Picking at 12th overall, the Bearcats opted to go with the 17-year-old Newfoundlander from the St. John’s Maple Leafs midget AAA club.
“I was really excited,” said Baggs, who some expected to go earlier in the draft. “It was the organization I wanted to go to, and it was fortunate to actually drop a few spots to get to such a quality organization.”
Standing at six-foot-one and 172 pounds, Baggs is a hefty d-man who can also move the puck. The Conception Bay South native scored 7 goals and tallied 15 assists last season, for 22 points in 24 games.
Baggs also represented Newfoundland and Labrador at the QMJHL Gold Cup (QGC) in 2012-13.
“Riley does a bit of everything,” said Bearcats coach and general manager, Shawn Evans. “And he does everything well.”
With three defenseman aging out last season, management assessed the situation and decided to draft a rearguard. Baggs was the first name to come up.
“When we went to pick, he was right there ready for us,” Evans said. “Is there a chance he could step in right away next season? Yes, I think so.”
Baggs will join fellow Newfoundlanders Kyle Tibbo and Brandon Pye, who have already filled him in on the organization.
“It will be good to have those guys there, for sure,” Baggs said. “From what they’ve told me, it sounds like the place I want to be.”
With their second pick, in the third round, the Cats selected forward Johnny Foley. The Halifax native played 26 fames last season with Newbridge Academy, putting up 21 points in the process. Foley also represented his province at this year’s QGC.
The Newbridge Gladiators were a popular choice for the Cats, as they selected two of Foley’s teammates, Tyler Pyke and Cam MacLeod, in the fourth and 10th rounds.
“Our head scout, Steve Crowell, is the coach with Newbridge, so it’s no secret we like picking from there,” Evans said. “We like the program they have there, and especially these guys we drafted.”
Adding a bit of local talent, the Bearcats selected Michael Stuart in the seventh round. Stuart, a Truro native, has played the last two seasons with the Weeks Major Midgets after playing AAA bantam with his home club.
“He’s a good, hard-working, 200-foot hockey player and a great kid all around,” Evans said. “That’s what we want here. Good people as well as good hockey players.”
The Cats also pulled the trigger on a trade to close out draft day, acquiring the rights to 20-year-old defenseman Jake Primeau from the Woodstock Slammers. Going the other way are the rights to forward Liam Hynes and a third-round selection in next year’s draft. Primeau, a British Columbia native, spent last season with the Acadie-Bathurst Titan of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, scoring one goal and three assists.
“He gives us a chance to be a bit bigger on the back end,” Evans said. “He comes with size, experience and a knowledge of the league.”
Round 1 – Riley Baggs (Conception Bay South, N.L.), St. John’s Maple Leafs, NLMMHL
Round 3 – Johnny Foley (Halifax), Newbridge Academy Gladiators, NSMMHL
Round 4: Tyler Pyke (Halifax), Newbridge Academy Gladiators, NSMMHL
Round 5 – Ryan Steele (Stratford, P.E.I.), Cornwall Thunder, NBPEIMMHL
Round 6 – Tyler Gunn (Saint John, N.B.), Saint John Vitos, NBPEIMMHL
Round 7 – Noah Bauld (Halifax), Gunnery Prep, NEPSIHA
Round 7 – Michael Stuart (Truro), Weeks Major Midgets, NSMMHL
Round 8 – Shawn Corney (Mt. Herbert, P.E.I.), Charlottetown Islanders, NBPEIMMHL
Round 9 – Morgan MacDonald (Little Pond, P.E.I.) Appleby College, CISAA
Round 10 – Cam MacLeod (Dartmouth), Newbridge Academy Gladiators, NSMMHL