A pair of defencemen from Surrey heard their names called Saturday morning at the weekend’s National Hockey League (NHL) Entry Draft in Sunrise, Florida.
Parker Wotherspoon of the Tri-City Americans was selected by the New York Islanders in the fourth round, 112th overall, while Devante Stephens of the Kelowna Rockets was claimed by the Buffalo Sabres with the first pick of the fifth round, 122nd overall.
“I’m really excited to be a part of such a great organization,” said Wotherspoon, who was in Sunrise when the Islanders called his name. “It’s been one of the best days of my life that I’ll never forget. Can’t wait to get to camp and be in Brooklyn for the first time and get to know it.”
The 17-year-old is the younger brother of Calgary Flames defenceman Tyler Wotherspoon, and just completed his second season with the Americans in the Western Hockey League (WHL).
He scored nine goals and added 33 assists for 42 points, all of which were career bests. He played in all 72 games, was Tri-city’s leading scorer among defenseman and was sixth overall in team scoring.
He also played at the U18 World Junior Championships in Switzerland, netting a goal and five points in seven games to place third in tournament scoring among defenceman, helping Canada to win a bronze medal.
Wotherspoon will attend the Islanders training camp in September, but will return to the Americans just before the season begins.
“It is a thrill for Parker to be selected by the New York Islanders and our entire organization and fans share in his excitement at this moment in his career,” said Americans general manager Bob Tory. “We look forward for him to continue to be a key part of our club next season.”
Stephens had earned his team’s Rookie of the Year award in Kelowna this past season, after scoring four goals and 11 points in 64 games. He had plenty of opportunity to impress NHL scouts in the postseason, as the Rockets claimed the WHL championship and went to the final of the Memorial Cup tournament, losing 2-1 in overtime to the Oshawa Generals.
He will also attend an NHL training camp in September, and will likely be returned to the Rockets before the Sabres start regular season play next season. But Buffalo is convinced they have selected a future NHL defenceman.
“When we drafted him, coach Dan (Bylsma) walked by the table (pumped his fist) and said ‘yeah!’ He knows him (Stephens) and he’s convinced he’ll be an NHL player,” said Sabres director of amateur scouting Greg Royce “We’re convinced he’ll be an NHL player so we believe we had a steal there.”