In last week’s SJHL draft, the Bombers had their chance to shape their own future - and kept a pair of locally-trained talents close to home.
The team chose six players in the eight-round draft, picking five times in the six rounds devoted to 2006-born players and once in the two rounds for 2007-born players.
The Bombers used their first-round pick - eighth overall - to select forward Koen Senft, a 5-foot-11, 161-pound right-shot player from Regina. Senft suited up this past season with the Regina Pat Canadians in the Saskatchewan U18 AAA hockey league, finishing his first season with 19 points in 44 games and adding four points in seven playoff matchups. Senft is an alumnus of the Regina Aces U15 program, the same program that produced 2020 Bomber bantam draft choice Jack Bechard. Senft is a 10th-round WHL draft pick of the Seattle Thunderbirds.
With no picks in either the second or third round, the Bombers chose three times in the fourth round. Flin Flon’s second pick was traded to Weyburn earlier this year in the deal that brought Drew Kuzma to the north - that pick was later flipped by the Red Wings to Melfort. The Bombers also sent their third-round pick to Nipawin.
“We didn't have a second and third round pick - obviously that puts limits to some of the players that you could get to, but having three fourth round picks was good,” said Bomber head coach and general manager Mike Reagan.
With the first of those three fourth-round picks, Flin Flon picked Kolten Bridgeman, another former Regina Aces player. A 6-foot-tall, 165-pound defender from Saskatchewan’s capital, Bridgeman played a handful of games with Senft and the Pat C’s, but played most of the season in U18 AA with the Regina Vics, where he put up 23 points in 34 games.
The pick used to select Bridgeman was obtained by the Bombers in the Kuzma trade.
Another Bomber fourth-rounder was used on Jonah Marshall, a diminutive defender originally from Saskatoon. Marshall played this past season with the Moose Jaw Warriors U18 AAA squad, where he played all 44 games and ended the season with six points. Marshall comes in at 5-foot-7 and 130 pounds - by far the smallest player picked by the Bombers during the draft.
Marshall was joined by one of his teammates from last year, as the Bombers would also go to Moose Jaw's crease, selecting Ryan Bain with the team's third pick of the round.
Bain was co-starter of the U18 Warriors last season, playing with Marshall in his first year of AAA. The 5-foot-11, 165-pound native of Hanley played 25 games with the Warriors, ending the year with a 10-6 record, one shutout, a 3.57 goals-against-average and a .878 save percentage.
Bain is also from a program the Bombers know well - the Martensville Marauders U15 AA program, where the team has selected several players from in recent years. A pair of 2019 Bomber draftees - defender Kalem Parker and goalie Max Hildebrand - came from the program, as did 2020 first-round pick Rylan Pearce. Defender Wyatt Wurtz, who earned an invite to Bomber camp last fall, also played with the club.
That fourth round saw a draft pick trade for the Bombers that will pay dividends next season, with the team working out a deal with Estevan that slid the Bombers down six picks in exchange for a second rounder next year.
“We traded our 40th pick to Estevan to slide down to 46 and got a second round draft pick in next year's draft on top of that. We were able to get the player that we wanted with our 40th pick at 46 instead and added a second round pick next year,” said Reagan.
Finishing off the 2006-born draft, Flin Flon picked up Hudson Darby, a 5-foot-10, 150-pound forward from Swift Current. With his hometown U18 AAA Legionnaires last season, Darby put up 36 points in 43 games. If he returns to the Legionnaires next season, he’ll be coached by a person familiar to Bomber fans - Todd Hornung, a key figure in the Bombers’ 2001 run to the RBC Cup final. Darby went in the fifth round, 103rd overall, of last year’s WHL draft, going to the Portland Winterhawks - he has already signed a standard player agreement deal with the team, meaning he’ll most likely play in the WHL, but the Bombers will keep his junior A rights.
In the two-round 2007-born draft, the Bombers had only one pick - the team’s first rounder was shipped off to Weyburn. With only a second-rounder left, the Bombers used it on Ryan Ulmer, another Regina-based player. The 5-foot-9, 154-pound forward put up sterling numbers on the Regina Pat Blues U15 AA team, ending the season with 54 points, including 25 goals, in just 31 games. Ulmer went to Seattle in the seventh round of this year’s WHL draft.
“I think our scouting staff, they’ve worked so hard all year long and this is kind of their big day. We think they did a great job,” said Reagan.
“We [Reagan and assistant coach and assistant GM Cole McCaig] were familiar with a few of the players, but we’re not familiar with all of them. Unfortunately, when you are located where we are, we don’t get to watch a lot of these young guys throughout the year. I think we had a good strategy going into the draft and, for the most part, we were able to execute it.”
The Bombers also autoprotected a pair of local prospects, keeping the junior A rights to Ryder Mucha and Wyatt Stinton. Both players are Flin Flon Minor Hockey products and grew up as good friends, playing on the same teams.
Stinton played this past season with the Rink Hockey Academy in Winnipeg, scoring 47 points in 30 games (including 23 goals) with the team. That got Stinton picked in the fifth round of the WHL draft this year by the Regina Pats.
Mucha, a 2007-born forward who suited up this past year with the North East Wolfpack U15 AA team in Melfort, scored a whopping 61 points, including 29 goals, in 25 games with the Wolfpack. Mucha, listed at 5-foot-8, 161 pounds, also played a four-game stint with the Tisdale Trojans U18 AAA club, where he scored one goal.
Both players stand as highly ranked talents in their age group. Mucha outscored all but two 2007-born players picked in the draft in the U15 AA ranks last year - no players picked in the SJHL draft from the league Stinton played in last year had more points than he did.
Reagan was pleased to have both players in the fold, adding that the team would have considered taking steps to pick them up if they weren’t already autoprotected.
“Those are guys who will be part of our list going forward,” Reagan said.
“If they were available, they would have definitely been guys where we wouldn’t have let them get selected by anybody - we would have done whatever we had to to make sure that they were with us. It’s no different than a Melfort kid or a Humboldt kid - those kids should be able to play with their hometown team.”
Both players played in the famous Brick Invitational Tournament in 2017 and are former members of the Norman Wolves U15 AAA team. With the Wolves, Stinton scored nine points in five games and Mucha had six in six before COVID-19 shut the season down in 2020-21.
In Tisdale, Mucha will be coached by Dennis Kubat, a three-year Bomber veteran who played 193 games in maroon and white. Kubat was coached in his second and third seasons by Reagan, who had then just come back to the Bombers as the team’s coach. The Trojans also boast forward Matty Healey, a Bomber prospect who played a game as an affiliate player last year.