With the Spokane Chiefs wrapping up their 2018-19 WHL Playoffs run last weekend, the front office will be tasked with quickly shifting gears into off-season mode as they prep for Thursday’s 2019 WHL Bantam Draft. The Chiefs will look to extend a tradition of success making first-round selections, something the club has excelled at of late.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a team that’s had better luck with their top draft selections than the Chiefs, who received contributions this season from a first-rounder in each of the past five drafts. The club’s first selection this year will be pick #15, two spots ahead of their top selection during last year’s draft.
Jaret Anderson-Dolan, 1st round, 14th overall in 2014
Anderson-Dolan has been the model of consistency as a Chief. After posting 26 points (14 goals, 12 assists) in 65 games during his first full season with the club, he became a household name around the Western Hockey League over the next two years, scoring 39 and 40 goals respectively. The Calgary, Alberta native’s breakout 2016-17 season put him squarely on the NHL’s draft radar as he went on to be selected by the LA Kings in the second round (41st overall) of the 2017 NHL Draft. Although he missed half of the 2018-19 season due to injury, Anderson-Dolan still scored 43 points, including 20 goals, in 32 games
JAD’s 91 points and 40 goals during the 2017-18 season both rank in the top 25 in Chiefs history, and his totals this season have landed him 17th on the Chiefs’ all-time points leaders list. In addition to etching his name in Spokane’s record books, he’s accumulated plenty of accolades and honors throughout his WHL career including serving as the captain of Canada’s entry at the 2017 U-18 World Juniors Championship and as an alternate captain for the 2019 U-20 WJC squad. He was also selected to wear the “A” for the Chiefs during the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons before becoming the team’s first ever co-captain for the 2018-19 season, sharing the honors with Ty Smith.
Ty Smith, 1st round, 1st overall in 2015
The Chiefs came away with the top selection in the 2015 Bantam Draft after acquiring the Saskatoon Blades’ first-round pick via trade back in 2013 when the Blades were hosting the Memorial Cup. After using their first pick on a forward the year prior, the selection of the highly-touted defenseman gave Spokane a pair of skaters with NHL prospects to build around for the foreseeable future.
Smith quickly carved out a role in the Chiefs’ gameplan, appearing in 66 regular season games during the 2016-17 season, recording the sixth-most assists ever by a Chiefs 16-year-old and the most for a defenseman that age. He burst onto the scene at age 17, racking up 73 points–good for second-most among all WHL defenders–and making himself a strong candidate to hear his name called early in the NHL draft. The New Jersey Devils jumped at the chance to draft Smith 17th overall in 2018.
In addition to sharing the co-captain title during the 2018-19 season, Smith was also named the captain of Canada’s team at 2018 U-18 World Juniors. Smith has also been the recipient of several team and league awards throughout his tenure with the Chiefs, including the 2018 Daryl K. (Doc) Seaman Memorial Trophy as the WHL’s Scholastic Player of the Year and the 2019 Western Conference Defenseman of the Year. He was selected as the Chiefs’ Player of the Year, John “Hitman” Hern Defenseman of the Year, and Ken Rabel Most Sportsmanlike Player in 2019.
Luke Toporowski, 1st round, 8th overall in 2016
Toporowski was venturing into familiar territory when he joined the Chiefs for the 2017-18 season, following in the footsteps of his older brother Jake and their father Kerry, who ranks second in Chiefs history with 889 penalty minutes.
In his debut WHL season in 2017-18, the Bettendorf, Iowa product amassed 23 points on 10 goals and 13 assists. His productivity jumped during the 2018-19 season, when he racked up 49 points (21 goals, 28 assists) and scored the fifth-most goals on the team during the regular season. He was a key contributor during the team’s Western Conference Championship run, adding another six goals through 14 games, tying him for third most on the team. Prior to the 2018-19 season, he was one of 21 players selected to USA Hockey’s 2018 U.S. Under-18 Men’s Select Team that competed at the 2018 Hlinka-Gretzky Cup. Toporowski is eligible for the 2019 NHL Draft, which starts Friday, June 21.
Jack Finley, 1st round, 6th overall in 2017
The son of longtime NHL player Jeff Finley, the Chiefs used their top selection of the 2017 draft to nab the Kelowna, B.C. product. After appearing in seven games for the Chiefs during the 2017-18 season, he saw his role increase this season, seeing action in 63 contests, scoring nine goals and assisting on another 10. His 19-point campaign ranks him 19th among 16-year-olds in franchise history.
Finley gained valuable postseason experience during his first full season with the Chiefs, appearing in all 15 of the team’s playoffs games. He consistently filled the stat sheet during Spokane’s opening round match-up with the Portland Winterhawks, where he appeared on the score sheet in four of five games, totaling five points (one goal, four assists).
Graham Sward, 1st round, 17th overall in 2018
Making their latest pick since the 2011 draft, the Chiefs used the 17th selection in 2018 on defenseman Graham Sward out of Abbotsford, British Columbia. He spent a majority of this season with the Fraser Valley Thunderbirds of the BC Major Midget League (BCMML), where he posted 26 points (seven goals, 19 assists) through 32 games. His performance earned him a selection to the BCMML All-Star team. Sward was also selected to play for Team British Columbia at the 2019 Canada Winter Games and finished his seven game schedule with two goals and two assists.
He appeared in one game for the Chiefs as a 15-year-old this season, but made the most of the opportunity, scoring a goal against Kootenay on January 5, 2019 in an 8-4 win.
Spokane Chiefs’ 2019 WHL Bantam Draft
The 2019 WHL Bantam Draft will take place on Thursday, May 2 (8:30 a.m. MT) in Red Deer, Alberta. The Chiefs hold the 15th overall selection. Spokane’s full list of available draft selections includes:
1st Round (15th Overall)
4th (85) – from Saskatoon
8th (171) – from Lethbridge
8th (172) – from Edmonton
*The WHL Bantam Draft continues indefinitely until all 22 teams pass. The Chiefs hold every 22nd pick from 235 onward.