Caedan Bankier is totally fine with not being No. 1 in the hearts and minds of the Kamloops Blazers’ faithful.
The 6-foot-2, 192-pound left shot centre from Cloverdale skates in the shadow of hometown wunderkind Logan Stankoven, a fellow NHL Draft eligible prospect who dominates local headlines.
“Stank is a great player and, rightfully so, everyone should love him around here,” said Bankier, who turned 18 in January. “I just do my job and whatever happens, I’m happy with it.”
Bankier has done his job well enough since entering the WHL to earn a C rating on the NHL Central Scouting 2020-2021 Players to Watch List, denoting he could be selected between Rounds 4 and 6 in the 2021 draft.
Stankoven, a 5-foot-8, 170-pound forward, was tagged with a B rating, signalling he may be picked in the second or third round, but both Blazers have made cases to exceed those projections.
Former Blazers’ general manager Stu MacGregor and director of player personnel Matt Recchi ran the 2018 WHL Bantam Draft, nabbing Stankoven fifth overall in Round 1 and Bankier 49th overall in Round 3.
Majority owner Tom Gaglardi cleaned house after that draft in a shakeup that left MacGregor and Recchi without jobs on Mark Recchi Way.
Matt Bardsley, formerly of the Portland Winterhawks, replaced MacGregor.
“When I got hired, I was excited, especially with that age group that had just been drafted,” Bardsley said. “Coming in, we knew who we’d be able to work with.”
Bankier signed with Kamloops in June 2018 and spent the 2018-2019 campaign with Burnaby Winter Club Prep in the under-18 Canadian Sport School Hockey League, racking up 53 points, including 27 goals, in 32 games.
He put together a rock solid 16-year-old campaign with the Blazers in 2019-2020, tallying seven goals and 20 points in 55 games.
Bankier said his primary focus during his rookie season from an individual standpoint was working on his skating ability.
“It’s a fast league, it’s a quick league and you’ve got to be quick out there,” Bankier said.
Strength and conditioning was the centre of attention this past off-season, which was elongated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bankier worked with TRU WolfPack athletic therapist Kevin Brechin and trained with Stankoven.
“We bounced ideas off each other and we work really well together,” Bankier said. “I just feel more comfortable on the ice. I feel ready to go and I feel stronger and more confident.”
Bankier, who has five goals and 14 points in 12 games this season, has an excellent opportunity to showcase himself in the remainder of the truncated B.C. Division campaign.
Stankoven has left the Blazers to play for Canada at the International Ice Hockey Federation U18 World Championship in Texas and will not return to the WHL this season.
Pair his absence with an injury to 20-year-old forward Orrin Centazzo and Bankier finds himself on the first power-play unit and centring the club’s second line.
“You can’t really replace a guy like Stank, but you can try your best to fill in the areas he left,” Bankier said. “I just try and make the most of every opportunity. As long as you’re working hard, it should be all right.”
Bankier might not be on tip of tongue for Kamloops hockey fans, or at least not as ballyhooed as Stankoven, but he is most certainly catching the eyes of NHL scouts.
“I wouldn’t say he flies under the radar,” Bardsley said. “Obviously, guys talk about Logan, but we’ve had a lot of teams ask about Caedan, as well, and I think deservedly so.
“He’s established himself as a really good prospect for the National Hockey League.”
Does it bother him, even just a little bit, that Stankoven gets more love than him in the Tournament Capital?
“Nope. Never,” Bankier said.
The spotlight isn’t the goal.
“The NHL’s been the dream ever since I can remember, ever since I first watched hockey,” Bankier said.
“That’s always been the goal.”