Friday, May 25, 2012

My WHL Player Rankings For The 2012 NHL Draft: Part Three

Here is the final installment of my WHL rankings ahead of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.  Previously I ranked my 16th-30th prospects, 31st-50th, plus honourable mentions and others.  Today's final ranking covers my top 15 players from the WHL.

Included in my rankings is a description of the player, an NHL style comparison, top end NHL potential and a prediction of where they will be picked in the draft.  The pick prediction isn't necessarily where I would rank them, merely a guess as to how NHL teams might value them.  As for the NHL player comparisons, they are merely used to give the reader an understanding of how the player looks on the ice.  They are in no way meant to say that I expect the WHL player to have an NHL career similar to their comparable.  As mentioned in past blogs, I have seen each of these players atleast 2-3 times this season, with most of them having 5+ viewings.  Some of these players I have seen as many as 150 times live over the past 2+ seasons.

Here's my top 15 and thanks for reading.

#1 - Ryan Murray - Everett Silvertips - LD - 

Murray is a smooth-skating, two way defenceman with leadership capabilities.  He is a well above average defender, he blocks shots, plays in all three zones and can also quarterback a powerplay. He's got a strong work ethic, is an excellent passer and is also considered by many (including myself) to be the most pro-ready defenceman in the draft.  He has been my top ranked player since the early stages of the 2010-2011 season and I see no reason for him to be dethroned at this point.  He got great experience playing for Canada at this year's World Juniors as well as being a part of Team Canada for the 2012 World Championships, despite limited ice time in both events. I fully expect him to be in the NHL next season, regardless of what team drafts him. The only way he doesn't end up there would be if the NHL starts the year in a lockout.

NHL Style Comparable: Scott Niedermayer

Top End Potential: #1 Defenceman, PP Quarterback, 2nd Unit PK

Pick Prediction:  Top 3

#2 - Griffin Reinhart - Edmonton Oil Kings - LD - 

Reinhart is a big, two way defender, standing at 6'4.  He has the ability to defend with size and reach. Physicality continues to be an area to work on, but he made good strides in that area of his game late this season, in the WHL playoffs and so far in the Memorial Cup. His offensive skills and skating has improved all season.  He moves the puck well, reads the play well, can adapt against a forecheck and has an underrated slapshot. Had some questions coming into this season after a serious wrist injury late last year, but has eliminated those questions throughout the season, in my opinion. Biggest knock for me right now is the lack of 'mean' in his game, but even that has improved.  I think he'll get picked in the 8-10 range, but I would slot him just a bit higher than that, personally.

NHL Style Comparable: Eric Brewer or Braydon Coburn

Top End Potential: #2 Defenceman, 2nd Unit PP, 1st Unit PK

Pick Prediction:  8-10th Overall

#3 - Morgan Rielly - Moose Jaw Warriors - LD - 

Rielly is a solid puck moving defenceman who was showing great growth defensively before suffering a serious knee injury in early November. Came back from injury without missing much of a step.  Skates very well, is a great passer and reads the play well above average compared to his peers, excellent hockey sense.  Likes to join the rush and has shown a steady growth in defensive play, despite missing almost all season with his serious injury.  Doesn't have the hardest shot, but he knows how to use it effectively.  Will turn heads at an NHL training camp and is a good candidate to make the jump to the NHL after one more year of junior. Likely a top 12 choice, but I would rank him higher than that, personally speaking.

NHL Style Comparable:  Duncan Keith

Top End Potential: #2 Defenceman, PP Quarterback

Pick Prediction: 10-12th Overall

#4 - Mathew Dumba - Red Deer Rebels - RD -  

Dumba is a raw and explosive defenceman who is very dynamic with the puck. Likes to rush the puck and even saw him on the wing briefly this season for Red Deer, without looking out of place.  Has an excellent shot, with arguably the best release of any defender in the draft.  Gambles on big hits from time to time and isn't the greatest overall defender, but it's an area that has shown significant growth in the last 18 months despite me having concerns on his hockey sense.  Has leadership abilities and is a guy that might have the most overall potential of any WHL player in the draft.  Had an excellent Under-18 tournament for Canada, leading the event in scoring as a defenceman.  He was also the captain for Canada at the event.   A very likely top 8 pick, but I would have him rated in the 9-12 range overall.  

