4 Rockets to watch

Lassi Thomson, Kaedan Korczak, Nolan Foote and Dillon Hamaliuk are among 104 draft-eligible players from North America and Europe who will be attending NHL Scouting Combine this week in Buffalo, N.Y.

It could be a banner year for the Kelowna Rockets.

Lassi Thomson, Kaedan Korczak, Nolan Foote, Alex Swetlikoff, Jake Lee and Roman Basran were all ranked on NHL Central Scouting's final draft rankings released in mid-April.

Dillon Hamaliuk is also in consideration. He attended the NHL’s scouting combine earlier this month and was given a limited view ranking on the list due to a lower-body injury.

Thomson is the top-ranked Rocket. The Finnish defender had a breakout rookie season in Kelowna. His 41 points (17 goals, 24 assists) led WHL rookie defencemen in all three categories. He was a late cut with Finland’s World Junior team.

He took home the Rockets award for rookie of the year and was also named the Western Conference top rookie.

The five-foot-11 defender also earned a spot on the WHL's Western Conference second all-star team.

The Rockets selected Korczak 11th overall at the 2016 WHL bantam draft after trading up from the 20th spot.

The Yorkton, Sask., product was awarded the Rockets top defenceman award this season. He suited up in all 68 games, setting highs in assists and points; he had four goals and 29 assists, giving him 33 points.

Following the Rockets season, he suited up for Team Canada at the under-18 World Championship in Sweden.

Korczak placed in the top 25 of 11 fitness tests at the NHL Scouting Combine.

“Going in there, I felt prepared,” he said. “I just felt like I did well, and I think it helped me, for sure.”

Kelowna selected Foote 43rd overall during the second round of the 2015 WHL bantam draft.

He led the Rockets with 36 goals this season, 17 of those on the power play. Foote was second in team scoring with 63 points (36G, 27A) and led the team in shots on goal this season with 236. He was named the Rockets MVP.

Foote told NHL.com that he's trying to ignore the pre-draft hype.

“I try to just stay away from it as much as I can,” he said. “Rankings pop up and all that stuff comes up and people mention it to you and teams are talking to you. I just try to keep to myself and continue to work with my game.

“(In) the NHL locker-room…there are guys who weren't drafted at all. All I can do is keep pushing.”

Defender Jake Lee was acquired from the Seattle Thunderbirds during the 2019 WHL draft last month.

This past season, he posted a career-best 24 points (3G, 21A) in 67 games.

Swetlikoff joined the Rockets following the Christmas break after the Rockets acquired his playing rights. He had been with the Vernon Vipers of the BCHL.

Before joining the Rockets, he suited up for Canada West at the World Junior A Challenge this past December in Bonnyville, Alta., where he helped the team win bronze.

The big centreman seemed to ease into his role as the season wore on, with the coaching staff depending on the rookie in all situations. He finished off his first season in the WHL with 14 points (6G, 8A) in 32 games.

“Definitely, I’m really happy,” he said of the move. “I just felt I needed better development. The WHL is going to give me that and, obviously, when a team like Kelowna trades for you, it’s hard to say no. Being a local kid, it makes it that much more special.”

Hamaliuk was acquired alongside Lee from Seattle. The 6’3”, 193-pound winger had 26 points (11G, 15A) in 31 games this past season before it came to an end due to a lower-body injury.

Basran finished the regular season with a record of 20-19-3-1. The 6’1”, 195 pound Vancouver product had a 2.79 GAA, and .906 save percentage.

He attended Hockey Canada’s Program of Excellence Goaltending Camp earlier this month in Calgary, Alta.