Paving the Way: Notable AJHL Players Drafted to the NHL since 2018

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Paving the Way: Notable AJHL Players Drafted to the NHL since 2018

Over the years, the AJHL has started to establish itself as a premiere Junior ‘A’ hockey league, with an emphasis placed on post-secondary pursuits, and the NHL scouts have been paying attention. Here’s a look at some of the notable NHL draft selections out of the AJHL since 2018.

Cale Makar. (photo courtesy Brooks Bandits)

Cale Makar– 4th Overall (2018) Colorado Avalanche

Cale Makar is the most notable name on this list, and a standout name on pretty much any list he finds himself on. The former Brooks Bandits defenseman became the highest-picked AJHL player in league history when Colorado selected him fourth overall in the first round of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. He has gone on to major success in the NHL with the Avalanche, winning the Calder Memorial Trophy for NHL Rookie of the Year in 2019-20, and the James Norris Memorial Trophy for the Top Defenseman in the league this past 2020-21 season.

Jacob Bernard Docker at 2018 NHL Entry Draft. Photo used with permission.

Jacob Bernard-Docker – 26th Overall (2018) Ottawa Senators

Jacob Bernard-Docker was selected in the same 2018 draft-class as Makar, hearing his named called 26th overall by the Ottawa Senators. Bernard-Docker (Canmore, Alta.) played his Junior ‘A’ career with the Okotoks Oilers (AJHL) appearing in 103 regular season games over two seasons (2016-2018). He spent three seasons at the University of North Dakota (NCHC) scoring 60 points (15G, 45A) in 95 games as a defenseman.

Bernard-Docker put up a plus-2 (+2) rating in five NHL games with the Ottawa Senators in 2020-21 and recently signed his entry-level contract with the Senators in April. He was also named the NCHC Defensive Defenseman of the Year and helped the Fighting Hawks win a second consecutive NCHC regular-season championship.

Austin Wong – 215th Overall (2018) Winnipeg Jets

The Winnipeg Jets selected Austin Wong (Cochrane, Alta.) in the seventh round of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft.

Wong played three seasons with the Okotoks Oilers (AJHL) scoring 136 points (64G, 72A) in 155 regular season games. He garnered a reputation for his gritty style of play, with a nose for the net, and earned a Harvard commitment in addition to his NHL draft selection.

Harvard cancelled the remainder of their 2020-21 season due to COVID-19 protocols, forcing the 21-year-old back to juniors, where he joined the Fargo Force of the United States Hockey League (USHL). Wong played 49 games for Fargo registering 24 points (15G, 9A) in that span.

Carter Gylander – 191st Overall (2019) Detroit Red Wings

Selected in seventh round, 191st overall, by the Detroit Red Wings, Carter Gylander is the only goalie on this list. (He is not the only native of Beumont, Alberta however.)

Gylander played his Junior ‘A’ hockey with the Sherwood Park Crusaders from 2017-2020, appearing in 64 regular season games, posting a 51-9-0 record with a 2.23 goals-against-average (GAA) and a .916 save percentage (Sv%). He was named 2019-20 AJHL Goaltender of the Year, as well as being named to the All-AJHL North Team and an AJHL Top Team Goaltender.

In his freshman season with the Colgate Raiders (ECAC) in 2020-21, Gylander appeared in 19 of 22 games, posting a (6-9-4) record with a .901 Sv% and a 2.70 GAA. He was named ECAC Hockey Goaltender of the Week (Jan. 11) and earned two ECAC Hockey Rookie of the Week nods.

Dylan Holloway – 14th Overall (2020) Edmonton Oilers

Dylan Holloway was the highest selection out of the AJHL in 2020, hearing his name called 14th overall in the first round by the Edmonton Oilers. Holloway (Calgary, Alta.) spent parts of three seasons with the Okotoks Oilers (AJHL) registering 115 points (51G, 64A) in 83 career games. In two seasons playing for the University of Wisconsin Badgers (NCAA), Holloway has registered 52 points (19G, 33A) in 58 games.

Holloway has a lengthy international resume as well, representing Canada at U-17 WJC, U-18 Hlinka Gretzky Cup and most recently at the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championships, winning a silver medal.

Quinn Olson. (Bryan Wilson / BTBW Media)

Quinn Olson– 92nd Overall (2020) Boston Bruins

Quinn Olson is another former Okoktoks Oilers (AJHL) forward to be selected in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, when he was selected 92nd overall by the Boston Bruins.The Calgary, Alta. product played on a line with the aforementioned Dylan Holloway, spending two seasons with Okotoks before moving onto the NCAA ranks with University of Minnesota-Duluth. Known for his play-making ability and pass-first mentality, he scored 119 points (34G, 85A) in 113 games during his junior career.

Holloway has played two seasons with the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs (NCAA) scoring 26 points (10G, 16A) in 59 games in that span.

