The 2016 draft shapes up to be very unique, and not just because an American kid playing in Switzerland is poised to go first overall. Another intriguing wrinkle concerns Western Canada, where the WHL is going to take a backseat for once. The top two players from that region play Jr. A in the British Columbia League.
Center Tyson Jost and defenseman Dante Fabbro both play for the Penticton Vees, a real heavy outfit that has scorched the BCHL this season and put together some insane streaks. “It’s pretty special when you go 23 games without a loss,” Jost said. “It’s nice to experience all that winning, but you have to keep focused and keep getting better.”
Jost averages around two points a game and is also the captain of the team. He’s a powerful skater with phenomenal hands and a shot to match, and he also captained Canada West’s gold-medal team at the World Jr. A Challenge. That squad knocked off the perennial favorites from the U.S. in the round-robin and then Russia in the final. Jost was named MVP of the tournament. “He’s got high-end quickness,” said one scout. “He’s got power on turns, agility, balance…I like the way he can get behind guys.”
Though he was pursued by WHL Everett, Jost instead committed to the University of North Dakota, where he will join the Fighting Hawks next season and test out his skating at Ralph Engelstad Arena. “North Dakota has such a great hockey program,” Jost said. “It’s pretty special when you go into ‘The Ralph’ and see how nice the rink is. I see so much growth and improvement for me at North Dakota, and they can develop me into an NHL player.”
Fabbro has also been lightning this season. He also won gold at the WJAC with Canada West and has been one of the top-scoring blueliners in the BCHL, registering about a point-and-a-half per outing. “He’s basically an NHL player already,” said the scout. “I see him as a two-way guy with a shutdown look. His ‘D’ zone coverage is high-end, and he closes in on guys quickly.”
Fabbro is a WHL Seattle draft pick, but he’ll be heading all the way across the continent next season to play for Boston University. That squad has once again become a magnet for talent under coach David Quinn. “The biggest thing was fitting in with the coaches,” Fabbro said. “The players down there are pretty special, and they have some pretty good recruits coming in next year, so hopefully I can be a part of that and win a national championship someday.”
Highly sought after by both WHL and NCAA programs, Jost and Fabbro could have picked their Jr. A locale, too, since there is no draft there. But Penticton won both their hearts, and the Vees have made a habit of winning big recruits lately. The team’s coach and GM deserves a lot of credit. “Fred Harbinson had a big impact on why I chose Penticton,” Jost said. “He’s such a professional coach and has such a world-class setup around him. He sat down with me and told me what he could do for me in my draft year and how he could help me better my play on and off the ice.”
Harbinson has been a master recruiter in recent years. NHL picks such as Mike Reilly, Mario Lucia, Steven Fogarty, Miles Gendron and James de Haas all made stops with the team before heading to college – and none of them hails from Western Canada. Jost and Fabbro are both B.C. boys and can also rip up the scoresheet – so it’s been another sunny year in beautiful Penticton. The Vees have won two of the past four league titles and it could easily become three in five this season.