Monday, January 7, 2013

WHL Top 30 2013 Draft Prospects Midseason Rankings

1. Seth Jones D Portland - Seth Jones got off to a slow start early on this season, but has picked up his game, as expected. Jones is an all purpose, all situations type defender. Equally strong at both ends of the ice, all while being a big minute eater on the backend. Jones is a gifted athlete with a strong sense of how to play the game. A very fluid skater for someone with his size. Went from a +8 to a +27 during the 2nd quarter of the season. Jones is fresh off winning a gold medal with Team USA at the World Junior Chamionships. While he had some flaky moments defenisvely during the tourney, his overall game was a big part of the American team. 31GP-8G-20A-28PTS +27 Last Rank: #1

2. Ryan Pulock D Brandon - Ryan Pulock has started this season with an absolute bang. Pulock has many of the traits that Seth Jones exhibits. Perhaps not quite the mobility that Jones has but has an A+ above average slapshot. That slapshot has helped him tally a few times this season and throughout his WHL tenure. Pulock should become an all situations defender at the pro level. Pulock's team in Brandon fell on hard times in the 2nd quarter. It will be interesting to see how his team's success will help/hurt Pulock draft stock. Felt he should have made the Team Canada World Junior Club, especially when Ryan Murray went down to injury. His all around defender play would have made for a better fit for that team. 36GP-10G-21A-31PTS +7  Last Rank: #2

3. Hunter Shinkaruk LW Medicine Hat - Shinkaruk struggled early on as he got acclimated with becoming the go-to offensive player with the Tigers. Shinkaruk has to take on more of a playmaking role early on this season and seems to be handling that well now. Shinkaruk is a dynamic offensive player, be it a playmaker or a scorer. Even though his Tigers team has underachieved so far this season, Shinkaruk has given the Tigers a chance to be in a lot of games. Slick offensive player that can create offense on his own or in a team environment. Should continue to put up a pile of points with the Tigers this season. 37GP-23G-29A-52PTS -5 Last Rank: #3

4. Curtis Lazar C Edmonton - Curtis Lazar has run hot and cold to start the season. Lazar's skill and ability to attack on the rush is undeniable, but his skillset is more defined in a team setting. Lazar is at his best when he makes plays in a team setting as opposed to being a player that makes strictly individual plays. It's that kind of player that allows the Oil Kings to have lots of success through the past couple of seasons. Lazar plays both ends of the ice very well, something rare for a player of his age. Lazar's offensive game is a little behind in terms numbers, but the skill is there for it to come to the forefront. On a stacked team like the Oil Kings, it will be tough for Lazar to move up the depth chart, but is excellent insurance if injuries arise. 40GP-15G-12A-27PTS +10 Last Rank: #4

5. Eric Comrie G Tri-City - Eric Comrie has taken the next step in his development and cemented himself as the undeniable starting goaltender for Tri-City to go along with being one of the top tier goaltenders in the WHL. Comrie is one of those rare hybrid goaltenders. Structurally sound enough to stop the first shot, but athletic enough to go from side to side quickly. Sky is the limit for Comrie as he has all the tools that most scouts look for in a goaltender. What makes his start more impressive is the Tri-City team has struggled on and off offensively but his goaltending has kept his team afloat. 36GP-10W-2.66GAA-.913S% Last Rank: #6

6. Josh Morrissey D Prince Albert - Josh Morrissey has had a fine start to the season for his surprising Prince Albert team. Morrissey has played in a variety of situations for the Raiders team this season. Has established himself as the #1 all situations defender in Prince Albert. Though somewhat undersized, he is still firmly built, but its his size that sets apart Pulock and Jones from Morrissey. Morrissey brings a little of everything, offense, defense, physicality. Very smart defender. 40GP-8G-18A-26PTS +13 Last Rank: #5

