1. Saskatoon Blades - The Blades are the 2013 Memorial Cup hosts. Addition of Shane McColgan and Brendan Walker, to go along with many returning veterans, should make the Blades the top horse in the division. Two very solid imports in Stransky on the wing and Makarov in goal. Returning defender Duncan Siemens, Darren Dietz and Dalton Thrower give the Blades a formidable backend. Look for the Blades to continue to make moves going down the stretch.
2. Moose Jaw Warriors - The Warriors lost many key veterans in the offseason but have a nice undercurrent of youth to take its place. The team should be Morgan Rielly's team to lead. Have a trio of emerging young forwards in Brayden Point, Carter Hansen and Andrew Johnson. The question marks for this team are in goal as they traded incumbant Luke Siemens away to Prince Albert.
3. Brandon Wheat Kings - Brandon Wheat Kings lost many key forwards in the offseason, Mark Stone, Michael Ferlund, Darian Dziurzynski to name a few. What they do have is potential top 10 pick in 2013, Ryan Pulock, Eric Roy and Ayrton Nikkel patrolling the backend and solid keeper in Corbin Boes. Someone will need to emerge as a goalscorer on this club in order for it to stay afloat. Alessio Bertaggia and Nick Buonassisi are two of the better bets to emerge.
4. Prince Albert Raiders - The Raiders look to take the next step in their evolution by vying for a playoff spot and beomcing more of a threat in the East Division. After being doormats for the past two seasons, the likes of Mark McNeill, Mike Winther and super import rookie Leon Draisaitl to help with their scoring woes. Highly touted 2013 draft prospect Josh Morrissey roams the blueline and Luke Siemens, acquired from Moose Jaw stabilizes their goaltending.
5. Regina Pats - The Pats figure to regress losing their best scorer Jordan Weal and team leader Brandon Davidson. The keys to the team will be given to 2013 draft eligible Morgan Klimchuk. They also have returning goaltender Matt Hewitt, who played well for them last season. The Pats have holes in the defense as well as a lack of depth on the scoring front. Someone will need to emerge for this team to go forward.
6. Swift Current Broncos - The Broncos figure to be bringing up the rear this season. Outside of Coda Gordon and perhaps Adam Lowry, its a team thin on goal scoring. The defense figures to be a strong point with Reece Scarlett, Richard Nedomlel and Dillon Heatherington all returning. Goaltending is a big question mark as they figure to be starting a raw rookie this season.
1. Edmonton Oil Kings - The Oil Kings figure to be the cream of the crop in the Eastern Conference once again this season. Oil Kings are deep in every position, an excellent blend of youth and experience. Michael St. Croix, Dylan Wruck, T.J. Foster, Henrik Samuelsson, and Curtis Lazar figure to carry the offense while Griffin Reinhart, Keegan Lowe, Martin Gernat and Cody Corbett will anchor the backend. Brossoit will look to continue his winning ways in goal and Tristan Jarry will back him up if Brossoit falters.
2. Medicine Hat Tigers - Projected Top 10 Pick, 49 goal scorer Hunter Shinkaruk headlines this club heading into the 2013 season. New acquisition Miles Koules figures to help Shinkaruk in the goal scoring category. The Tigers have a pleathora of hardnosed role players in Curtis Valk, Boston Leier and Kale Kessy amongst others. Question marks on the defense as they break in a lot of new players as well as having a new starting goaltender with the loss of Tyler Bunz. Also lost star forward Emerson Etem. Goals against maybe an issue for this team.
3. Calgary Hitmen - Super rookie Jake Virtanen figure to become the face of that franchise in the very near future. Figures to have a nice supporting cast with 2013 draft prospect Greg Chase, Victor Rask and Alex Gogolev. Offense from the defense may be a concern. Have hard nosed defensive vets in Jaynen Rissling, Alex Roach and Keegan Helgesen. Chris Driedger will need to emerge as the full time starting goaltender this season for Calgary to become competitive.
4. Lethbridge Hurricanes - Lethbridge was awful to begin last season, but slowly got better as the season went on. Will need big years from 2013 draft prospects Jay Merkley and Jamal Watson as well as '96 born Reid Duke. A little thin on the backend. Macoy Erkamps will have to emerge as a point producer on the backend. Picked up Ty Rimmer from the Tri-City Americans to solidify their goaltending. All in all, I expect Lethbridge to be an exciting, surprise team this season.
5. Kootenay Ice - Tough to predict the Ice this season. They have super scoring youngster Sam Reinhart returning for his 2nd season. Other than that its a team that is very young and unproven. Joey Leach heads up the backend for the ice. And it looks like Mackenzie Skapski will finally get his shot at the starting goaltending job. Plenty of team toughness with the likes of Drew Czerwonka and Spencer Wand roaming the ice. Import Petr Vesely figures to help out in the goal scoring department.
6. Red Deer Rebels Rebels took a step back last season after losing Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to the Edmonton Oilers and really haven't been able to replace that scoring void since. With Alex Petrovic moving on, this figures to be star defenseman, Mathew Dumba's team. Patrik Bartosek should give them solid goaltending as long as he can stay healthy. Other than that its a hard working, meat and potatoes type team they will be icing this upcoming season.
