Wild about Howden

KIRK PENTON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 1:21 PM ET

Quinton Howden had one word to describe his Thursday.

"Crazy," the 15-year-old said last night from his home in Oakbank.

Then the No. 1 overall pick in yesterday's WHL bantam draft, scooped up by the Moose Jaw Warriors, added a few more.

"It's been wild," he said. "Phones have been ringing off the hook. I've just been excited. I've been going crazy." Howden, a centre, became the first Manitoban to be plucked first overall since a Winnipeg kid by the name of Jonathan Toews went to the Tri-City Americans in 2003.

"That was really cool to see him and then see me (at No. 1)," Howden said. "I've watched him for a long time." The only difference with Howden is he plans to play in the WHL. Toews decided to go the U.S. college route, and it paid off beautifully. The Chicago Blackhawks drafted him third overall in 2006, he's won back-to-back world junior titles, and he's currently playing with Canadian NHLers at the world championship in Moscow.

"I want to make it to the NHL," Howden said. "That's about it." Other big names to go first overall in the WHL draft include Florida Panthers defenceman Jay Bouwmeester (1998) and Columbus Blue Jackets forward Gilbert Brule (2002).

That's pretty impressive company, and Howden was still trying to let it all sink in last night.

"Unbelievable. Indescribable. You can't use words to describe it. It's amazing," he said. "My mom is ... we just can't stop hugging each other. I'm just so happy. My parents have done so much for me." The Warriors believe Howden will be able to do a lot for them, too. The Portland Winter Hawks still owned the first pick yesterday morning, but Moose Jaw GM Chad Lang, who had the fifth pick, made a move to appease Rob MacLachlan, his director of scouting and player development.

MacLachlan wanted Howden badly, so Lang sent 16-year-old right-winger Michael Burns and three draft picks to Portland to get the No. 1 selection and a third-round pick.

Let's just say that made MacLachlan a very happy man.

"He's a great hockey player," MacLachlan said. "I can't say enough about Quinton and his father (Sheldon). They're just quality, quality people. I can't say enough about the family.

"I just got such a good feeling about what a quality kid this kid was and the backing he had from his family. I told my GM, 'I don't care what you do. We gotta make a deal. We gotta move up. We gotta get this guy.' Good for my GM. He did it for me.

"This kid has got it all. He reminds me of Joe Thornton when he skates. He's just a beautiful, beautiful skater." The 6-foot-2, 170-pound Howden racked up a whopping 197 points in 51 games this winter for the Springfield Ice Hawks AA bantam team.

He hopes to join the Eastman Selects of the Manitoba AAA Midget Hockey League next season and then suit up for the Warriors in their new arena in the fall of 2008.

To give you an indication of whether Howden has the character to make it as a pro hockey player one day, he attended his Grade 9 classes at Springfield Collegiate yesterday afternoon, and his parents didn't even make him do it.

"I chose that," he said. "I just hate missing work."


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