SURREY â€” Tyler Popowich was a bit surprised to be picked third in the WHL Bantam Draft, but his coach wasn’t.
The 15-year-old Surrey native was selected by the Vancouver Giants, just seven weeks after he led the Okanagan Hockey Academy’s bantam prep team to its first Canadian Sport School Hockey League championship.
The victory capped off his second season with OHA, in which the six-foot-four, 190-pound captain and power forward tallied 57 points in 47 games, along with 48 penalty minutes.
"It doesn’t surprise me that he went so high," said coach Kip Noble.
"The offensive part of his game was pretty fine-tuned and the work on his defensive zone coverage was really solid.
"When he wanted to take charge, he was a man against boys out there."
Popowich, a centre for the OHA, got his first taste of hockey at a young age, thanks in large part to his mom’s side of the family.
"My mom and my grandma were both figure skaters at a pretty high level – I always grew up on the ice," he said. "I was on the ice around the age of three and I started playing hockey around five."
He started in Surrey, then played minor hockey at the Burnaby Winter Club before joining the OHA in 2013 for his first year of bantam. Now, Popowich will get to move back to the Lower Mainland and play inside the 16,000-seat Pacific Coliseum for a team he grew up watching.
"I was definitely excited to go to the Giants and to play at home," he said. "I think it’s a great opportunity and I can’t wait to get started with the Giants."
Scott Bonner, executive vice-president and general manager of the Giants, said in a press release that Popowich’s size and speed will serve the team well.
"Tyler is a big centre with tons of upside," he said. "He competes, scores and makes plays."
Noble credited Popowich’s work ethic and dramatic progression over the last season for making him a standout in the WHL draft.