The Victoria Royals have continued to build for the future by selecting 11 players in the 2023 WHL Prospects Draft and two more in the 2023 WHL US Priority Draft last Wednesday.
One of the highlights of the draft was the selection of 6’3 defenseman Keaton Verhoeff from RINK Hockey Academy Kelowna U15 Prep of the CSSHL, with the 4th overall pick. Verhoeff is now the second highest player selected in franchise history, after forward Cole Reschny was selected 3rd in 2022.
Verhoeff scored 13 goals and 46 points in just 27 games last season.
“We are very proud to have selected Keaton with the 4th overall pick,” said Royals Assistant General Manager and Director of Player Personnel, J.F. Best in a press release.
“He is a person of high character with a great work ethic, who embodies what it means to be a Royal. As a player, he is a skilled defenceman with dynamic abilities and creative offensive instincts. Defensively, he plays with a good stick and is an imposing presence down low and around the net.”
The Royals have high hopes for Verhoeff’s offensive abilities and will work with him to develop his skills before he makes his debut with the team.
With Cole Reschny being selected 3rd overall last year, he and Verhoeff are expected to form the core of the Royals beyond the 2024-25 season.
The Royals addressed every position in the draft, selecting forward Kash Alger-East with their 2nd round, 25th overall pick and goaltender Cole Prelusky with their 3rd round, 62nd overall pick.
“Kash is a dynamic forward with high-end puck skills and a deceptive shot. He is a gritty competitor who can impact the game regardless of the situation or style of play. We are excited to partner with him in his development in the years to come,” said Royals General Manager and Head Coach, Dan Price.
On goaltender Cole Prelusky:
“Cole is a goalie that possesses a very strong technical foundation with explosive athletic ability. He thinks the game well and combines great positional habits with seamless movement. His hockey IQ allows him to process developing situations at a high speed,” said Royals Goaltending Coach & Manager of Goaltender Development, Lynden Sammartino in a release.
Alger-East scored 35 goals and 79 points in just 28 games in the Saskatchewan U15 AA league last season.
Prelusky recorded a 2.15 goals against average and a .935 save percentage with Edge School U15 Prep in the CSSHL.
Overall, the Royals added 11 prospects to their player pool.
Royals draft and sign 2nd overall pick in U.S. Priority Draft
The Royals also made a selection at the top of the US Priority Draft, picking and signing forward Cruz Waltze with the 2nd overall selection.
“We are thrilled to have selected Cruz with the 2nd overall pick and to welcome him and his family to Victoria,” said J.F. Best, Royals Assistant General Manager and Director of Player Personnel.
“Cruz is a well-rounded person who had a great year at the U15 level and elevated his game during the CSSHL playoffs. As a player, he combines tenacious competitiveness with playmaking ability and a deft touch around the net.”
Waltze scored 24 goals and 46 points in just 28 games last season for RINK Hockey Academy Kelowna U15 Prep, playing alongside Royals’ recent 4th overall pick, Keaton Verhoeff.
Victoria also picked defenceman Odin Vauhkoenen 25th overall with their second-round pick.
Players eligible for the 2023 WHL US Priority Draft were those born in 2008 and reside in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, or Wyoming.