Giant gaffe to axe Ladd

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:21 AM ET

They both claim to joke about it now. But two years ago it was no laughing matter. It was then that 16-year-old WHL-hopeful Andrew Ladd made it through only a couple weeks of training camp before being cut by the Vancouver Giants.

The coach of the team was none other than current Hitmen co-coach Dean Evason.

Admittedly devastated by the move, Ladd played junior A in Coquitlam that year where he made enough of an impression to prompt Hitmen GM-coach Kelly Kisio to trade for him last year. What followed was one of the most surprising developments in the Western League as Ladd scored 30 goals and went on to tie Pavel Brendl as the highest-drafted Hitmen player of all-time, selected fourth overall by Carolina.

So, when Evason parted ways with Vancouver this summer and signed on to be the Hitmen's co-coach, it set up an ironic reunion of sorts with Ladd.

"I told him I wouldn't tell him the story (of why he was cut) until we played Vancouver," joked Evason.

"But I sat down with him during the exhibition season and we chatted about it. It makes for a funny story. In the game there are guys that get cut or sent down and guys make mistakes. What's important in our business is that kids develop. He's done that and we're so happy for him."

Evason explained that because it was his first year with Vancouver, he depended heavily on team scouts for input.

"I'm not trying to pass the buck but we didn't know who he was and we had to rely on different people for their opinion on how he plays the game," said Evason, who is highly regarded in WHL circles.

"Their assessment of how he played was obviously a lot different than the way he plays. He's a very gritty, determined player and I think the organization there thought he was a little bit soft. Certainly he's the furthest thing from that. Obviously the whole organization in Vancouver made a mistake."

Although somewhat uncomfortable when asked about the snub in Vancouver, Ladd admitted it couldn't have worked out any better as it allowed him to emerge into one of the world's hottest prospects who is all but guaranteed a three-year entry level deal worth at least $3 million US.

"At the time I was disappointed at being cut but looking back I got to get more ice time playing junior A and then look what happened from there," said the 18-year-old winger from Maple Ridge B.C.

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