1. Kamloops Blazers - Kamloops has a nice blend of speedy scorers and tough as nails role players that lead them to success. Scoring led by Brendan Ranford, Tim Bozon and Colin Smith. 2013 Draft prospect Matt Needham fills a role as a tenacious forechecker that can score a bit. The defense is a little light on depth but is lead by all around defender Austin Madaisky. Cole Cheveldave emerged as a top flight WHL goaltender. The incumbants will be tough to beat in the B.C. Division.
2. Kelowna Rockets - The Rockets are an emerging team that is going to be led by its defense group. Damon Severson will become the leader of the defense with 2013 Draft Prospects Madison Bowey and Jesse Lees ready to take on a bigger role. Forwards led by robust wingers Colten Sissons and Carter Rigby. They traded away goal scorer Shane McColgan and acquired enigmatic center Ryan Olsen. Potential is there but it needs to shine through more often. Goaltending battle between Jackson Whistle and Jordan Cooke as long time Rocket Adam Brown has moved on.
3. Vancouver Giants - The Giants are in the middle of a mini rebuild having lost their two best scorers Brendan Gallagher, Jordan Martinook, defenseman Neil Manning and goaltender Adam Morrison. Returning defensmen David Musil and Wes Vannieuwenhuizen stabilize the defense. Even though where the goal scoring will come from on this team, coach Don Hay always seems to get the most out of his players. While I think this team will have a setback, I don't think they will fall off the map completely. Liam Liston, acquired from Lethbridge, figures to get the bulk of the games as the backstop.
4. Prince George Cougars - Prince George is a team that should, in theory be better this upcoming season. I have belief that Alex Forsberg will have a breakout year and become the leader they expect him to be. SOlid supporting cast with Troy Bourke, Jordan Tkatch, and newly acquired Colin Jacobs from Seattle to give the forward rank some depth. Defense is a big question mark on this club. They did acquire WHL veteran Dallas Ehrhardt from Moose Jaw to give the defense a face. This team should be able to score, how they will keep pucks out of their own net is the question. 20 year old Drew Owsley gives them veteran goaltending.
5. Victoria Royals - Royals are a team looking for an identity. They have returning scorers Logan Nelson, Steven Hodges, Brandon Magee, and Jamie Crooks. The Royals are expecting 2013 Draft Prospect Keegan Kanzig to become that menacing lockdown defender they were hoping he would be. Import Patrik Polivka hopes to stabilize the goaltending. It's a team that is long on try but short on game changing talent and depth. Royals figure to roll with a fairly young team this season.
1. Portland Winter Hawks - Could very well be the class of the WHL. Depth at all positions and some very talented players at the skill positions. Ty Rattie returns to continue his assault on the WHL scoring title. Newly acquired top 2013 NHL prospect, defender Seth Jones, figures to make an impact all over the ice. Winter Hawks figure to be dealing with the losses of two superstars in Joe Morrow and Sven Baertschi, but have plenty of depth and emerging players. Pedigree is also abundant as the sons of Pierre Turgeon (Dominic) and Sean Burke (Brendan) are on the WinterHawks roster.
2. Tri-City Americans - Tri-City figures to be hot on the heels of the Portland Winter Hawks all season. After suffering the losses of high end 20 year olds Brendan Shinnimin and Adam Hughesman from last years club, last years depth players Patrick Holland, Justin Feser, Connor Rankin and Brian Williams figure to take a bigger role this season. Defense is led by the steady Zach Yuen. With the dealing of goaltening incumbant Ty Rimmer, 2013 goaltending propect Eric Comrie figures to get the bulk of the games this season.
3. Spokane Chiefs - Spokane is a middle of the pact team that lost a couple of leaders and overagers in Darren Kramer and Steve Kuhn. Defenseman Brenden Kichton looks to return for his 20 year old season and be the leader of the Chiefs. Chiefs will be looking for scoring from players Dominic Uher, Mitch Holmberg and Todd Fiddler. Mac Engel and newly acquired Eric Williams will battle it out for the top goaltending spot. I figure Spokane to have a simliar type team as they had last season. Gutsy team that will struggle to score goals from time to time.
4. Seattle Thunderbirds - Seattle should take a step this season towards respectiblity. Thunderbirds will need improved scoring years from the likes of Branden Troock, Justin Hickman, and Brendan Rouse. 2013 Draft top prospects Shea Theodore and Jared Hauf look to help stabilize the backend with veterans Jesse Fordberg and Brad Deagle. Newly acquired Brandon Glover figures to get most of the starts in goal this season. A team that light on depth especially at the forward position. Super rookie Matthew Barzal may or may not get a chance to show his stuff for the Thunderbirds this season depending whether or not Barzal wants to report to the team.
5. Everett Silvertips - Top 2012 Draft pick Ryan Murray may buy this team some wins as long as an NHL lockout is in effect. But once the lockout ends Ryan Murray figures to head back to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Another super rookie, Tyler Sandhu figures to make his debut this season. Other than that, the Silvertips forwards are long on try but short on talent. The defense should be alright as long as Murray stays on the club. Nick Walters looks to take on a bigger role and import all around defender Mirco Mueller will make his debut this season. Kent Simpson figures to see a lot of rubber if he stays with Everett this season but has always been steady.