey and six-foot-six rookie Seth Fryer, a hometown Langford product, both rated for the sixth or seventh rounds of the 2024 NHL draft.

The six-foot-three Misskey, who was invited to the NHL rookie camp of the Edmonton Oilers last month, went into Wednesday night’s game in Kelowna against the Rockets tied for third in WHL points by a defenceman with three goals and 11 points in 11 games.

“It’s a good accomplishment for myself,” said Misskey.

“Getting confidence in the league last year as a rookie was definitely hard. Coming in this year, I’ve been confident to do my job defensively and also hop in on the offensive side, too. Growing up, I hopped into the play a lot. Being in Oilers rookie camp opened my eyes and brought the confidence to myself that I can do it and get the pucks on net.”

The WHL has 63 players ranked. That includes six for the first round — forwards Berkly Catton of the Spokane Chiefs, Tanner Howe of the Regina Pats, Adam Jecho of the Edmonton Oil Kings, Cayden Lindstrom of the Medicine Hat Tigers, Ryder Ritchie of the Prince Albert Raiders and defenceman Carter Yakemchuk of the Calgary ­Hitmen.

Josephson is among eight WHLers listed for the second or third rounds.

Spokane leads the WHL with six players listed followed by Lethbridge and Medicine Hat with five players each and Prince Albert, Tri-City Americans and Vancouver Giants with four players each. Five WHL teams have three players on the list while the Royals are among nine WHL teams that have two players listed. Two teams have one player on the list as all 22 WHL teams are represented.

There are 15 B.C. Hockey League players on the initial NHL draft list for 2024, including Slovak import forward Tobias Pitka of the Victoria Grizzlies for the fourth or fifth rounds and Grizzlies forward Patrick Murphy and goaltender Tyler Hodges of the Nanaimo Clippers for the sixth or seventh rounds.

Going into Wednesday’s games at the BCHL Showcase in Seattle, the six-foot-four Pitka has a goal and five points in 11 games, five-foot-11 Murphy four goals and six points in 10 games for the Grizzlies and six-foot-one Hodges a 3.29 goals-against average and 9.03 save percentage for the Clippers.

The top BCHL player ranked is second- to third-round projected forward Jack Pridham of the West Kelowna Warriors.