Tuesday, May 14, 2013

WHL Top 2013 Draft Prospects Year End Rankings

1. Seth Jones D Portland - Seth Jones got off to a slow start early on this season, but got stronger as the season went on, 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. Jones won a gold medal with Team USA at the World Junior Chamionships and a WHL title with Portland to go along with being the rookie of the year in Portland. He has forced his way to the top of many lists and figures to be the #1 pick in the upcoming NHL Draft 61GP-14G-42A-56PTS +46 Last Rank: #1

2. Ryan Pulock D Brandon -  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 as the season wore on essentially hindering the numbers that otherwise would have been there. 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. 61GP-14G-31A-45PTS -7 Last Rank: #2

3. 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 game improved dramatically as the season went as he took a bigger offensive and attacked the net more off the rush. Lazar is a very dynamic player that can contribute as either a winger or center and be highly effective at both. 72GP-38G-23A-61PTS +25 Last Rank: #4

4. Hunter Shinkaruk LW Medicine Hat - Shinkaruk struggled early on as he got acclimated with becoming the go-to offensive player with the Tigers. Shinkaruk took on more of a playmaking role and handled that very well. Shinkaruk is a dynamic offensive player, be it a playmaker or a scorer. Even though his Tigers team had inconsistancy issues all season long, 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. Shinkaruk is "offense in a bag", he can create it at any given time. Very crafty player. 64GP-37G-49A-86PTS -13 Last Rank: #3

5. Josh Morrissey D Prince Albert - Josh Morrissey had a fine 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, puckmoving, physicality. Tough to say how he'll handle the rigors of the pro game but he is a very smart defender. 70GP-15G-32A-47PTS +14 Last Rank: #6

6. 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. That was until a hip injury cut his season short and put him on the shelf for the rest of the season. 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. The debate with Comrie now will be how much will the hip injury hinder his abilities going forward because prior to that, he had all the making of an NHL starting goaltender. 37GP-20W-2.62GAA-.915S% Last Rank: #5

7. Morgan Klimchuk C Regina - Morgam Klimchuk had a fairly consistent year 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 ended the season 2nd on the Pats behind veteran Lane Scheidl. Klimchuk has this Patrick Marleau type of ability of being stealth like and then before you know it, he pops two past your goaltender. Even though the Pats missed the playoffs, Klimchuk has managed to keep his +/- respectable. 72GP-36G-40A-76PTS -1 Last Rank: #7

8. Nicolas Petan C Portland - Nicolas Petan took the Portland Winterhawks by storm this season. Tied the team lead in points with Brandon Leipsic 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 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 shouldn't go unnoticed. Petan's ability to create offense despite his size is nothing short of a marvel. The team that drafts him will face some challenges but you know Petan will do everything in his power to overcome them. The question about Petan is he the straw or the drink? 71GP-46G-74A-120PTS +68 Last Rank: #9

9. 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 steadily climbed all season on a strong Kelowna team, a good sign for Bowey as he tries to stabilize his game and become more reliable at both ends of the ice. 69GP-12G-18A-30PTS +41 Last Rank: #10

10. Shea Theodore D Seattle - Shea Theodore is as smooth with the puck as any of the draft eligibles 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. Away from the puck remains a work in progress. Part of it physical, the other part is understanding his positional assignments.71GP-19G-31A-50PTS -24 Last Rank: #8

11. Mirco Mueller D Everett - Mirco Mueller had a solid season to his first year in North America. Played well depsite not having the injured Ryan Murray by his side for the majority of the season. 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, something that would help with his endurance. Ran out of gas as the season wore on, a trait that is common with many first year Europeans. 63GP-6G-25A-31PTS -10 Last Rank: #13

12. Jamal Watson RW Lethbridge - Jamal Watson started off the season slowly but emerged as one the Hurricanes go-to scorers as the season wore on. 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.  An under the radar type prospect that could yield dividends for some fortunate team. 72GP-20G-18A-38PTS +3 Last Rank: #11

13. Oliver Bjorkstrand RW Portland - Oliver Bjorkstrand came over from Denmark to play in the WHL this season. Bjorkstrand is a shifty, nose for the net type player. Quick trigger release makes him a natural goal scorer off the wing. A little on the thin side as of now, like a lot of players that seem to come from Europe. He landed in a good spot in Portland. He was a solid complementary scorer on a team stacked full of offensive talent. Not sure if he can become a go-to offensive talent at the pro level, but he was able to put up some solid numbers with Portland this season. 65GP-31G-32A-63PTS +38 Last Rank: #16

14. Tristan Jarry G Edmonton - Tristan Jarry likely didn't see as many games as he would have liked heading into his the NHL draft. While Oil Kings starter Laurent Brossoit was entrenched as the starting goaltender, Jarry is made the most of his opportunities by posting miniscule numbers this 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. Jarry is the beneficiary of playing behind a strong defensive club, but is full value for his numbers this season. His coming out party was the Top Prospects game where he was spectacular. 27GP-18W-1.61GAA-.936S% Last Rank: #24

