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Western Hockey League delays 2021 draft

Yale Academy forward Zach Benson, who was Winnipeg's first-round pick in the 2020 WHL Bantam Draft. Photo provided by the CSSHL

The name of what was previously known as the WHL Bantam Draft isn’t the only thing changing for 2021. So will the date.

The Western Hockey League, which includes the Winnipeg Ice and Brandon Wheat Kings, has announced that next year’s draft of the top 2006-born players will now be held in December instead of early May.

Read more: Western Hockey League announces another delay to start of 2020-21 regular season

In a news release, WHL commissioner Ron Robison explained the rationale behind the decision.

“This allows additional time for players in the 2006 age group to be evaluated following a challenging season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We anticipate minor hockey leagues and tournaments will be fully operational in the fall, which will allow players to compete at a high level once again.”

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Players eligible for the 2021 WHL Draft will be residents of Alberta, B.C., Manitoba, Saskatchewan, the 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.

Read more: Winnipeg Ice select B.C. forward Zach Benson as 1st round WHL Bantam Draft pick

The league also announced the WHL Cup showcase of draft-eligible players will be “tentatively” set for October of next year. The 2020 event, which features teams from the four Western provinces, was cancelled as a result of the coronavirus.

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