Like most kids their age, Caedan Bankier and Carson Latimer didn’t play a lot of hockey games last winter, but the pair of Surrey-raised junior hockey players made the most of their pandemic-shortened seasons in the WHL.
South Surrey’s Latimer earned Central Division Rookie of the Year honours after scoring 16 points in 22 games with Edmonton Oil Kings.
In Kamloops, Bankier was a centre-ice threat for the Blazers, happy to have the Cloverdale-raised sniper fire 11 goals and 12 assists during the team’s RE/MAX Cup championship spring season.
Bankier is ranked 102nd among North American skaters on the league’s final draft prospect rankings (on nhl.com), while Latimer is 149th on that same Central Scouting list.
“Obviously I’m hoping to get drafted,” Bankier said, “and personally I feel I had a pretty good season and showed that I gave it my all, and there’s more work I have to do to reach that goal.”
The White Rock-born Bankier, 18, started playing minor hockey in Cloverdale, switched to Burnaby Winter Club (BWC) and was then Bantam-drafted by the Blazers.
When the pandemic forced postponement of the WHL season last fall, Bankier kept training in the Surrey area before returning to Kamloops mid-winter, to prepare for his second season there.
“It was a challenging year,” he admitted, “and you got a feeling that when the season didn’t start on time, it was going to be condensed, kind of a shortened season. I had a goal in mind, to get drafted, so I just tried to keep focused on that and keep challenging myself toward that, to hopefully make the most of my year.”
When the abbreviated WHL season finally got going in the spring, Bankier found a groove on a very good Blazers team in the league’s B.C. Division.
When teammate Logan Stankoven went to play for Team Canada at the U18 World Championships, and with some injuries on the team, Bankier “filled in the gaps and just tried to make the most of the opportunities in those slots,” he said. “Whatever happened this year I was pretty proud of how I handled it and how I managed to play.”
On draft day, Bankier said he plans to tune in at home.
“I’ll be with family and friends, watching with them, and hopefully my name gets called. But if not, I’ll still be surrounded by all my support system and yeah, it’ll be a cool day, for sure.”
Latimer will be on Salt Spring Island on draft day, on a “mini vacation” with family.
“I would be honoured just to be drafted,” said the right-shot winger, also born in White Rock 18 years ago.
“I’m a little bit nervous but excited as well, because it’s something I’ve worked toward my whole life.”
Latimer got his hockey start with the Semiahmoo association before transferring to Delta Hockey Academy for his Bantam season, in 2016. He was selected 48th overall by the Oil Kings in the 2018 WHL Bantam Draft, and played with Team B.C. at the 2019 Canada Winter Games.
When he got called up by the Oil Kings in December 2019, Latimer scored his first WHL goal on his very first shift, poking in a rebound just a few seconds after hitting the ice. “It was probably the best feeling I’ve had in my life, it was just amazing,” he said at the time.
Last winter, Latimer trained at Delta Planet Ice and played eight games with the PJHL’s Port Moody Panthers to stay in game shape for the delayed WHL season.
“I was here and stayed home the whole time,” Latimer recalled, “and skated as many times as I could during the week and prepare the best I could. It was getting pretty repetitive but some parts of it were good,” he added. “I was able to get a bit stronger and faster and prepare for the WHL.”
With just 22 games to show his stuff in his NHL draft year, Latimer found the net five times and added 11 assists.
“It was short and obviously not what you’d expect to happen with COVID and everything, and the dates kept getting pushed back, but I’m just thankful we had a season at all,” Latimer said. “I tried to make an impact early on and with Dylan (Guenther) moving to U18s (with Team Canada, midway through the shortened season), I got some more ice time and special teams, to maybe put some points up.”
— The WHL (@TheWHL) July 13, 2021
At the NHL Entry Draft, another local player to watch is North Delta’s Ethan Samson, a defenseman ranked 92nd among North American skaters. The six-foot-three Samson scored a goal and 11 assists for Prince George Cougars last spring, and arrived as a key part of the team’s offence.
During the 2020 draft, Surrey-raised Justin Sourdif, a forward with Vancouver Giants, was selected 87th overall by Florida Panthers. During the most recent WHL season, Sourdif topped the B.C. Division in scoring with 34 points (11 goals, 23 assists) in 22 games, played in the “hub centres” of Kamloops and Kelowna.
Looking ahead, Sourdif says he’ll skate at Hockey Canada’s U20 (world junior) camp in Calgary later this summer, and in September will pack for his first NHL training camp with the Panthers.