Chase Wouters would have been happy being drafted anywhere in the Western Hockey League. The fact it was in the first round and to the Saskatoon Blades is just an added bonus.
Too nervous to watch the draft himself, Wouters was in health class when his friends finally gave him the good news. He doesn’t remember to much of what he was studying that morning, except the applause from his classmates and the phone call from the Blades.
“I didn’t really want to think about it because I knew I just wouldn’t have got anything done,” said Wouters. “It was crazy, really nerve-wracking. I just got butterflies in my stomach and real excited.”
Last season Wouters played for the Lloydminster Heat, his second season with the bantam AAA team after playing as a minor bantam player the year before. He was part of the Heat’s run to the Alberta Major Bantam Hockey League (AMBHL) championship in 2013-14, and earned a silver medal at the Western Canadian Bantam Hockey Championship in Kelowna, B.C.
This season, as captain of the Heat, he scored 19 goals and 57 points, leading the team through a difficult regular season, which ultimately ended in a first round elimination. While the team didn’t have as great of a season, Wouters caught the attention of the Blades scouting staff, as they believe he has what they are looking for in a player that will eventually suit up for their squad.
“For us, we are constantly looking for guys that exemplify a term we call Blade factor,” said Dan Tencer, director of scouting for the western region with the Saskatoon Blades. “It’s sort of an amalgamation of all the intangibles that help you win key hockey games and win in the playoffs. Guys that are great leaders, greater 200-foot players, will come to play when it is Game 7 in the playoffs or a random Tuesday night in Prince Albert. Guys that are vocal in the locker room, shot blockers, all of those sorts of things, and Chase is just a stunning example of all those.”
Wouters was the Blades second first-round pick of the draft after they selected Jonathan Tychonick from Calgary with the 12th selection. Wouters came seven picks later at No. 19, and felt that despite the season the Heat had, his draft status didn’t drop at all. He believed a second- or third-round selection was in his future and as surprised as any when his name was called nearing the end of the first round.
“We didn’t end up the way we wanted to,” said Wouters of his season with the Heat. “It didn’t work out the way we thought it would but the draft definitely went better than planned.”
As a first round selection their is high expectations that Wouters will be part of the lineup sooner, rather than later. He will play next season on one of the midget teams in Lloydminster before trying to make the Blades camp as a 16-year-old. While that is difficult for any new prospect to do in the WHL, Tencer believes if a player could crack the lineup at a young age, he wouldn’t bet against it being Wouters.
“I think he is going to have a really good shot,” said Tencer. “Obviously there is a lot that could happen in two years, but at this point, if you are asking me what I see, I see a kid that I think will have a real tremendous opportunity to make it as soon as 16 years of age, for sure.”
For Wouters, while getting drafted by any WHL team would have been a great experience, getting selected by the Blades gives him a chance to play close to home. His parents grew up in North Battleford and his dad has been a Blades fan all his life so the 5-foot-10 centre is looking at it as a bonus that he gets to play with Saskatoon.
“I can’t wait to go there for camp,” said Wouters. “It is close to home, so it is going to be great to get back to the Saskatchewan side. This is just the first step to becoming a professional hockey player. It’s just going to be a fun ride, I can tell already.”