NHL Style Comparable:  PK Subban

Top End Potential:  #2 Defenceman, PP Quarterback

Pick Prediction:  6-8th Overall

#5 - Colton Sissons - Kelowna Rockets - RW - 

Sissons is the captain of the Rockets and plays in the mold of a power forward.  He works as hard as anyone on the ice and is often the first guy in on the forecheck and the first guy on the backcheck. Has good hands around the net, being able to finish or find teammates.  Footspeed will be the thing he needs to work on most to become a player at the next level.  Is underrated in terms of how NHL ready he actually is.  Could make a big name for himself at a pro camp and stick around longer than expected, if there is no NHL lockout.  Is ranked ahead of Pouliot because I think he's a much safer bet to one day be an NHL pro.  Compares very similarly to a guy like Andrew Ladd, the captain in Winnipeg.

NHL Style Comparable:  A right handed Andrew Ladd

Top End Potential: 2nd Line Forward

Pick Prediction:  25-30th Overall

#6 - Derrick Pouliot - Portland Winterhawks - LD - 

Pouliot is a very good skating offensive defenceman. He is an elite passer with great hands and the ability to finish on the rush. Had a good postseason for the Winterhawks, but his ability to defend is still a concern going forward. I think that he has arguably the highest offensive potential of any WHL blueliner in the draft, but is also a bigger risk to make it as a full-time NHL player because of his size, strength and play away from the puck. With that being said, he's not afraid to play physical in the corners and in front of the net, so that's a good sign in regards to his defensive growth.  He could be considered a boom or bust player by some people.

NHL Style Comparable:  Brian Campbell

Top End Potential: #3 Defenceman, PP Quarterback

Pick Prediction:  18-25th Overall

#7 - Dalton Thrower - Saskatoon Blades - RD - 

Thrower is a hard-nosed, hard-hitting blueliner.  Owns a rocket of a slapshot and grew leaps and bounds defensively this year, showing huge growth in his decision making with and without the puck. Was forced to play a ton of minutes late in the season and proved that he can be a #1 defenceman when the Blades lost key defenceman to injury. He leads by example and will fight any challenger, also excelling as an agitator. A likely top 45 selection in the draft, but could go as high as the late 20's.

NHL Style Comparable:  Kevin Bieksa/Kris Letang hybrid

Top End Potential: #3 Defenceman, 2nd Unit PK, 2nd Unit PP

Pick Prediction: 25-40th Overall

#8 - Coda Gordon - Swift Current Broncos - LW - 

Gordon is a goal scorer, through and through, scoring 30 goals as a rookie for a bad Broncos club.  Owns a good frame, but is not nearly as physical as he could be. Still goes to the dirty areas of the ice and has very good finishing ability. Footspeed needs to improve as his stride is somewhat awkward and clunky, but with work it won't hold him back at the next level.  Oozes hockey sense and is very good positionally.  Can still use development in regards to playing in his own zone, but that's a common knock on someone coming off his first year in the CHL.  I like him as a top 45 pick, but I doubt he goes that high.

NHL Style Comparable:  Matt Moulson

Top End Potential: Top 6 Winger

Pick Prediction:  Late 2nd, early 3rd round

#9 - Damon Severson - Kelowna Rockets - RD - 

Severson is a big, fairly mobile two-way defenceman for the Rockets.  Owns a hard slapshot and can play on the powerplay and the penalty kill.  He looked very good for Canada at the recent Under-18 tournament, playing in a number of different situations. He's a right handed shot, which is another asset that is sought after in the draft. He has solid physical tools and projects well as a top 4 defender.  Could come off the board higher than some people expect.

NHL Style Comparable:  Brent Seabrook

Top End Potential:  Top 4 Defenceman

Pick Prediction:  40-60th Overall

#10 - Tim Bozon - Kamloops Blazers - LW - 

Bozon is a slick, offensive forward for the Blazers. He registered a point per game in his first WHL season, including scoring 36 goals, a number that led all first year WHLers.  He's a very good skater with good acceleration and the ability to beat defenders 1 on 1.  Might have the most offensive potential of any WHL player in the draft, but he also plays with some grit to his game and has the ability to play the agitator's role.  Speaks 4 different languages and is the son of longtime French NHL and Olympic hockey player Phillipe Bozon.

NHL Style Comparable:  Marian Gaborik

Top End Potential:  Top 9 Winger

Pick Prediction:  45-70th Overall

#11 - Brett Kulak - Vancouver Giants - LD - 

Kulak is a solid, but somewhat unspectacular defender for the Giants.  He's got good size and is a solid skater, but he isn't overly physical. He moves the puck well, plays with his head up and has great poise with the puck.  He defends by using his body positioning and stick very effectively, but could definitely bring more mean into his game.  He won't jump off the page at you in anything he does, but he rarely is caught out of position or makes mistakes with the puck.  Projects to be a 4th round selection, although I would have him rated slightly higher than that.