15. Jesse Lees D Kelowna - Jesse Lees enjoyed a fine 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 that he can play in a variety of situations. Brought a modest amount of offense from the backend, something that was a strength for the Rockets. Rockets vastly improved this season as shown by Lees' gawdy +/- number. Matched Bowey point for point this season. 66GP-12G-18A-30PTS +37 Last Rank: #15

16. Jackson Houck RW Vancouver - Gritty player that I had doubts on how effective his offense would be. His offense came around this season and with the way the Giants purged players, Houck ended being the leader point getter on the Giants. 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. Look for Houck to become a leader on the Giants in the future. 69GP-23G-34A-57PTS -16 Last Rank: #17

17. 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 didn't get the offensive looks as a lot of his teammates did and that 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. Will likely get more minutes next season as some of his high profile teammates will be moving on. 58GP-12G-21A-33PTS +10 Last Rank: #18

18. Greg Chase C Calgary - Greg Chase took 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. Chase settled into a secondary scoring role with the Hitmen this season. Will likely get a bigger piece of the offensive pie next season as the Hitmen 20 year olds move on. 69GP-17G-32A-49PTS +11 Last Rank: #14

19. Connor Rankin C Tri-City - Rankin is a jack of all trades type forward that can play up and down the lineup. Still hanging out below a point per game and seems to have secondary production totals even though he's put into a primary scoring position. Rankin is a very opportunistic scorer that plays a solid two-way game. Rankin found more comfort in being one of the go-to scorers for the Americans as the season wore on. Half full, half empty type season from Rankin. Not a bad season but I'm thinking the Americans were hoping for more from him. 71GP-32G-26A-58PTS +9 Last Rank: #19

20. 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 as the season went along. Others have Heatherington ranked higher but I don't place as much value into strictly defensive defensemen. Another prospect to watch to see where the ceiling stops. An intriguing prospect nonetheless. 71GP-4G-23A-27PTS +25 Last Rank: #22

21. Macoy Erkamps D Lethbridge - Macoy Erkamps enjoyed a fine season. Slowly came around but became 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 continued to improve on a game to game basis. 72GP-5G-30A-35PTS -5 Last Rank: #21

22. Jaedon Descheneau RW Kootenay - Descheneau continued to improve throughout the season for the Ice. As the Ice team got better Descheneau's game picked up offensively. Crafty player who knows how to navigate through traffic in order to create offense. He created a dynamic duo with 2014 eligible Sam Reinhart. Look for him to become one of the leaders going forward on the Ice club. 69GP-30G-48A-78PTS +9 Last Rank:NR

23. Jay Merkley C Swift Current - Merkley's season was one of great drama. Was having an OK season with the Hurricanes until his world got turned on its ear and he was traded to the Broncos where he faded in the background and struggled down the stretch offensively. Merkley is a crafty player with offensive acumen but that dissipated as the season went on. Tough to say what becomes of Merkley now, but I have no choice but to push him down the list until we see more of his game on his new club. He could be a steal but right now, I'd have to list him as a gamble heading into the draft. 73GP-16G-14A-30PTS Even Last Rank: #12

24. 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 year with the plus/minus going -32. Really struggled when Ryan Pulock was out due to injury forcing him up the lineup. If a team can get him dedicatted to the defensive end, a team could have a steal on their hands. 72GP-17G-22A-39PTS -32 Last Rank: #23

25. 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. Like Mirco Mueller above, faded as the season went on like many first year Europeans. 59GP-7G-26A-33PTS -3 Last Rank: #26

26. Marc McNulty D Prince George - Tall, lanky 6'6" Dman with a heavy shot. Fairly good skater for a player his size. Uses his reach well defensively and a nice set of offensive. Looks like a player that had a late growth spurt as, at times, he seems unsure how to use his body in certain situations. A player of his height needs more muscle in order to play more complete game. A raw project but one with decent amount of untapped potential. 52GP-8G-7A-15PTS -18 Last Rank:NR

27. Cole Ully LW Kamloops - Ully did very well as a role player with the Blazers this season. Scored 22 times in limited ice time this season. Ully is a smart, reliable player that produces from third line. It will be interesting to see how Ully's game progresses as he moves up the lineup. Reminds me very much of a Fernando Pisani in his time with the Oilers. 62GP-22G-28A-50PTS +27 Last Rank:NR

28. 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. Someone will gamble on his size alone. 70GP-0G-7A-7PTS -10 Last Rank: #29

29. Colby Cave C Swift Current - Cave put up modest numbers 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 ook on a secondary scoring role for a decent Broncos team. Look for Cave to take on a bigger offensive role next season for the Broncos. 72GP-21G-20A-41PTS +1 Last Rank: 30

30. 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 pitched in on the offense. The Silvertips got very little in terms of scoring from the forward position this season. Bauml's offense faded in and out as the season wore on. 66GP-21G-15A-36PTS -14 Last Rank: #28