This year's event takes place in Pittsburgh on June 22nd and 23rd.
As some of you know, I am a color commentator in the Western Hockey League and also work as a WHL scout for Future Considerations. Throughout the course of the junior hockey season I have a chance to watch anywhere from 2-5 WHL games per week, most of them live. This allows me to see many players, including those eligible for the NHL draft. It also allows me to rank all the players I have seen throughout the year and provide scouting reports on the players.
I also did this last year and I'm still pretty confident and comfortable with how those rankings turned out. They can be found here: http://bit.ly/KHq0dB
Last year I only ranked my top 25 players, plus honourable mentions. In the 2011 NHL draft, 33 WHL players were selected. There were 43 taken in the 2010 NHL draft. Because of that, I've decided to go well above and beyond this year.
In this edition I will rank my top 50 WHL players for the draft, as well as a group of honourable mentions. I will also post a list of 'others'. These are players that might be worth drafting, but I just don't have a comfortable grasp on where they should be ranked because of limited views or just not getting a good read on the player in the viewings I did have.
As for the players listed/ranked, I can assure you all that I have seen them all atleast 2-3 times. Many of them I have seem much more than that, some as much as 150 live times over the last two full WHL seasons. Yes, that's a lot, but that's also for only a select few on these lists.
Today I will unveil part one of the list. It includes the players I have ranked 31-50, plus my honourable mentions. Later this week I will unveil my players from 16-30, followed by my top 15.
The WHL crop isn't extremely talented this year when comparing it to 2011 (with the likes of Nugent-Hopkins, Rattie and Baertschi), but it does have pretty good depth into the middle rounds. Lots of good players will be available well into round 4 and 5 so it should be fun to watch unfold.
As for how I will format the top 30, I will include the players rank, name, team and position. I will include a short paragraph breakdown on the player (note: this is NOT my full scouting report, just a tidbit for the reader), an NHL-style comparable, where they sit in regards to future 'top-end' potential and a prediction as to when they will get taken in the 2012 NHL draft.
I want to clarify something when it comes to the style comparisons. I must emphasize that I don't use this tool to predict their potential. When I compare Ryan Murray to Scott Niedermayer, for example, I am not saying that I expect Murray to have a Niedermayer-like career. The comparisons are only used to allow the reader to picture what the player looks like on the ice, relative to his WHL competition. I just want to make that very clear.
With all of that being said, here is part one of my WHL rankings for the 2012 NHL Draft!
Enjoy and feel free to comment here and/or on Twitter by following me @WHLFromAbove
Outside The Top 30
31 - Jordan Martinook - Vancouver Giants - LC - Martinook is a solidly built, goal scoring forward for the Giants. Scored 40 goals this year in his last year of draft eligibility. Plays physical and shows a good ability to finish in a variety of ways.
32 - Logan Nelson - Victoria Royals - RC - Nelson is a big-bodied centre who had a strong rookie WHL year. Plays with an edge as he averaged nearly both a PIM per game and a point per game. Ok skater, but that's an area that could improve.
33 - TJ Foster - Edmonton Oil Kings - RW-L - Foster is a solid offensive player for the Oil Kings. He's a good goal scorer in a draft that lacks some high-end offence from the WHL.
34 - Steven Hodges - Victoria Royals - LC - Hodges is a good skater with underrated offensive ability and above average hockey sense. I know some groups like him more than where I have him rated.
35 - Philip Tot - Lethbridge Hurricanes - LW - Tot is a very well rounded player. He blocks shots, hits and also has the ability to provide offence. Flew under the radar for much of the year, but caught my eye late. Has a good frame at 6'2 and almost 200 pounds.
36 - Brady Brassart - Calgary Hitmen - RW - Brassart is a solid forward for the Hitmen, a player that they acquired during the last offseason from Spokane. He went undrafted last year but took big strides this season. I like his physical play and his ability to play in all areas of a game.
37 - Patrick Bartosak - Red Deer Rebels - G - Bartosak is a big goaltender with a bit of an odd playing style. Needs some refinement and plays pretty raw, but would make a good project. Missed almost the entire year with a lower body injury.
38 - Corbin Boes - Brandon Wheat Kings - G - Thought he might have been picked last season. But, he's a big kid who had a solid season this year. Consistency a struggle for him, as with most goalies, but had a massive second half for Brandon.
39 - Brandon Magee - Victoria Royals - RC - Magee is an undersized but dangerous forward. Despite his small frame he's very feisty and physical. Also has good hands and a nose for the net. One of a group of WHL guys that have the skill to be picked, but maybe not the size.
40 - Justin Hickman - Seattle Thunderbirds - RC - Hickman is a big strong centre for the Thunderbirds. Is an ok skater for his size and has solid hockey sense. Offensive numbers didn't show as well as I thought they might, but I still see some raw potential here.
41 - Daulton Siwak - Prince George Cougars - RW - Siwak is a solid offensive player who scored 10 goals in 28 games for the Cougars after a trade with Red Deer. Has good size and shows a willingness to hit and grind in the corners. Might not have the most offensive potential, but he might be worth a look as a 6th rounder.
42 - Ashton Sautner - Edmonton Oil Kings - LD - Sautner is a hard skating two way defender for Edmonton. Moves the puck well and skates very well for a guy over six feet tall. Competes hard, but could still improve defensively, including stick usage. Struggled in the WHL playoffs from time to time.
