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Victoria Royals forward Schuurman climbs rankings for NHL draft

During the Victoria Royals’ bleak 2021 pandemic ­season last spring (WHL-worst ­3-17-2), two unexpected rays of ­promise emerged.
Royals centre Brayden Schuurman has 17 goals and nine assists in 30 games this season. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

During the Victoria Royals’ bleak 2021 pandemic ­season last spring (WHL-worst ­3-17-2), two unexpected rays of ­promise emerged. Centre Brayden Schuurman and ­defenceman Gannon Laroque were on nobody’s NHL draft lists heading into their rookie seasons played in empty rinks in Kelowna and Kamloops.

Laroque emerged to be taken in the fourth round of the 2021 draft by the San Jose Sharks and now Schuurman has climbed to be rated the 58th North American skater for the 2022 NHL draft in the midterm rankings released Wednesday by the ­Central Scouting Service.

Schuurman, 17, displayed speed, tenacity and tactical awareness in attacking the net with five goals and 11 points in 22 games in the pandemic-truncated 2021 season and has followed up with 17 goals and 26 points in 30 games so far this season.

“Last spring was a ­learning experience for our young group and we learned by getting valuable minutes [early in their major-junior careers],” said Schuurman.

The five-foot-10 and 194-pound native of Abbotsford was selected by the Royals in the fourth round of the 2019 WHL prospects draft, 69th overall out of the Yale Hockey Academy. The fourth round is the beginning of hit-or-miss territory and the Royals have clearly hit with that pick.

“Your bantam draft selection does not define your career. I was only in Grade 9 at the time. You can obviously better yourself from your draft position,” said Schuurman.

Now a pro team will be ­hoping to hit also with Schuurman, ­projected for the third round when the NHL clubs make their 2022 draft selections July 7-8. He is careful in trying to not let the building hype affect him.

“I know the NHL draft is ­coming but for me it’s about staying focused and ­continuing to work hard and get better and keep at it every day,” said ­Schuurman.

“I talked to Gannon [Laroque] a little about the draft experience but not too much.”

There is little doubt that ­Schuurman has established ­himself as a dynamic presence with the Royals.

“My game is about taking the puck to the net,” he said.

Pro scouts have noticed, making Schuurman the 13th ranked among the 44 WHL skaters listed for the 2022 NHL draft.

Ranked the 93rd overall North American skater for the draft, and 18th out of the WHL, is six-foot-four forward Parker Bell from Campbell River, who has 11 goals and 22 points in 28 games this season with the Tri-City Americans of the WHL.

The highest-ranked WHL skaters are Winnipeg Ice ­forwards Matthew Savoie and Conor Geekie, respectively ranked third and fourth overall among North American skaters behind No. 1 Shane Wright of the Kingston Frontenacs of the Ontario Hockey League and No. 2 Logan Cooley of the U.S. Under-18 team.

Of the WHL skaters ranked, 27 are forwards and 17 defencemen. There are also nine WHL goaltenders listed — led by ­top-ranked North American crease man Tyler Brennan of the Prince George Cougars — for a total of 53 players from the league.

Of the 22 WHL teams, 20 are represented in the ­midterm draft rankings. The Swift ­Current Broncos lead with six players followed by Prince George with five. The Saskatoon Blades and Winnipeg each have four players on the list while five WHL teams have three players. Eight WHL clubs have two players ranked. The Royals are among three WHL teams with one player listed for 2022.

Schuurman is one of the two breakout players of the Royals rebuild, along with Laroque, but he said the club is more than just that as it has rallied from last spring’s record, to starting just as abysmally this season at 1-11-2, to currently sitting in a playoff position at 12-14-4.

“It’s our whole group, from the older guys teaching the younger guys good habits, to a coaching staff that is supportive and which teaches the game well and which has been instrumental in my development,” said ­Schuurman.

ICE CHIPS: The Royals are scheduled to play the Rockets on Friday in Kelowna, to end a stretch of four consecutive ­postponed games for Victoria due to COVID protocols.