Michael Benning – 95th Overall (2020) Florida Panthers

The Florida Panthers called Michael Benning’s name 95th overall in the fourth round of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. A product of St. Albert, Alta. Michael is the younger brother of Nashville Predators forward, Matt Benning. During his time with the Sherwood Park Crusaders (AJHL) he averaged better than a point-per-game as a defenseman, through two seasons (2018-2020). He finished his Junior ‘A’ career with 136 points (22G, 114A) in 114 games.

Benning played his first season with the University of Denver (NCHC) in 2020-21, appearing in 21 games for the Pioneers, scoring 11 points (3G, 8A)

Carter Savoie with the Sherwood Park Crusaders. (Charlene Pauls / BTBW Media)

Carter Savoie – 100th Overall (2020) Edmonton Oilers

Selected 100th overall in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft by the Edmonton Oilers, Carter Savoie, garnered considerable attention from scouts during his final AJHL season with the Sherwood Park Crusaders in 2019-20. The Crusaders finished 2019-20 with a league best a 98-point season, however they never played a playoff game that year, with the league shutting down due to COVID-19. It was an unceremonious end to a fantastic final season for Savoie (St. Albert, Alta.) who averaged nearly a goal per game, finishing with an astonishing 99 points in 54 games (53G, 46A).

Savoie was a unanimous selection to the NCHC All-Rookie Team in 2020-21 after scoring 20 points (13G, 7A) in 24 games with the University of Denver Pioneers.

Ethan Edwards (Quinn Phillips – Global News)

Ethan Edwards– 120th Overall (2020) New Jersey Devils

The New Jersey Devils selected Ethan Edwards 120th Overall in 2020, adding to the already substantial AJHL presence in the draft class in 2020. Edwards (Grande Prairie, Alta.) played his junior hockey with the Spruce Grove Saints (AJHL) appearing in 60 games over two seasons, scoring 34 points (9 G, 25A).

He spent the 2020-21 season playing in the United States Hockey League (USHL) with the Sioux City Musketeers, appearing in 51 games scoring 27 points (6G, 21A) as a defenseman, adding 96 penalty minutes.

Canmore Eagles (AJHL) forward, #13 Alex Young. (Bryan Wilson / BTBW Media)

Alex Young– 196th Overall (2020) San Jose Sharks

Alex Young rounds out the 2020 draft-class from the AJHL, being selected in the seventh round, 196th overall by the San Jose Sharks.

One of the prominent goal-scorers in the AJHL during his AJHL tenure, Young played with the Canmore Eagles (AJHL) for three seasons from 2017-2020. The Calgary, Alta. kid garnered attention through his career, primarily from his offensive awareness, play-making abilities and blistering shot. He reached the 30-goal mark twice in three seasons and finished his Junior ‘A’ career with 206 points (91G, 115A) in 172 games.

Young played his first NCAA season with Colgate University where he registered 13 points (6G, 7A) in 21 games.

Corson Ceulemans. (Bryan Wilson / BTBW Media)

Corson Ceulemans – 25th Overall (2021) Columbus Blue Jackets

Brooks Bandits defenceman, Corson Ceulemans, was selected 25th overall by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2021 National Hockey League Entry Draft, the highest player picked out of the Canadian Junior Hockey League (CJHL) that year.

Ceulemans (Beaumont, Alta.) was ranked No. 14 in NHL Central Scouting’s final ranking of North American skaters for the 2021 NHL Draft. He played three shortened seasons with the Bandits from 2018-2020, appearing in 57 regular season games, registering 46 points ( 9G, 37A ). He is committed to Wisconsin (NCAA) for 2021-22.

Taige Harding. (Bryan Wilson/ BTBW Media)

Taige Harding – 91st Overall (2021) Chicago Blackhawks

The Chicago Blackhawks selected Fort McMurray Oil Barons defenceman, Taige Harding, in the third round of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft. 

The 6’7” blueliner from St Albert, Alta. completed his second AJHL season with the Oil Barons in 2020-21, scoring 13 points (5G, 8A) in 16 games. and is committed to Providence College of the NCAA Division I.

The last Oil Barons defenceman to be selected in the NHL Draft was 2019 Stanley Cup Champion, Colton Parayko, who was a third-round draft pick of the St Louis Blues in 2012.

Taylor Makar. (Bryan Wilson / BTBW Media)

Taylor Makar – 220th Overall (2021) Colorado Avalanche

Brooks Bandits forward, Taylor Makar, was selected 220th overall by the Colorado Avalanche at the 2021 National Hockey League Entry Draft.

With the selection, Makar became the fourth Bandits (AJHL) player drafted directly out of the organization, joining his brother Cale (2017, 4th Overall – Colorado Avalanche), Parker Foo (2017, 144th Overall – Chicago Blackhawks), and Corson Ceulemans (2021, 25th Overall – Columbus Blue Jackets) with that distinguished honour.

Makar (Calgary, AB) played three seasons for the Bandits, serving as captain during the 2020-21 season where he averaged over a point-per-game, registering 19 points (5G, 14A) in 16 games. Like his brother, Makar is committed to UMass (Hockey East, NCAA Division) and will play with the Minutemen in 2020-21.

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