Lorne Frey has never been big on comparisons.
For example, he didn't want to liken Braydyn Chizen to Tyler Myers when so many others began to draw that parallel based on their height and skating ability.
Frey sees every player as an individual, but part of it is he doesn't want to put too much pressure on younger prospects, especially those freshly picked in the annual WHL bantam draft.
Yet, when the names Trevor Wong and Dillon Dube were mentioned in the same sentence, Frey didn't hesitate in taking the bait.
“Very similar in a lot of ways, pretty close,” he said of that comparison between this year's first-round pick — Kelowna selected Wong at 18th overall in Thursday's draft — and one of the franchise's best players in recent years, with Dube captaining Canada to gold at the World Juniors in January and nearly sticking with the NHL's Calgary Flames out of training camp back in September.
Dube was also a first-round pick for the Rockets — taken 21st in 2013 — then a second-rounder for the Flames at 56th in 2016.
Both were undersized centres coming out of bantam, and both are known for their speed.
In fact, Wong was labelled one of the fastest skaters in this year's draft by Brennen York of DraftGeek.ca during his appearance on The Pipeline Show — an Edmonton-based podcast dedicated to prospects — on the eve of the draft.
“He’s an excellent skater and he can execute at high speeds,” Frey said in echoing those sentiments. “He can do things phenomenally well at high speeds. The key is that with his speed, he can execute at that pace, and that’s unique for young players like him.”
The gushing didn't stop there.
“He’s got great puck skills, great hands, great vision, an excellent shot,” continued Frey, the Rockets’ assistant general manager, director of player personnel and bantam-draft guru. “He’s a real exciting player, a dynamic forward.”
The 5-foot-8, 135-pound pivot from Vancouver recorded 64 goals and 77 assists for a whopping 141 points in just 30 games this season for St. George’s School, which plays out of the Canadian Sport School Hockey League (CSSHL) and enjoyed an undefeated campaign at 30-0-0 in the bantam varsity division.
Wong also added five goals and 18 assists for 23 points in five post-season games.
“Trevor is a very highly skilled player. He’s a great skater with above average skill and hockey IQ,” added Rockets general manager Bruce Hamilton.
If that sounds like the makings of a top-10 pick, it is, but Wong has committed to the college route — to the University of Denver (NCAA) — and thus his draft stock dropped.
Still, the Rockets felt fortunate to get Wong at that spot.
“If he grows, he will be lights out,” Frey said.
Getting Wong here, in a Rockets' uniform, will be a trying process, but Kelowna came away from the draft with a total of 11 new prospects — five forwards, five defencemen and, lastly, a goaltender.
Frey and his scouting staff have had a ton of success in recent years — stealing Kole Lind in the fourth round (86th overall) in 2013 and Kyle Topping in the 11th round (220th) in 2014 as just two examples.
Frey was happy with the 2018 haul, which started with a run of five straight prospects playing for hockey academies — including three plucked from the Rockets' own backyard, taking two from the Okanagan Hockey Academy in Penticton and one from Winfield-based Pursuit of Excellence.
That trend towards academies has become part of the evolution of the bantam draft, but Frey has maintained his best player available approach.
“We just liked the players and they happened to play for those academies,” he said.
The OHA prospects — defenceman Noah Dorey of Surrey and forward Steel Quiring of Vernon — grew on Frey as their draft year progressed.
“Both of them really improved. Quiring came on strong towards the end of the year,” he said.
That suggests there is upside to those picks, and Frey also spoke glowingly of a couple other defencemen in Elias Carmichael of Langley and William Irvine of Morden, Man.
“Carmichael is really big, tall and solid,” he said. “Irvine is mid-sized, but a great skater and physical, moves the puck well.
“We think we got four good (defencemen) that we’re confident about, and we’ll see how the forwards work out.”
Here is a full recap of Kelowna's 2018 draft class, including draft position, name, size, hometown and most recent team:
1) First Round, 18th overall - Trevor Wong - 5-foot-8, 135lbs - Centre - Vancouver - St. George’s School Bantam Varsity
2) Second Round, 40th overall - Elias Carmichael - 6-foot-1, 182lbs - Defence - Langley - BWC Academy Bantam Prep
3) Fourth Round, 84th overall - Jackson DeSouza – 6-foot-1, 147lbs - Defence - Erie, Colo. - Pursuit Of Excellence H.A. Bantam Prep.
4) Fourth Round, 88th overall - Noah Dorey - 5-foot-11, 167lbs - Defence - Surrey - Okanagan H.A. Bantam Prep.
5) Fifth Round, 89th overall - Steel Quiring - 6-foot-1, 175lbs - Forward - Vernon - Okanagan H.A. Bantam Prep.
6) Fifth Round, 106th overall - Hayden Wilm - 5-foot-9, 170lbs - Centre - Central Butte, Sask. - Swift Current Broncos BAA
7) Sixth Round, 128th overall - William Irvine - 5-foot-10, 184lbs - Defence - Morden, Man. - Pacific Coast H.A. Bantam Prep.
8) Seventh Round, 150th overall - Ryan Nutt - Defence - Vacaville, Calif. - Golden State Elite Eagles 14UAA North
9) Eighth Round, 171st overall - Arvega Hovsepyan - 5-foot-7, 147lbs - Centre - Los Angeles, Calif. - Los Angeles Jr. Kings 14U
10) Ninth Round, 191st overall - Turner McMillen - 5-foot-8, 134lbs - Forward - Carievale, Sask. - Estevan Bruins BAA
11) Tenth Round, 204th overall - Justin Dueck - 6-foot-0, 187lbs - Goalie - Waldeck, Sask. - Swift Current Broncos BAA