Matthew Hilderman was the top Cochrane pick in yesterday's WHL prospective draft and was joined by seven others, the majority of which cut their teeth in the sport with the Cochrane Minor Hockey Association (CMHA).

Hilderman, 15, was selected first in the second round, and 23rd overall by the Seattle Thunderbirds, who added another Cochrane players later in the draft.

The left winger played for the Edge School U15 prep team this season and was a member of the provincial champion Airdrie Xtreme in his first year of U15 AAA hockey. He was a member of Team Alberta Black in this year's Alberta Cup.

Hilderman got the call from the Thunderbirds director of hockey operations right after the first round of the draft ended.

"He said that they were happy to have me, he likes the way, and it should be fun if I make the team as a 16-year-old," says Hilderman.

"Getting drafted has been my goal or dream for quite a while now and it's pretty awesome to experience that feeling."

Word of his selection spread quickly. Immediately, friends and family reached out to congratulate him.

He made a few calls himself to past and current teammates who were also drafted.

"They're part of the reason why I was drafted and where I am today."

Hilderman was thrilled when he was drafted by the same team as Edge teammate and good friend Brock England, of Airdrie, who was selected 11th overall.

Being drafted is a starting point; a chance to prove you belong in the WHL. Hilderman says he intends to continue training hard before the Thunderbirds camp opens.

"I'm going to keep going on the ice every day and keep working out. Just getting drafted doesn't mean that the work is over. I still have a lot of stuff I need to do to make the WHL."

Four picks later, right winger Jensen Marsh, who played for the Airdrie Xtreme this season, was selected by the Edmonton Oil Kings.

Defenceman Kale McCann, also of the Xtreme, went 29th overall. His brother Kadon McCann was selected by the Medicine Hat Tigers in the 2022 prospects draft.

Leif Oaten was the first goalie selected in the draft, going 58th overall.  The 6'1" netminder was snatched by the Lethbridge Hurricanes and spent this season with the Edge School U15 prep team.

Only two picks later, a second Cochrane goalie went. Goalie Linden Sobocan, of the Okanagan Hockey Academy U15 prep team, was selected by the Kelowna Rockets, 60th overall in the third round.

Defender Daniel Vaillant of the Xtreme, was selected by the Wenatchee Wild (formerly the Winnipeg Ice), 65th overall in the third round.

Centre Seamus Dillon of the Extreme was selected 100th overall in the fifth round by the Seattle Thunderbirds

Right winger Zane Rains was selected by the Spokane Chiefs 194th overall in the ninth round.

Many nurtured their skills at the Cochrane minor hockey entry level, then it's AA Timberwolves program before having to go outside of the community to play AAA hockey.

"We're 100 per cent proud of our program," says CMHA president Corey Oaten, "but today is all about the players who were selected. It's a great achievement and a feather in their caps as they prepare to enter a new chapter of their hockey careers."

Last year, six Timberwolves were selected in the draft. Riley Boychuk, who was captain of the Airdrie Xtreme, topped the list after being picked second overall by the Prince Albert Raiders.

Cochrane's Ty Mueller, who recently signed an entry-level contract with the Vancouver Canucks, was among the class of 2017.
Players eligible for the 2024 WHL Prospects Draft were 2009-born players residing in Alberta, B.C., Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Northwest Territories, Yukon, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.

The top-three choices of this year's draft were all defencemen.