7. Morgan Klimchuk C Regina - Morgam Klimchuk has had a fairly consistent start with an inconsistant Regina Pats team this season. Klimchuk is a very cerebral player with an excellent knack of finding offensive opportunities. Klimchuk is a dependable player all over the ice. Klimchuk should emerge close to the top for point totals with the Pats this season. Even though the Pats are having a middling season, Klimchuk has managed to keep his +/- respectable. 43GP-21G-28A-49PTS -2 Last Rank: #7

8. Shea Theodore D Seattle - Shea Theodore is as smooth with the puck as any of the draft eligibles this season. Away from the puck remains a work in progress but he has made some strides as his Thunderbirds team has improved early on this season. Theodore often plays like a 4th forward on the ice. Rarely hesitates to grab the puck and rush up the ice. Very dangerous with his vision and decision making with the puck. Theodore could stand to add some muscle but not too much to hinder his skating which is a big asset for him. 40GP-7G-18A-25PTS -8 Last Rank: #8

9. Nicolas Petan C Portland - Nicolas Petan has taken the Portland Winterhawks by storm early on this season. Leads the high scoring team in points as a 17 year old and this is a team that includes perennial high scorer Ty Rattie. Petan plays a gutsy game. Hangs in plays a little longer than he likely should, but that style has done well for him early on this season. Petan has established himself as a go-to offensive forward in Portland. His size may hold him back at the next level, as he is undersized, but his courageous play and gawdy numbers early on shouldn't go unnoticed. The question about Petan is he the straw or the drink? 39GP-27G-40A-67PTS +43 Last Rank: #13

10. Madison Bowey D Kelowna - Madison Bowey could very well be the fastest skater coming out of the WHL this season. Effortless skater with a smooth pass. Bowey's hockey sense is still a work in progress as he is prone to brain cramps from time to time, but he is a player that keeps the other team honest by constantly trying to push the puck up the ice. There is still room for him to grow into his game. His plus/minus rating has been steadily climbing all season, a good sign for Bowey as he tries to stabilize his game and become more reliable. 40GP-8G-10A-18PTS +27 Last Rank: #12

11. Jamal Watson RW Lethbridge - Jamal Watson started off the season slowly but has emerged as one the Hurricanes go-to scorers. Watson's flying off the wing, crash the net style, is reminiscent of how WHL alumni Emerson Etem played in his time with the Tigers. Watson's overall game is still a bit raw, but his skating and fearless style makes him very intriguing as a prospect going forward. If Watson bulks up a smidge without losing any speed, much like Etem did, he could have himself a very prosperous future. Watson's 2nd quarter wasn't quite as productive as his 1st quarter. 43GP-9G-12A-21PTS +2 Last Rank: #9

12. Jay Merkley C Swift Current - Jay Merkley has emerged as a top flight center with the vastly improved Hurricanes this season. Merkley is known as a two-way center that has shown some offensive acumen early on this season. Merkley's mental makeup has gotten stronger as he has gained more experience. It really showed in plus/minus end of things as they crept closely to the even mark. Merkley has morphed nicely into a scorer early on this season. EDIT - In a stunning turn of events Merkley is now a member of the Broncos as I publish this article. 43GP-14G-8A-22PTS +1 Last Rank: #10

13. Mirco Mueller D Everett - Mirco Mueller has had a solid start to his North American hockey career. Has played well depsite not having the injured Ryan Murray by his side. Mueller is tall player that stands 6'4" with a long reach, much like some of the other European defenders that have invaded the WHL over the recent years. Mueller plays the game with a lot of composure with and without the puck. Has some offensive acumen, what the ceiling on that potential is, remains to be seen. Excellent puck distributor. Mueller could stand to bulk up a bit, but all in all, a solid start to the season for him. Showed well for the Swiss team at the World Junior Championship. 34GP-2G-16A-18PTS +4 Last Rank: #11

14. Greg Chase C Calgary - Greg Chase taken his offensive game up a notch this season. Might be better off playing on the wing at the next level as he is dynamic in attacking off the edges on the rush. Is very good at using his speed and leverage to cut towards the net. Excellent vision and playmaking skills he has displayed to this point of the season. Chase has settled into a secondary scoring role with the Hitmen this season. 39GP-11G-16A-27PTS +4 Last Rank: #15

