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Eight Jr. Ducks 14U AAA Players Picked in WHL U.S. Priority Draft

By Chris Bayee, 05/08/24, 6:15PM PDT


The eight 2009 birth years represent 18 percent of all players selected in the major junior circuit's annual draft.

The eight 2009 birth years represent 18 percent of all players selected in the major junior circuit's annual draft.

The dominant season of the Jr. Ducks 14U AAA team extended to the offseason on May 8.

Eight members of the Pacific District champions were selected in the Western Hockey League's U.S. Priority Draft for 2009 birth years. That represents 18 percent of all players taken and nearly doubled the number for the rest of California

"It's massive for the club and for these players," said Jim Burcar, the group's coach for the past six years. "I'm so proud of these kids. For them to be recognized like this is awesome."

This WHL draft is for 14U players from the Western United States. It doesn't tie the players to the Canadian major junior circuit, but it determines their destination should they elect to play in the league. Players who sign with teams in the Canadian Hockey League, which the WHL is part of, forfeit their NCAA eligibility.

The eight Jr. Ducks included five first-rounders — three in the top nine selections — and two second-rounders. Defenseman Parker Schellenberg went third overall to Calgary, center Grady Schaefer went one pick later to Tri-City, and center Gavin Burcar was selected by Prince Albert. 

Schellenberg had 34 points in 68 games. Schaefer led the Jr. Ducks with 77 points and 41 goals in 65 games. Burcar had 71 points and 32 goals in 58 games. 

Goaltender Evan Enck was selected 19th overall, by Everett, and center Mason Moreland was the final pick of the first round, by Saskatoon, at No. 22. Enck had a .911 save percentage in 34 games, while Moreland's 41 points included 30 goals in 73 games. 

Two more Jr. Ducks immediately followed Moreland to start the second round. Goalie Kaedan Tate went 23rd overall to Kamloops and defenseman Jackson Schaefer was picked by the same Tri-City team that earlier picked his brother. Tate had a .921 save percentage in 34 games, while Jackson Schaefer had 27 points, including 11 goals, in 70 games. 

Defenseman Dax Diep completed the Jr. Ducks' impressive showing by being selected 43rd overall by Prince George. Deep had 34 points (nine goals) in 73 games. 

The eight picks from one birth year are a Jr. Ducks record in the WHL draft, and it may be a California record. In addition to their Pacific District title and its accompanying berth at the USA Hockey Nationals, the 14U AAA also won the CAHA State Tournament and regular-season championships.

"I don't know of a California team that has done this," said Jim Burcar, whose coaching history in the state covers more than 20 years.