Three former St. Albert Gregg Distributors Sabres have been drafted to the NHL.
Carter Savoie, Michael Benning and Ethan Edwards were all picked on Oct. 7, day two of the draft, all in the fourth round.
Savoie was drafted by the Edmonton Oilers and was the 100th pick overall.
“Not many kids can say they got drafted in the first place and even fewer can say that they went to their hometown team ... I’m really excited to get things going,” he said.
Like many Alberta kids this side of Calgary, Oilers games were a big part of Savoie's childhood.
“My dad is a pretty big Oilers fan ... Growing up I would watch a lot of the games with him. So yeah, big fan of the Oilers. It was really special to go with them and I was really excited.”
Savoie played left-wing with the Sherwood Park Crusaders in the AJHL from 2018 to 2020. He scored 53 goals in 54 games and had the most goals in the 2019-20 season. He had 46 assists and 62 penalty minutes, scoring 99 points overall.
He ranked 50th among North American skaters on the NHL Central Scouting’s final ranking for the 2020 NHL draft. He is a two-time AJHL all-star and he played with Canada West at the 2019 World Junior A Challenge.
Currently, Savoie is a freshman at the University of Denver and is playing with the Pioneers in the NCAA. He describes himself as an offensive-minded forward.
“I like the puck on my stick, I like to shoot the puck lots, create opportunities on goal,” he said. “I think I need to work on my defensive play, play away from the puck, but I mean I came to them for a reason - their coaching staff is really good.”
Benning is also at the University of Denver with Savoie.
“It’s really good. Me and (Benning) have known each other since we were really little. I’ve played with him pretty much my whole life. Now I’m living with him here in the dorms and I mean we’re best buddies. It’s easy. It’s like living with one of your brothers. He makes it easy to be here,” Savoie said.
Benning was drafted by the Florida Panthers and was the 95th pick overall.
“I was super stoked - I was kind of overwhelmed. My phone just blew up and I didn’t know what to do actually. It took my breath away. It was awesome,” Benning said.
Last season, Benning won the CJHL and the AJHL’s Most Outstanding Defenceman award. He also played for Canada West at the 2019 World Junior A Challenge. He ranked 57th among North American skaters on the NHL Central Scouting’s final ranking for the 2020 NHL draft.
He got 75 points in the 2019-20 season, the most points by a defenceman. In 54 games, he had 12 goals, 63 assists and 54 penalty minutes.
When describing his style, Benning said, “I’m a puck-moving defenseman. I’m an energy guy. I like getting the boys fired up.”
Benning comes from a family of hockey players. His father had a ten-year career in the NHL. His brother Matt played with the Oilers for four years and is currently with the Nashville Predators. His uncle is the general manager of the Vancouver Canucks and his grandfather was a scout for the Montreal Canadiens.
“The first person I called was my dad. He was super excited - he was really supportive through the whole process there. It was a really big factor in my hockey career,” Benning said. “My brother kind of knew the process. So he gave me some time because he knew my phone would blow up. He later called me and congratulated me.”
Edwards was drafted by the New Jersey Devils and was the 120th pick overall.
“Obviously, it’s a huge honour to be drafted and to hear my name called. I’ve still got to focus on playing hockey, now, it’s a little bit in the future,” he said. “But it was an awesome moment for both me and my family. We’ve put in a lot of effort and sacrifices throughout the years so I’m really appreciative.”
He ranked 77 in the North American skaters on the NHL Central Scouting’s final ranking for the 2020 NHL draft. He represented Canada West in the 2019 World Junior A Challenge. In the 50 games he played for the 2019-2020 season he scored 9 goals, had 24 assists and had 83 penalty minutes for a total of 33 points.
Edwards was born in Grande Prairie and moved to St. Albert when he was a bantam hockey player. He is currently playing with the Sioux City Musketeers. He will transfer to the University of Michigan to play in the 2021-22 season.
He decided to play in the USHL to increase his skills as a player.
“It was just kind of the next step to college. It’s just a little bit deeper league. It wasn’t easy to move away from home but getting away from home before I go to college was a big part of our decision-making process.”
Edwards has been described as an undersized defenceman with a lot of potential, someone the Devils have taken the long route with. He isn’t bothered by that description.
“I mean, I don’t take any offence to it. My plan is to play here in Sioux City for this year and go to Michigan the following year, and (it) just depends on how long my development takes,” he explainws. “We’ll see how many years I play in Michigan. I’m not a player that’s going to play in the NHL in the next two years, so a longer development route is good for me – as an undersized defenceman.”
Edwards describes himself as a two-way defenceman, but offensive-minded.
“I like to be relied on in both ends of the ice, but I like to show some offensive flair.”
The 2020-21 USHL season was delayed and will start Nov. 5.
There were questions about when the season would start for the NCAA but the National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC) announced on Oct. 16 the 2020-21 season will open in “pod” format on Dec. 1.
The NHL announced itsseason will begin on Jan. 1, but training camp has yet to be announced.