15. Jesse Lees D Kelowna - Jesse Lees has enjoyed a fine start to the season on a stacked blueline for the Rockets. Lees may not have the natural ability that his teammate Madison Bowey has, but what he does bring is a reliability and stability to the defense position. Known for his puck movement but has shown early on this season that he can play in a variety of situations. It will be interesting to see how Lees emerges on the backend for the Rockets. Rockets have vastly improved this season as shown by Less' gawdy +/- number. 37GP-4G-12A-16PTS +29 Last Rank: #14

16. Oliver Bjorkstrand RW Portland - Oliver Bjorkstrand has come over from Denmark to play in the WHL this season. Bjorkstrand is a shifty, nose for the net type player. A little on the thin side as of now, like a lot of players that seem to come from Europe. He has landed in a good spot in Portland. He should be a solid complementary scorer on a team stacked full of offensive talent. Not sure if he can become a go-to offensive talent, but he should be able to put up some solid numbers with Portland this season. 32GP-16G-16A-32PTS +21 Last Rank: #16

17. Jackson Houck RW Vancouver - Gritty player that I had doubts on how effective his offense would be. His offense has come around this season and with the way the Giants have purged players this season due to a slow start, things are setting up nicely for Houck to have a breakout season. Kind of a sleeper pick. Plays the game with a lot of energy and tenacity. With the offense coming around, he's the type of player scouts look for. Demon on the forecheck. The Giants have had a lacklustre season thus far but the fact that Houck remains on the plus side of the ledger is a testament to his efficiency. 41GP-10G-25A-35PTS +2 Last Rank: #17

18. Matt Needham C Kamloops - Matt Needham has had a lukewarm start to the season. Everytime I see Needham play, I think of Steve Ott. Needham is kind of at the mercy of the Blazers hot start. Needham hasn't gotten the offensive looks as a lot of his teammates are off to torrid offensive starts which has forced Needham to play down the lineup. Needham has played a lot of center this season out of necessity, though I think he is better on the wing. Needham continues to be a thorn in the opposition side, definitely plays on the edge. 42GP-6G-14A-20PTS +1 Last Rank: #20

19. Connor Rankin C Tri-City - Rankin's offense came around during the 2nd quarter of the season. Still hanging out below a point per game and seems to have secondary production even though he's put into a primary scoring position. Rankin is a very opportunistic scorer that plays a solid two-way game. Ranking is slowly finding his stride after a slow start and finding more comfort in being one of the go-to scorers for the Americans. 40GP-17G-11A-28PTS -3 Last Rank: #18

20. Alex Forsberg C Prince George - Forsberg has been disappointing so far this season. I expected him to grab the offensive reigns of the hockey club. Newcomer Colin Jacobs has come in and stole the spotlight which has relegated Forsberg to a secondary scoring role. His defensive play has been subpar as well. He seems content for the time being in being a secondary scoring. If he doesn't improve his overall game, he could stand to fall further in the rankings. Still needs work on his hockey sense. A change of address may be best for Forsberg going forward.  31GP-9G-19A-28PTS -18 Last Rank: #19

21. Macoy Erkamps D Lethbridge - Macoy Erkamps has enjoyed a fine start to the season. Slowly coming around and becoming one of the go-to defensemen on the Hurricanes club. A smidge undersized, but a slick puckmoving defenseman. Has a bit of feistiness to his game. Erkamps continues to move up the depth chart. His offense continues to improve on a game to game basis. 44GP-3G-16A-19PTS +4 Last Rank: #22

22. Dillon Heatherington D Swift Current -  Heatherington makes his hay through being a shutdown defender, although he may have some untapped offensive ability. Not a lot of flash to Heathington's game, but there is a high degree of dependability to it. Heatherington's offense marginally improved over the 2nd quarter as he starts to get looks in more offensive situations. Another prospect to watch to see where the ceiling stops. 42GP-2G-12A-14PTS +7 Last Rank: #27

