The Saskatoon Blades put pen to paper with a pair of promising prospects Wednesday afternoon. Defenceman Aidan De La Gorgendiere (2002) and centre Kyle Crnkovic (2002), who were both first-round selections of the Blades at the 2017 WHL Bantam Draft, signed WHL Standard Player Agreements with the club less than two weeks after having their names called.
De La Gorgendiere was the Blades’ top pick at the bantam draft, going fifth overall. Crnkovic was chosen 10th overall with the Blades’ second selection in the first round, which was acquired from the Victoria Royals.
“To get a couple first-round picks like this, and to sign them so quickly it’s a big relief for me honestly,” said Colin Priestner, general manager of the Blades. “From the first game I watched Aidan, I knew we needed that guy on the Blades, and then to get Crnkovic at 10… his speed is off the charts, he’s a sniper, he’s just remarkable to watch.”
NEWS: Blades Ink Top 3 Draft Picks
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A product of Langley, B.C., the 6-foot, 169-pound De La Gorgendiere spent the 2016-17 campaign with the Yale Hockey Academy’s Bantam Prep squad, where he racked up 26 points (5G-21A) in 30 games before adding another nine points (2G-7A) in four playoff games.
“It’s pretty cool, I have a lot of family here, my grandparents live here and aunts and uncles, so it’s really exciting,” De La Gorgendiere said. “Right away as soon as I got drafted I knew I wanted to play here.”
In 2015-16, De La Gorgendiere was a member of Yale’s Bantam Varsity crew, which won the 2016 CSSHL Bantam Varsity Championship.
A product of Chestermere, Alta., the 5-foot-6, 149-pound Crnkovic laced up with the Pursuit of Excellence Hockey Academy’s Bantam Prep team in 2016-17, logging 79 points (40G-39A) in 30 games before adding another 17 points (8G-9A) in five games as POE claimed the CSSHL Bantam Prep Championship. Crnkovic was also a member of the 2017 Alberta Cup-champion Team South.
“It’s what I’ve always wanted to do,” Crnkovic said. “So to be able to have this happen is amazing.”
In 2015-16, Crnkovic skated alongside former first-overall pick Peyton Krebs (Kootenay ICE) as a member of the Rocky Mountain Bantam AAA Raiders. There, he posted 71 points (36G-35A) in 35 games and was named Alberta Major Bantam Hockey League Rookie of the Year.
Both De La Gorgendiere and Crnkovic were two of a WHL-record 13 CSSHL athletes selected in the first round of the 2017 WHL Bantam Draft.
The Blades selected 12 players through the first 10 rounds of the 2017 WHL Bantam Draft, including Braden Plaschewsky (second round, 31st overall). Plaschewsky, a product of Calgary, also signed a WHL Standard Player Agreement on Wednesday.
2002-born players are eligible to play up to five WHL regular season games as underage affiliates prior to the completion of their respective midget seasons. Players born in the year 2002 will be eligible to join WHL rosters on a full-time basis for the 2018-19 season.