Penticton hockey products Ethan O’Rourke, Shane Farkas and Josh Maser were selected in the 2014 Western Hockey League bantam draft Thursday.
O’Rourke was the first of trio drafted, chosen by the Red Deer Rebels in the third round, 53rd overall. His rights were then traded to the Prince George Cougars.
“Ethan is without a doubt the most improved player probably in the draft,” said Mike Needham, coach of the Okanagan Hockey Academy bantam Red team. “He rose up the rankings from Christmas on. If he continues on that path he’s going to be a great player.”
Needham said the 6-3, 175-pound forward improved his willingness to engage and compete in and win one-on-one battles. O’Rourke possesses skating ability and is strong.
“With good skills, mix in a competitive edge and you have a hell of a player,” added Needham.
Shane Farkas was selected by the Lethbridge Hurricanes 67th overall in the fourth round. He is described as a technically sound netminder and Needham said, “he’s one of the premier goalies in Western Canada.”
Josh Maser was picked by the Prince Albert Raiders also in the fourth round, 74th overall. Maser helped the Penticton Murray GM Vees win a 2014 bantam provincial championship as well as the 2014 Kamloops International Bantam Ice Hockey Tournament.
The OHA had 12 players chosen, all from Needham’s team, including O’Rourke and Farkas. Three of the player were chosen in the first 13 slots of the opening round.
Needham said it was a big day for their program.
“We had a lot of kids thought very highly by Western League teams,” said Needham. “We want to develop them for the next level. This year I think it went very well.”
The school’s first player picked was Surrey’s Michael Rasmussen, going seventh overall to the Tri-City Americans. Kelowna’s Griffen Mendel went 11th to the Kootenay Ice and Langley’s Jordan Hollet became a Regina Pat with the 13th selection.
Going 18th to the Victoria Royals was Coquitlam’s Scott Walford, and the Kelowna Rockets chose hometown product Jonathan Smart with the 22nd selection.
Needham said the five players chosen in the opening round will battle for roster spots in the WHL at 16-years-old.
“We feel pretty confident that a handful for sure are going to be ready after their one year of midget,” he added.
Brandon Armstrong of Maple Ridge was chosen by the Moose Jaw Warriors in the fifth round, 92nd overall. Kelowna’s Hayden Dick was chosen by the Kamloops Blazers in the seventh round, 154th overall. Delta’s Akash Bains went in the ninth round to the Rebels, 185th overall and Kelowna’s Jordan Robinson became a Saskatoon Blade in the 10th round, 199th overall. The OHA’s final player drafted was West Kelowna’s Chase Stevenson to the Rebels in the 10th round, 207th overall.