23. Eric Roy D Brandon - Eric Roy hasn't quite enjoyed the success his Wheat Kings teammate Ryan Pulock has so far this season. Eric Roy is a solid puck distributor from the backend but has issues away from the puck. Not as dynamic as a Shea Theodore, but makes solid contributions as a puckmover. Doesn't hesistate to rush up the ice. Continues to need to work on strength and defensive coverage. Had a rough 2nd quarter, going -20 in that stretch, really struggled when Ryan Pulock was out due to injury forcing him up the lineup. 42GP-7G-17A-24PTS -24 Last Rank: #21

24. Tristan Jarry G Edmonton - Tristan Jarry is starting to get more games under his belt as he heads into his draft year. While Oil Kings starter Laurent Brossoit looks entrenched as the starting goaltender, Jarry is making the most of his opportunities by posting miniscule numbers to start the season. Still prone to the odd, flaky goal, but has solid mechanics and athletic enough to make the big saves. All he needs now is the experience and the volume of games, but I'm not sure that will come this year. Jarry is the beneficiary of playing behind a strong defensive club, but is full value for his numbers this season. 15GP-10W-1.80GAA-.930S% Last Rank: #28

25. Carter Hansen RW Moose Jaw - Carter Hansen is a budding power forward who is still trying to find his offensive game. Has the tools to become so. Big frame, smooth skater, his puckhandling is a little sloppy at times. Hansen hasn't grabbed the offensive reigns on the Warriors team like I thought he would have, especially on a team that is looking for goals from the forward positions. The Warriors had a lacklustre 2nd quarter of the season and Hansen didn't improve his numbers much. Hansen will be an interesting case study throughout the rest of the season. 40GP-5G-7A-12PTS -12 Last Rank: #23

26. Axel Blomqvist RW Lethbridge - Axel Blomqvist is the WHL version of Dustin Penner. Big man with soft hands and nice offensive skills, but isn't the most graceful skater. Creates space for his smaller Lethbridge teammates. At this stage Blomqvist looks to be more of a playmaker than a player looking to score. Blomqvist plays like your prototypical European big man. All in all, has been a big part the Hurricanes emergence this season completes the quartet of Hurricanes players on the list. 42GP-3G-21A-24PTS -2 Last Rank: #24

27. Brian Williams C Tri-City - Brian Williams got off to very slow start but is now starting to come around with the offense. Most of the time is the smallest player on the ice but you have to admire the guts and tenacity he plays the game with. Not afraid to go to the dirty areas and has a nice set of hands in and around the net. Has put up modest numbers but thought he would taken on more of the offensive burden this season. 39GP-12G-9A-21PTS -3 Last Rank: #25

28. Kohl Bauml C Everett - Kohl Bauml is another diminutive, gutsy plater that you can't help but cheer for. Bauml is a jack of all trades forward for the Silvertips this season, that is pitching in on the offense. The Silvertips are getting very little in terms of scoring from the forward position this season. Bauml should continue to get offensive looks on a thin Silvertips club. 37GP-12G-9A-19PTS -7 Last Rank: #26

29. Keegan Kanzig D Victoria - Keegan Kanzig is a player trying to develop a name for himself as a shutdown defender. Has the size and strength to do so, but I'm not sure the temperment is there for him to play ultranasty when the need arises. Kanzig is a big man and takes up a lot of space on the ice, but hasn't quite developed that timing of when to play tough and when to back off. Don't think there is much of an offensive pedigree here, so he will have to find a way to establish "fear" into his game a la Dylan McIlrath. 38GP-0G-5A-5PTS -2 Last Rank: #29

30. Colby Cave C Swift Current - Cave rounds out the top 30 and is the lone newcomer to the list. Cave has put up modest number this season and plays a fairly dependable two-way game. Cave got off to a hot start this season but has levelled out his point production. Cave has taken on a secondary scoring role for a hot and cold Broncos team. The Broncos will be looking at a late season playoff push and it will be interesting to see if Cave is a big part of that. 43GP-9G-14A-23PTS -6 Last Rank: NR

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