The 2020 Western Hockey League (WHL) bantam draft took place on April 22nd with 233 players selected. Two of the picks had fathers who played in the WHL for the Victoria Cougars. The 1st round pick of the Victoria Royals is related to a former Nanaimo Islander who went on to play in the National Hockey League (NHL).
Lukas Dragicevic - 1st round (fourth overall) - Tri-City Americans
Hometown: Richmond, BC
Previous Team: Delta Hockey Academy Bantam Prep Green
Lukas’ father, Milan Dragicevic, played with five teams during his WHL career (1986-1990). He began his final season with Spokane but was traded in January 1990 to the Victoria Cougars for Brent Thurston. Both now coach at the Delta Hockey Academy. With Victoria, Dragicevic collected 19 points in 32 games as the Cougars set a WHL record with only five wins all year.
Dragicevic went on to play four years at Acadia University before starting his coaching career as an assistant with the WHL Tri-City Americans. After two seasons, he became head coach of the expansion Drayton Valley Thunder of the Alberta Junior Hockey League. He guided the Thunder for two years, leading them to a first-place finish in 1998-99. His success with the Thunder caught the attention of the WHL expansion Vancouver Giants who named Dragicevic their first-ever head coach in 2000. In his two years with the Giants, Dragicevic had a 39-86-11 record and led them to their first playoff appearance in 2002. After being swept in the 2002 playoffs by the Kelowna Rockets, his contract was not renewed.
The University of British Columbia became Dragicevic’s home for the next twelve years (2002-2014) as head coach of the Thunderbirds hockey team, winning the conference Coach of the Year award in 2012.
Hayden Chaloner - 7th round - Brandon Wheat Kings.
Position - Center
Hometown: Winnipeg, MB
Previous Team: Winnipeg Sharks B1AAA
Hayden’s father, Kane Chaloner, played for the Cougars in 1991-92. Before joining Victoria, Chaloner was a star player in his home province of Manitoba. In 1990/91, He led the Winnipeg Hawks in scoring with 82 points, playing on a line with future NHL player Brad Chartrand. TThe Hawks had a strong team and went all the way to the 1991 Air Canada Cup tournament (national midget 'AAA' hockey championship). Although the Hawks finished fourth, Chaloner was named the most valuable player of the tournament.
Chaloner moved up to the Victoria Cougars for the 1991/92 season. He put up 20 points in 67 games on a Cougars team that only won 15 games and went through three head coaches. He spent the next three years with the St. Boniface Saints of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League winning the league championship in 1994 and selected to the all-star game three times.
Austin Zemlak - 1st round (13th overall) - Victoria Royals.
Hometown: Fort McMurray, AB
Previous Team: OHA Edmonton Bantam Prep
Austin’s great uncle (his father’s uncle), Richard Zemlak, started his WHL career in 1980-81 with the Spokane Flyers. That year, the Flyers were swept in four games by the Victoria Cougars in the opening round of the playoffs. After a strong rookie season, the St. Louis Blues made Zemlak their 10th round pick in the 1981 NHL entry draft. From 1981 to 1983, years, he played on four different WHL teams (Spokane, Winnipeg, Medicine Hat and the Nanaimo Islanders). He finished the 1982-83 season with the Nanaimo Islanders, scoring 10 points in 18 games.
In 1983, Zemlak started his professional career and bounced between the NHL and the minors for the next eleven years. He played on four NHL teams - the Quebec Nordiques, Minnesota North Stars, Pittsburgh Penguins and Calgary Flames. As a pro, he became much more of a fighter than he was in junior (here is a YouTube video of a fight between Zemlak and former Cougar Glen Cochrane). His best season was 1987/88 with the Minnesota North Stars, picking up five points and 307 penalty minutes in 57 games. In 132 career NHL games, Zemlak scored 14 points while collecting 587 penalty minutes.
Richard Zemlak now lives in Minnesota and is a real estate broker for Williams Realty in Edina.