Produced by the Western Hockey League in partnership with BC Tree Fruits, “Growing the Game’s Best Talent” is a multi-part series highlighting the next generation of WHL stars set to embark on a journey pursuing NHL dreams. “Growing the Game’s Best Talent” can be seen monthly at WHL.ca, featuring a key member of the upcoming 2019 NHL Draft Class. Together, the WHL and BC Tree Fruits are “Growing the Game’s Best Talent.”
The WHL has 40 skaters and 10 goaltenders featured on the NHL Central Scouting Draft Rankings heading into the 2019 NHL Draft. Below are our WHL representatives:
If the hockey world didn’t know about Bowen Byram before the 2018-19 WHL Regular Season, they sure know about him now. A standout offensive defenceman, Byram’s gifts with the puck won’t have him waiting long to hear his name called Friday, with several mock drafts placing him third overall behind the draft’s assumed top-two choices. The 6-foot-1, 192-pound defenceman rewrote the WHL record book this season with six overtime goals and by becoming the first-ever defenceman to lead a single WHL Playoffs in scoring, bringing the Giants to within a game of capturing their second WHL Championship in team history. Byram also led all CHL defencemen in goals as part of his 71-point (26G-45A) season. Read More
The Fort Saskatchewan, Alta. product was a driving force behind the Saskatoon Blades making their triumphant return to the WHL Playoffs following a five-year absence. A hat trick and five points on the second night of the regular set the tone for a 73-point (25G-48A) campaign. The 18-year-old has benefited from his 6’4″, 195-pound frame that allows him to be physical in order to earn extra chances with the puck. Read More
A product of the Yukon, Dylan Cozens has thrived in the WHL since making his debut as a 15-year-old, scoring in the first regular season game of his WHL career. A dynamic forward, the 6-foot-3, 185-pound forward has a work ethic and strengths that are matched by very few, with his ability to score as good as his ability to set up teammates as well. The 2018 WHL Rookie of the Year took a step forward in his sophomore season with 84 points (34G-50A). Read More
The first-overall selection from the 2016 WHL Bantam Draft has remained high on the radar for the NHL Draft. With a 5-foot-11, 180-pound frame, Krebs is just behind other top-ranked talent in terms of size, but that hasn’t been a barrier to him succeeding in the WHL or against older players. Krebs’ impact with the ICE was apparent after a four-point game eight days before he turned 16-years-old. His 68 points (19G-49A) in 64 games led the ICE this season and performance on the international stage, where he helped Canada win the 2018 Hlinka Gretzky Cup, has him at the top-end of the draft rankings for a reason. Read More
Lassi Thomson’s transition to the North American game didn’t take long as he led all WHL rookie defenceman with 41 points (17G-24A) as was named the Western Conference Rookie of the Year. His 17 goals were also tied for third among all WHL defencemen while his 6-foot-0, 187-pound frame helped provide balance to a Rockets’ blue line following an off-season where key talent moved on. Read More
Spending his 16-year-old season in Midget AAA may seem like a burden or a step backward for some, but it was a blessing to Moose Jaw Warriors forward Brayden Tracey. The Calgary, Alta. product stepped into an offensive role with the Warriors this season and thrived with 81 points (36G-45A) that concluded with him being named the WHL Rookie of the Year. With a wave of confidence and growing offensive ability, the 6-foot-0, 174-pound forward has also risen in the NHL Draft rankings to the point that he could project in the late first round or early second round. Pretty good for a year’s work. Read More
A driving force behind the Prince Albert Raiders’ WHL Championship success, Brett Leason has been heralded by most as the breakout performer of the season and has rocketed up the draft rankings of most to be a potential first-round selection Friday. His 6-foot-4, 199-pound frame seemed to take the rest of the league by surprise as he led the Raiders in the regular season with 89 points (36G-53A), including six short-handed goals and 10 game-winning goals. If that wasn’t enough to prove he belongs among the best, Leason led the Raiders in the WHL Playoffs with 25 points (10G-15A) in 22 games en route to the team’s championship victory. Read More
The resurgence of the Edmonton Oil Kings was aided by a strong season from Matthew Robertson. Influenced by watching his older brother win a WHL Championship and Memorial Cup with the Oil Kings in 2014, the younger Robertson played a strong role in the Oil Kings’ return to the WHL Playoffs this season while also developing his skills on the blue line. The 6-foot-4, 198-pound rear guard brings maturity and consistency to his game. Read More
While the tendency to associate success with offensive performance can be a trap for judging defencemen, understanding Kaedan Korczak’s shutdown ability is key as well for understanding the Yorkton, Sask. product’s true potential. Using his 6-foot-3, 188-pound frame, Korczak has missed just five games over the past two seasons, becoming an anchor for the Rockets’ blue line. A modest 33-point (4G-29A) campaign from Korczak shows he’s not afraid to contribute either but the defenceman is valuable to teams at both ends of the ice. Read More