NHL Style Comparable:  Marc-Edouard Vlasic

Top End Potential: Top 4 Defenceman

Pick Prediction: 4th Round

#12 - Mike Winther - Prince Albert Raiders - LC - 

Winther is a speedy forward for the Raiders, who also has a great release and plays with some grit.  Isn't afraid to hit, battle in the corners and even drop the mitts if needed.  Shows flashes of inconsistency and needs to work on his strength, but when he's on he's a heck of a player who can do many things well.  Might transition better as a winger going forward into the pro game.  Along with his skating, his shot might be his next best attribute, being able to score off the rush with it.  Came on very strong in the second half of the WHL season and might even be picked in the late 1st round.

NHL Style Comparable:  Antoine Vermette

Top End Potential: Top 9 Forward

Pick Prediction: 50-80th Overall

#13 - Troy Bourke - Prince George Cougars - LW - 

Bourke is a slightly undersized, offensive forward for the Cougars.  Possesses good hockey sense, a good shot, above-average skating ability and a solid amount of grit in his game.  Had a strong showing for Canada at the recent Under-18's, ultimately moving him a couple spots up in my rankings because of his increased versatility at the event.  Can play the powerplay and the penalty kill and has a good motor. Might not have the highest potential, but he's well suited to one day make an NHL roster.

NHL Style Comparable:  Zach Parise

Top End Potential: Top 9 Winger

Pick Prediction: 75-100th Overall

#14 - Lukas Sutter - Saskatoon Blades - LC - 

Sutter grew his game this year, showing he has more offence than originally thought. Played the role as shutdown center, while still putting up 59 points. On offence, he showed improved footspeed and overall quickness, while also looking much more comfortable handling the puck this season.  Scored many of his goals by using a quick release from within 12 feet of the net.  He's physical and can play an agitators role, although he could be more consistent in that area of his game.  Might not have the highest upside, but is one of the safer bets to one day be an NHL player.  Son of longtime NHL player Rich Sutter.

NHL Style Comparable:  Steve Ott

Top End Potential: Top 9 C

Pick Prediction: 3rd Round

#15 - Henrik Samuelsson - Edmonton Oil Kings - RC - 

 Samuelsson is a big-bodied forward who joined the Oil Kings in the last half of the season. An impressive size and skill combination as he showed the ability to produce offensively throughout the year. Plays angry and often crosses the line in regards to dangerous hits, filling the role of a true agitator.  Skating needs to improve in order for him to be counted on as an offensive player at the next level, but it doesn't hold him back in junior.  He protects the puck well and has good vision and could be a legit point per game player before his junior career is over.  Could go much higher than I have him rated. I like him as a 3rd round pick, but could go as high as top 45.  Son of former NHL player Ulf Samuelsson.

NHL Style Comparable:  David Clarkson

Top End Potential: Top 9 Forward

Pick Prediction: 40-60th Overall

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

My WHL Player Rankings For The 2012 NHL Draft: Part Two

Ok, here is part two of my WHL rankings ahead of the 2012 NHL Draft.  I kicked it off yesterday with the players I had ranked from 31st-50th, then honourable mentions.  For today, we will look at the players that I have ranked from 16th-30th.

As I mentioned yesterday, the NHL comparables aren't career projections. The comparisons are only used to allow the reader to picture what the player looks like on the ice, relative to his WHL competition.

So here we go with the WHL players I have ranked from 16th to 31st:

#16 - Branden Troock - Seattle Thunderbirds - RW - 

Troock is a big bodied forward who plays physical, has a nose for the net and can finish. He's got a hard shot and skates well for someone of his size and stature.  A pretty well rounded player but still pretty raw considering he missed much of the last two seasons with various injuries. Strong showing at both the Top Prospects game and for Canada at the Under 18's.

NHL Style Comparable:  Blake Wheeler

Top End Potential: Top 6 Winger

Pick Prediction: 4th Round

 #17 - Mitch Moroz - Edmonton Oil Kings - LW -

Moroz is a well rounded forward for the Oil Kings.  He hits, he fights, he scores.  I've compared him to Kyle Clifford with the Kings, but I think his offensive game might translate to the NHL better than Clifford's.  He's got a good shot, pretty good passing ability and has been one of the biggest WHL risers throughout the season.  I like him more than many others might. 

