The BCHL held their affiliate draft Monday night, fulfilling another of the leagues new initiatives for the 2011/12 season.
With the eighth pick the Trail Smoke Eaters took talented Fruitvale forward Mitchell Foyle who plays for the Kootenay Ice Major Midget team and 24th pick, Jeff Rayman, a six-foot-three defenseman from Fernie who plays with the Cranbrook Ice, a Midget ‘AA’ team playing in the South Central Alberta Hockey League.
“We got a couple of Kootenay kids that we feel have a ton of upside,” said Smokies coach and GM Bill Birks.
In an effort to develop local talent, the affiliate draft gives teams the opportunity to select 15-year-old players for the purpose of signing them for the season.
The players can practice and dress for up to five games with their respective teams, however, the rights to the drafted players are relinquished at the end of the season.
“It will give each team a season to build a relationship with the young player,” said BCHL executive director Dave Sales in a release.
“Perhaps more importantly for the league as a whole, even if a player doesn’t stay with the team that drafted them, they may sign with another BCHL team because of their exposure to the league and we will have been successful as a group in keeping players versus them choosing other options.”
Foyle was invited to the U-16 Team B.C. camp in the summer and was a standout at the Smoke Eaters spring camp.
“He was one of the better players at our main camp too and if he wasn’t a ’96, if he was a ’95 he’d probably be playing for the Smoke Eaters,” said Birks.
The league has been criticized for its policy of having teams release the players’ rights at the end of the season, making them available to be signed elsewhere. The Smokies staff is hoping their draft picks stick around.
“We want to create a relationship with them . . . and hopefully they’ll want to come back and play for us next year.”