Josh Filmon’s family legacy carries some weight on the provincial basketball scene.
His dad, Gregg, and uncle, David, were both all-star hoopsters during their university careers in the 1980s and ’90s.
Three decades earlier, grandfather Gary (yes, the former premier of Manitoba) was part of three consecutive provincial high school championship teams at Sisler High School.
CLASS OF ‘22Click to Expand
Prospect: left-winger Josh Filmon
Measurables: 6-2, 160 pounds
2021-22 team: Swift Current Broncos (WHL)
WHL Prospects Draft: Chosen 67th overall in 2019
NHL Central Scouting: Rated 38th among North American skaters (up from 51st at mid-season)
Quotable: “I’m not going to Montreal (for the NHL Draft),” said Filmon. “My plan is to stay here with my family and my close friends. I think I’ll try and make that day as as relaxing and stress-free as possible.”
Inexplicably, Josh is not a basketball guy. Not even close.
Hockey has been the 18-year-old Winnipegger’s sport of choice for the last decade or so, and that’s a good thing, too. Fresh from his first full season with the WHL’s Swift Current Broncos, Filmon’s steady rise in stature as a pro prospect is expected to result in his selection early on the second day of next week’s NHL Draft in Montreal.
After scoring 23 goals and 45 points in 67 games with the Broncos in 2021-22, the lanky Filmon was rated 38th among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting.
Being called upon to log big minutes for a non-playoff team was a challenge.
"That’s part of the beauty of playing in Swift is we were right in the middle of a rebuild," said Filmon earlier this week. "We kind of had our core of young guys from my draft class come in this year and kind of started the new generation of Swift Current Broncos. I think I was fortunate in that situation than I probably got more opportunity that maybe I would have, say if I had gone to Winnipeg or Kamloops or Edmonton."
Swift Current is brimming with young talent and Filmon is part of that impressive mix.
The Broncos could have as many as seven players drafted next week with defencemen Owen Pickering and Rayan Bettahar, forwards Filmon, Josh Davies, Connor Hvidston and Mathew Ward and goaltender Reid Dyck all ranked by Central Scouting.
Swift Current head coach Devan Praught expected steady improvement from Filmon based on a credible start in the Regina hub a season earlier and Filmon delivered. Now, Praught’s eager to see what he can accomplish when he’s more physically mature player — although at 6-2, he barely tips the scales at 160 pounds.
"He gets rewarded when he gets to those tough areas because his skill set takes over — he has some separation speed, he’s a great skater and as he got stronger, his shot really became a threat as well using his lower body more in his release," said Praught, who plans to move Filmon from left wing to centre in 2022-23. "I mean, we really feel we’re just scratching the surface with him."
As a WHL rookie, Filmon dressed for 17 games and scored twice.
"I think the best way to learn is from doing it and failing," said Filmon. "That was the nice piece about playing my 17 games during the COVID season (in 2020-21) — we weren’t a great team standings-wise and we were really young, but we just got to learn from doing it."
During the off-season, he tested himself during workouts at the Rink Training Centre against fellow WHLers such as Pickering, Denton Mateychuk, Carson Lambos, Conor Geekie, Eric Alarie and Conner Roulette and his confidence was growing when the regular season began.
"I’d say every quarter of the season I kind of felt myself getting more comfortable, taking on bigger roles and playing against bigger, better players," said Filmon. "The draft is just sort of a snapshot of where this age group is now and realistically there’s not too many guys in this draft class — or in any draft class actually — that are ready to play in the NHL the next year. It’s more of like two, three or for some guys, a four-year plan."
Even so, hockey doesn’t consume Filmon’s off-season. This summer, he’s playing shortstop five or six times a week for the same Winnipeg South Wolves U18 baseball team he helped to a provincial championship a year ago.
His oldest brother, Adam, was an outfielder at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, B.C. The youngest, Brady, is also a promising hockey player.
Gregg Filmon, who excelled at point guard for the University of Manitoba Bisons, is fine with basketball skipping a generation in his family.
"My (older) boys actually have a body for basketball and volleyball," said Gregg, who runs an investment management company as president of Value Partners Investments. "They both have long arms, long legs, (jump) well and run well. So they definitely could have been basketball and volleyball guys, but in Canada, when you’re playing elite hockey from the time you’re seven, eight years old, (when) court sports really start up, you’re kind of five years into it already down the path for hockey. I think it’s just that simple."
Gregg and his wife Leanna, who also has a strong athletic background, have always encouraged participation in sports.
"We feel as a family very strongly about the kids playing multiple sports," said Gregg. "We’re never going to tell them what to do. They loved hockey, loved baseball and (Josh) loves golf, and they’ll play anything. So it’s all good."
Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.