NHL Style Comparable: Scott Hartnell

Top End Potential: Top 9 Forward

Pick Prediction: 5th Round

#18 - Jaynen Rissling - Calgary Hitmen - LD - 

Rissling is a big-bodied, two way defender.  Skates well for his frame, he reads the play very well at both ends of the ice and plays with a nasty edge to his game.  His size is a very appealing asset at 6'4.  I had high expectations for him after watching him play very well last season as a 16 year old, and those expectations weren't realized as well I has I had hoped.  Late last season I thought he might have a chance to creep into the 'big 5' talk in regards to top WHL D eligible in 2012.

NHL Style Comparable:  Brad Stuart

Top End Potential: Top 4 Defenceman

Pick Prediction: 5th Round

#19 - Chandler Stephenson - Regina Pats - LW - 

Stephenson is solidly built goal scorer for the Pats.  He's not the tallest guy, but he's thick and protects the puck well. He has great hands, but has issues with consistently going to the dirty areas of the ice.  Skating has shown improvement but could still use refining to play at the NHL level.  Started the year as a potential 1st rounder in some people's eyes, but I have him as a late 3rd or early 4th.

NHL Style Comparable:  Jiri Hudler

Top End Potential: Top 6 Winger

Pick Prediction: 4th Round

#20 - Cody Corbett - Edmonton Oil Kings - LD - 

Corbett made the smooth transition from the United States to the WHL during the season. Plays mostly a defensive game and makes few mistakes. But, he also makes solid outlet passes, has a hard shot and is a pretty good skater. He did struggle in the WHL playoffs, something that you wouldn't have been able to forsee considering how mistake-free he was in my viewings. I don't see a ton of offensive potential for the NHL level but I like him as a safe pick inside the top 120. 

NHL Style Comparable:  Dan Hamhuis

Top End Potential: Top 4 Defenceman

Pick Prediction: 4th Round

#21 - Ryan Olsen - Kelowna Rockets - RC - 

Olsen is a big, strong-skating centre who was traded from the Saskatoon Blades to the Rockets this offseason. He experienced big-time ups and downs this season but has great raw potential.  Started to play more physical in the second half, using his 6'3 frame.  Has pretty good hands around the goal but will need several years to realize his full potential.  I like him as a very good 4th round choice, but could go anywhere from round three to round seven.

NHL Style Comparable:  Ryan Getzlaf

Top End Potential: #2 Centre

Pick Prediction: 5th Round

#22 - Chris Driedger - Calgary Hitmen - G - 

Driedger is my top ranked WHL goalie, despite having seen him struggle off and on all season. He has fairly good technical skills and good size, but he battled with consistency all year. Will be counted on as a true number one goalie, thanks to Calgary dealing co-starter Brandon Glover this offseason. A good value pick if he goes in the 5th round or later, despite needing work in the mental aspect of the game.

NHL Style Comparable:  Cam Ward

Top End Potential: Average NHL Starter

Pick Prediction: 5th Round

#23 - Carter Rigby - Kelowna Rockets - LW - 

Rigby is a solid two-way forward that is built like a tank. He throws his weight around, isn't afraid to rough it up and also can score.  Is a very strong skater for a guy listed at 210 pounds.  I have seen him play the point on the PP and he is also a solid player in his own zone.  I like him as a 4th round choice, but I am not sure how he's valued elsewhere.

NHL Style Comparable:  Ryan Malone

Top End Potential: Top 3 Winger

Pick Prediction: 6th Round

#24 - Logan McVeigh - Prince Albert Raiders - LW - 

McVeigh is an offensive forward for the Raiders. He has an awkward skating stride, but I like his potential. He has good hands and isn't afraid to get dirty to get on the board. Transitioned well after a trade to the Raiders last year and will see key minutes with top end players in Winther and McNeill going forward.  Has played both wing and centre, but I like him more as a winger because of his skating.

NHL Style Comparable:  A left handed Michael Ryder

Top End Potential: Top 9 Winger

Pick Prediction: 6th Round

#25 - Dominik Volek - Regina Pats - LW - 

Volek is a player who I've had trouble ranking throughout the season. He hits, he's a good skater and he likes to try and get involved in the offence. But, his offensive production declined down the stretch and he never seemed to fit into their lineup, despite his versatility.  He had his fair share off offensive chances in my viewings, he just never seemed to be able to get on the board. It also sounds like he signed with a Jr. club in Sweden this year and might be leaving the CHL. Is the son of former NHL player David Volek. 

