Airdrie hockey player selected by Regina in WHL Draft
By: Lucas Punkari
| Posted: Thursday, May 08, 2014 12:28 pm
After a day of waiting, Airdrie hockey player Gary Haden got the news he was hoping for on May 1.
The 15-year-old centre, who suited up for the Airdrie Xtreme this season, is now a prospect with the Western Hockey League’s (WHL) Regina Pats after he was drafted in the ninth round of the WHL Bantam Draft on May 1.
“There was a lot of anxious feelings for me during the day, and I kept refreshing the website as the draft was going on,” Haden, who was the 189th player selected in the draft, said. “All of a sudden, I saw my name next to Regina on the website, and I was getting a lot of calls and texts from people soon afterwards.”
“You never know where you’re going to go, but I’m really excited about going to Regina and to meet everyone there,” he added. “It’s also cool that my buddies Zach Cox and Kurtis Chapman, who I’ve played with, have also been drafted by the Pats, so it’s sort of like there will be an Airdrie reunion at the prospect camp in the summer.”
Haden, who stands 5’8” and weighs 140 pounds, was a dominant force on offence for the Xtreme this season, as he led the team in scoring with 70 points (39 goals and 31 assists) and was the sixth highest point scorer in the Alberta Major Bantam Hockey League (AMBHL) this year.
“Gary has a skill set that really separates himself from a lot of players, and he has the ability to not only be an offensive threat on his own, but to make other players around him better,” Regina Pats General Manager Chad Lang said.
“He can not only capitalize on his own chances, but he has the ability to distribute the puck to his teammates to give them a chance to score,” he added. “His hockey IQ and his awareness on the ice will give him a chance to compete for a spot on our team in the future.”
While Haden’s point totals were impressive, Xtreme Head Coach Josh Zimmer said the Airdrie centre’s physical play was something he improved on during the course of the 2013/14 season.
“Gary’s a strong kid for someone his size, and he’s a guy who is not only strong on the puck, but able to crash and bang out there,” Zimmer said.
“He has that game-breaking ability on offence, but when he’s playing a nasty style of game, it’s because he’s playing a physical style of play.”
As a 1999 birth year player, Haden wouldn’t be eligible to be a full-time player in the Western Hockey League until the 2015/16 season, so he will be spending his summer getting ready to try and make the UFA Bisons in Strathmore, who play in the Alberta Midget Hockey League (AMHL).
“That’s my main goal for next year, and I’m going to give it my best shot,” Haden said. “I would like to improve on my skating during the summer in order to do that, along with becoming bigger and stronger.”
Haden was one of three Xtreme players who were drafted by WHL teams during this year’s draft, which was down slightly from the four members of the squad who were taken in 2013.
The first Xtreme player to be drafted was Three Hills native Brett Trentham, who was selected in the eighth round by the Kootenay Ice with the 165th overall pick.
“Being from a small town like Three Hills, the support has been amazing,” Trentham said. “I’ve had people I don’t even really know coming up to me to give their congratulations.”
“Brett has good offensive skills and a good pace to his game,” Ice Director of Scouting Garnet Kazuik said. “We’re hoping that he can build his game to become a WHL player in the future.”
Two picks later, the Regina Pats selected their first of two Xtreme players, as they took forward Zachary Cox of Rocky View County.
“He’s very versatile as both a winger and a centre, and he is a good all-around player in all three zones of the ice,” Pats General Manager Chad Lang said. “We think that Zach has the makeup to be a success at the next level.”