Cougars select Shantz in WHL Bantam Draft

High Prairie’s Zack Shantz in action last season for the Grande Prairie GPAC Bantam AA Storm.

Chris Clegg
South Peace News

It is the dream of most Canadian born boys to play in the NHL.

High Prairie’s Zack Shantz, 15, has taken that first step.

Shantz was drafted in the Western Hockey League Bantam Draft on April 22, in the third round, 66th overall, by the Prince George Cougars.

The Cougars’ director of scouting, Bob Simmonds, says the club liked what they saw in one of their newest prospects.

“The AAA Bantam team in Grande Prairie was a strong team,” says Simmonds. “He was a big part of that team. He played in every situation: the power play, penalty killing and five-on-five. We saw him in every situation.

“He was the straw who stirred the drink on that team.

“We saw an awful lot of potential. We liked a lot of things.”

Shantz is obviously thrilled to be drafted as his hockey career progresses.

“They [Cougars’ Bob Simmonds] phoned me a couple of hours after the draft,” says Shantz, adding it was more of a “welcome to the team” conversation.

“I was very excited; I want to get started with the team.”

Shantz, born on Sept. 9, 2005, is 5’7” tall, weighs 126 pounds and shoots right. He posted impressive 34-18-52 points in 33 games with the Grande Prairie GPAC Bantam AAA Stormin 2019-20 by playing both centre and wing.

Simmonds says the league is a very important league for the Cougars to scout. Like all teams, they scout every league in Western Canada looking for talent.

“I started watching him in September. We [the Cougars] were told he was a Northern Alberta lad to keep your eye on.”

Shantz says his game is more than scoring goals.

“I’m a 200-foot player, I worry about our defence and zone,” he says.

As Shantz ponders his future next season, for now he says he just needs to work on getting stronger.

Simmonds says he had several opportunities to watch Shantz play.

“He is very creative on the power play. There were many situations where there was an opportunity to create a scoring chance, he was there.”

Obviously by drafting Shantz, there was lot to like.

“He’s going to get bigger, he’s going to get stronger. Zack should be able to play the game we really like,” says Simmonds.

Next fall, provided the COVID pandemic lessens, Shantz will be invited to the Cougars training camp. He will not make the team but the experience will give him a taste of life in the WHL and major junior.

“You can play in our league at 16. If he’s here he has to play,” says Simmonds, adding Shantz will likely have to play two years of major midget before he makes the jump to the WHL.

Simmonds would like to see Shantz play at least one year of major midget [AAA} – probably in Grande Prairie – or midget academy in Edmonton or the Okanagan region of British Columbia.

“We want him to play at the highest level he can,” says Simmonds, adding that will add to his development as he is challenged by better players.

Playing and excelling in major midget instead of midget academy – which some teams seem to prefer – is no issue for Simmons.

“There are countless players in the NHL who played midget at 15,” he says.

Shantz is undecided where he will play next year at press time.

Simmonds predicts a bright future for Shantz.

“We have expectations in a couple of years he should be playing for us,” he says.

“He’s a great kid.”

Zack is the son of Tyler and Terra Shantz of High Prairie.

Zack Shantz Profile

Born: Sept. 9, 2005
Height: 5’7”
Weight: 126 pounds
Shoots: Right
Position: Centre/Wing
2019-20 Team: GP Bantam AA Storm
Games Played: 33
Goals: 34
Assists: 18
Points: 52
Favourite Player: Mitch Marner
Favourite Team: Edmonton Oilers
Favourite Mentor: Sidney Crosby
WHL Draft: Prince George Cougars
Selection: 3rd Round, 66th Overall
Parents: Tyler and Terra Shantz

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