NHL Style Comparable:  Kris Kunitz

Top End Potential: 2nd Line Winger

Pick Prediction: 5th Round

#26 - Cain Franson - Vancouver Giants - LC -

Franson is a big kid who has a great shot and scoring touch. He is my highest ranked WHL overager after putting up 27 goals this season.  He's a bit of an awkward skater but doesn't have any problem getting to the right areas on the ice and finishing off plays.  Needs to add weight and get stronger.

NHL Style Comparable: Erik Cole 

Top End Potential: 2nd Line Winger

Pick Prediction: 6th Round

#27 - Travis Brown - Moose Jaw Warriors - LD - 

Brown is a big, strong skating defender for Moose Jaw. He's a solid skater, moves the puck well and plays with an edge. Benefited from playing more minutes as the season went on and also had a strong postseason.  Projects as a bottom pairing blueliner, but still pretty raw and will benefit from even more minutes next season.

NHL Style Comparable:  Kyle Quincey

Top End Potential: Borderline Top 4 Defenceman

Pick Prediction: 6th Round

#28 - Andrey Makarov - Saskatoon Blades - G - 

Makarov is an overage Russian goaltender who had a great first season with the Saskatoon Blades. He's very athletic, has a great glove, is very raw but is a workable asset.  He needs to improve his overall consistency and work ethic going forward.  Will be counted on big time as the starter for the Blades, who host the 2013 MasterCard Memorial Cup. 

NHL Style Comparable:  Evgeni Nabokov

Top End Potential: Average NHL Starter

Pick Prediction: 5th Round

#29 - Brendan Leipsic - Portland Winterhawks - LC -   

Leipsic is a small, but highly-skilled offensive forward for the Winterhawks. He's got very high end hands and isn't afraid to mix up things and get dirty, despite his size. Likes to play the role of an agitator, but can also hurt teams on the scoreboard.  Had a very good playoff run for Portland and will be relied upon big time next season with the likely departure of Sven Baertschi.  Not sure how he's valued out there, but his size is the big knock. I like him as a 4th rounder, likely to be taken in the 6th or 7th, if at all.

NHL Style Comparable:  A left handed Andrew Shaw

Top End Potential: 2nd Line Forward

Pick Prediction: 7th Round

#30 - Graham Black - Swift Current Broncos - LC - 

Black is a two way centre for the Broncos. He showed solid offensive skills this year as a rookie, is a great skater, but his best value comes on the defensive side of the puck. Good on draws and very responsible all over the ice.  Has a good frame to grow in to. I value him as an early 5th rounder.

NHL Style Comparable:  Chris Kelly

Top End Potential: 3rd Line Centre

Pick Prediction: 6th Round

Later this week I will unveil my top 15. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

My WHL Player Rankings For The 2012 NHL Draft: Part One

The 2012 MasterCard Memorial Cup is fully underway in Shawinigan and it marks the final big on-ice event of the junior hockey season prior to the NHL draft.  At the end of this month and start of June, a select few NHL hopefuls will head to Toronto for the NHL draft combine.  After that, it's a couple more weeks until my favorite time of the year, the NHL draft.

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:

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.

Honourable Mentions

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

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

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Will Corbin Boes Have His Name Called?

As most people know, drafting goaltenders can be a very tricky proposition.

Many times late round picks have turned out to be elite level goaltenders, while guys taken in the first two rounds of the NHL draft have faltered as they transitioned to the pro game.  Sometimes goalies simply take longer to develop and show their worth.  That might just be the case for Brandon Wheat Kings goaltender Corbin Boes.

Boes was overlooked at the 2011 NHL draft and that wasn't overly surprising in the end.  He only appeared in 33 games last season, winning 10 times and posting an .888 save % and a 3.44 GAA.  He wasn't exactly sparkling in the games that I saw him play.  But, credit it to him, he didn't let that hold him back and came into the 2011-2012 WHL season on a mission.

It started out pretty good, too.  He posted a 2.32 GAA, .923 sv% and 5 wins in 8 games through September and October.  That start was good enough to have him listed on Central Scouting's preliminary ranking for WHL goalies for the 2012 NHL Draft, despite the fact that he was considered an overage player.

But, the ups and downs continued for Boes.  He posted subpar numbers in November and the start of December before breaking his hand. He missed some time, but that time off might have allowed him to focus and regroup for the stretch drive of the season.