43 - Alex Gogolev - Calgary Hitmen - LW - Gogolev is a 19 year old Russian with very high end offensive abilities. Great release, great hands and a very solid skater. Small and doesn't project to fill out a whole lot. Likely a future KHL guy, but he has the skill to make it one day in North America.
44 - Brady Gaudet - Kamloops Blazers - LD - Gaudet is a slight, puck moving defender. Excellent passing ability and an ok skater. Not the greatest defender and needs to add more size and physicality to his game.
45 - Ben Walker - Victoria Royals - RW - Walker transitioned to the WHL after starting the year in Minnesota High School hockey. Solid vision and a solid overall offensive player. Good hockey sense and a guy that I could see rated much higher by other agencies/scouts/teams.
46 - Alessio Bertaggia - Brandon Wheat Kings - LW - Bertaggia is an undersized, but dynamic offensive player. Great slapshot, wrist shot and release and can score while going full speed. Chippy player, but size will hold him back. I would expect a team to gamble on him in the 7th round.
47 - Tyrell Seaman - Brandon Wheat Kings - LC - Seaman is a big forward for Brandon. Skates pretty well, despite not having a ton of first step quickness. Not a ton of finish, but really improved in many areas of his game. Will be counted on big time next year in Brandon and I know McCrimmon values him very highly.
48 - Reid Gow - Spokane Chiefs - LD - Gow is a cerebral, puck moving defender. Skates well, passes well, but isn't very good defensively. Won the WHL academic award, so he's a smart kid and could have value as a late round choice.
49 - Shayne Gwinner - Moose Jaw Warriors - LD - Gwinner is a puck moving defenceman who has really grown in his defensive game and confidence as the year has gone along. Still needs some work on his decision making, had an ok postseason.
50 - Mackenzie Skapski - Kootenay Ice - G - A big kid who put up ok numbers as a rookie backup. Ice will likely bring in another somewhat veteran to help split starts with him next year as Nathan Lieuwen graduates from the WHL.
Zack Franko - Kelowna Rockets - LW - Speed to burn. Size and strength is a concern, but he makes things happen.
Jagger Dirk - Kootenay Ice - LD - Liked him last year when he was first eligible. Still a solid defenceman. Blocks shots, skates the puck, passes it well. Might have value as a late pick.
Myles Bell - Kelowna Rockets - RD - Big risk considering legal past. I still value him, but doubt he gets picked.
Chance Lund - Seattle Thunderbirds - LC - Big, mature kid who skates hard. Value as a late pick as an overager.
Lane Scheidl - Regina Pats - LC - Breakout year for him. Does a bit of everything, including finish.
Dylan Bredo - Medicine Hat Tigers - LC - The defensive conscience and physical player on the line featuring Shinkaruk and Etem. Not a ton of upside.
Tyrell Goulbourne - Kelowna Rockets - LC - Tough kid. Might be the best WHL fighter in the draft. Ok hands.
Austin Carroll - Victoria Royals - RW - Big body, moves ok. Average hands. Could have value in 2013.
Levi Bews - Swift Current Broncos - RW - Skates well, has hands. Heart is a big question mark.
Tanner Eberle - Moose Jaw Warriors - LW - Gritty, hard skater. Might be a future overage pick.
Dylan Busenius - Medicine Hat Tigers - LD - Pretty well rounded defender. Limited upside right now, but has a pro shot down the road.
Rob Trzonkowski - Calgary Hitmen - RW - Ok speed for a big body. Offensive ability never came to being like some thought it might.
Jeff Hubic - Kootenay Ice - LD - Big physical blueliner. A bit clumsy, but plays hard. Might be an ok project.
Curtis Valk - Medicine Hat Tigers - LC - Super dynamic with great scoring ability. Too small, though.
Jack Rodewald - Regina Pats - RW - Well rounded player, but never carved out a true role with the Pats.
Zane Jones - Victoria Royals - LW - Big body, ok along the boards. No offensive ability.
* These are players that I feel are likely worth ranking at some level, but I don't have enough views or a strong enough read to comfortably gauge them.
Russell Maxwell - Lethbridge Hurricanes
Sam Mckechnie - Lethbridge Hurricanes
Jaimen Yakubowski - Lethbridge Hurricanes
Ty Rimmer - Lethbridge Hurricanes
Ty Rimmer - Lethbridge Hurricanes
Chad Robinson - Red Deer Rebels
Brooks Maxwell - Red Deer Rebels
Marc McCoy - Red Deer Rebels
Marc McKenzie - Red Deer Rebels
MacKenzie Johnston - Kelowna Rockets
Liam Stewart - Spokane Chiefs
Mike Aviani - Spokane Chiefs
Mitch Holmberg - Spokane Chiefs
Michal Plutnar - Tri-City Americans
Justin Hamonic - Tri-City Americans
Malte Stromwall - Tri-City Americans
Dalton Sward - Vancouver Giants
Josh Hanson - Portland Winterhawks
Taylor Leier - Portland Winterhawks
Nick Walters - Everett Silvertips
Kenton Helgesen - Calgary Hitmen
Dylan Willick - Kamloops Blazers
Colin Smith - Kamloops Blazers
JC Lipon - Kamloops Blazers
Tyler Hansen - Kamloops Blazers