Not many goalies eligible for the 2012 NHL draft experienced a late-season surge like Boes did this past year.  He went 11-4-0-1 in the last two months of the year, posting a 2.48 GAA and .928 sv% in February and March. 

He carried that momentum into the playoffs, leading Brandon to a first round upset over Calgary by posting a 1.95 GAA and .945 sv% in the 5 game series.  The second round was a bit of a different story though, as the Wheat Kings were swept out by the eventual WHL Champion Edmonton Oil Kings.

Despite that strong surge in the second half and the playoffs, Boes found himself left off the final rankings by Central Scouting.  Obviously that list isn't the be-all and end-all for the draft, but it's a nice feather in the cap for players to be listed there.

Central Scouting might not have been watching him, but clearly Hockey Canada was.  As reported last week, Boes is one of the goalies invited to next month's Hockey Canada goaltending camp in Calgary, Alberta.  The camp will help determine who will make that final team come next December.  An invite to that camp is also a good sign that he could garner interest for the 2012 NHL Draft.

In my mind, there is no question that Boes deserves to be picked this time around.  The overall goaltending class this year isn't exactly stellar, especially in the WHL.  Names like Makarov, Bartosak, Driedger and Skapski are all likely to be called, but Boes deserves to be in that grouping. 

He's a big kid at 6'3 and over 210 pounds.  He's really refined his movements over the last calendar year and has improved his positioning, rebound control and mental toughness.  He's going to be relied upon big-time in Brandon next year with a new coach taking over, not to mention the team losing 6 of their 7 top scoring forwards.

Some NHL team will recognize the amount of rubber he will see next year and realize that it's a great development opportunity for a kid who already has a good solid foundation to work with in the crease. Picking goalies in the NHL draft can be a tricky proposition, but it's time to give Corbin Boes a chance.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Seth Jones Joins WHL Ahead Of 2013 NHL Draft

The Western Hockey League got some great news late this afternoon, as the Portland Winterhawks announced that they have come to terms with 17 year old star defenceman Seth Jones.

Jones is an American defenceman who has spent the last two seasons playing in the USHL and was originally committed to the University of North Dakota.  The Everett Silvertips also held his WHL rights.  In recent weeks it became clear that we wouldn't be signing with Everett if he did intend on heading North and the Tips dealt the right to speak with Jones to the Portland Winterhawks.

 (photo credit to Vancouver Sun)

Finally decision day has arrived as Jones will join Portland starting next season.  A deal has been reached between the Winterhawks and Silvertips, with details expected to be announced tomorrow.

It's huge news for the WHL and fans of the NHL draft as Jones is already an elite player.  He's also expected to be a top 3 pick in the 2013 NHL draft.   He's coming off a USHL season where he posted 12 points in 20 games and also captained Team USA to a Gold Medal at the U-18's in the Czech Republic only weeks ago.  He stands 6'3, weighs over 200 pounds and is the son of former NBA player Popeye expect him to continue to grow.

The 2013 NHL draft is shaping up to be fantastic, especially when looking out West at the WHL.  Jones now likely stands head and shoulders above the rest of the WHL crop, but that's no slight against the other players eligible.  He's simply that good.  He controls the tempo of a game, is a great skater for his size, hits like a truck, has excellent vision and a rocket of a shot.  He can play top PP minutes and on the top PK unit.  I wouldn't hesitate to say that he is very close to being NHL-ready.

As mentioned, the rest of the WHL class is shaping up to be fantastic as well.  Other guys who stand out right now:

Hunter Shinkaruk - Elite scorer for the Medicine Hat Tigers who plays a similar style to Sidney Crosby.

Ryan Pulock - A top end puck moving defender for Brandon, has a 95ish MPH slapper.

Curtis Lazar - A big rugged forward who has elite goal scoring hands for Edmonton.

Josh Morrissey - A solid two way defender for Prince Albert. Had a strong showing at the Under 18's for Canada recently.

Eric Comrie - Big goaltender for Tri-City, expected to start 50+ games next year as a 17 year old.

Morgan Klimchuk - Gritty and rugged forward with nice offensive skills for Regina.

Alex Forsberg - Wizard with the puck, great vision on this Cougars forward.

Madison Bowey - Huge blueliner for Kelowna. Raw, but comes from a defensive factory.

I can't name everyone, but I could keep going and going.  Names like Rankin, Needham, Heatherington, Roy....  The bottom line is, the 2013 NHL draft is going to be special, especially for the WHL.

Seth Jones now highlights the group and it's going to be a fun thing to watch!