Following an off-season of change up front, the Spokane Chiefs turned to rookie Adam Beckman to bear some of the responsibility to fill the opponent’s net. The fifth-round pick from the 2016 WHL Bantam Draft did just that with a 62-point (32G-30A) performance for the Chiefs that not only kept them at the same level from last season, but helped push them to the Western Conference Championship. Add on another 12 points (8G-4A) in 15 WHL playoff games as an example of the 6-foot-1, 167-pound forward’s high-end offensive skills. Read More
A 36-goal performance in the 2018-19 WHL Regular season showed off Nolan Foote’s impressive offensive skills. Those skills were amplified when it was revealed Foote had been playing with a wrist injury for the majority of the season. Born in November 2000, Foote has a passion for the game that he’s able to share with his father and head coach, former NHLer Adam. Encouraged to follow his own path, Foote still found himself attracted to the game of hockey and is a quick learner, albeit as a forward and not a defenceman like his older brother Cal and father. Read More
At 6-foot-5 and 192 pounds, there’s not many people who can stand up to Aliaksei Protas. The 18-year-old from Belarus used that to his advantage in his rookie season with the Raiders, recording 40 points (11G-29A). In the 2019 WHL Playoffs, he showcased his strong offensive ability with back-to-back hat tricks in the Eastern Conference Championship, propelling his team in the 2019 Rogers WHL Championship Series. There’s a lot to like about his game already and if he continues along the same path, there’s no telling how good he could become. Read More
With the 2019 NHL Draft just a short drive from where he grew up, the North Vancouver, B.C. product has impressed on the Everett Silvertips’ blue line. Through a rookie year where he was in and out of the lineup, Fairbrother stay committed to the process and improving his game, registering 36 points (10G-26A) in 64 games this past season as part of a defensively-stingy blue line. From Juulsen to Davis to Wylie and many others, Fairbrother is the latest on a list of defensive products to thrive in the Silvertips’ system. Read More
Rookie seasons can be intimidating for some, even more so when you’re thousands of kilometres from home. That didn’t both Oleg Zaytsev, who led all Central Division rookies with 43 points (13G-30A) in the regular season as a member of the Red Deer Rebels. He parlayed a strong season into an appearance on home ice at the 2019 Sherwin-Williams CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game and should continue to thrive with his 6-foot-1, 185-pound frame.
Another Vancouver, B.C. product set to hear his name called at the 2019 NHL Draft, Mutala persevered through family health issues to set career-high totals in all three major offensive categories as he contributed 41 points (20G-21A) in 65 games. One fifth of his goals stood up as game-winning strikes and there’s no denying his offensive potential either. Standing tall at 6-foot-1, 194 pounds, Mutala has the skills at his disposal to be a mid-round steal in this year’s draft. Read More
In his second full season with the Portland Winterhawks, the Moose Jaw, Sask. product saw his totals rise to 59 points (23G-36A) in 68 games. Whether he’s batting in goals, beating goaltenders on near-impossible angles, or utilizing his strong stick work to find room on the ice, his confidence grew with the puck throughout the season. Recording 16 multi-point games in the regular season, Newkirk finished fourth in team scoring and third in goals.
Schmiemann had a rookie campaign to remember with the Kamloops Blazers, leading all defencemen on the team with 28 points (5G-23A). That included eight assists in 10 games down the stretch as the Blazers played their way into a spot in the 2019 WHL Playoffs. Still a 17-year-old, Schmiemann has plenty of time to grow into a larger role for following seasons. Already equipped with a quick release and great eye for the net, he’s got the right building blocks in place at this moment in his hockey career.
A product of Bettendorf, Iowa, Toporowski has lived up to the expectations of being a first-round selection in the 2016 WHL Bantam Draft. After posting 23 points (10G-13A) as a rookie, Toporowski surged to record 49 points (21G-28A) in 67 games this past season. He’d also add 10 points (6G-4A) in 14 WHL playoff games. In the mix with USA Hockey’s preliminary roster for the 2019 World Junior Summer Showcase, Toporowski has put himself on the map with his offensive abilities.
The Brandon Wheat Kings have another rising provincially homegrown star in Macdonald, Man. product Ben McCartney, who could hear his name called in this year’s draft. From recording 12 points (2G-10A) in his rookie season to posting 41 points (21G-20A) as a 17-year-old, there’s plenty to like about McCartney’s game.
The second-overall selection from the 2018 CHL Import Draft produced 38 points (12G-26A) in his rookie season with the Edmonton Oil Kings as one of many Belarusians to thrive in the WHL this season. All 12 of his goals came at even strength this season, with a pair of them counting as game-winning goals.
A mid-season trade from the Medicine Hat Tigers sparked Rybinski to finish the season with the Seattle Thunderbirds, posting 40 points (8G-32A) in 47 games. Five of those points came as assists in one game on March 13, 2019 against the Tri-City Americans. The Vancouver, B.C. product will also be anticipating a positive hometown draft experience.
Only 11 players reached the 40-goal plateau in the WHL this season and Luka Burzan was one of them. In his first full season with the Brandon Wheat Kings, Burzan potted 78 points (40G-38A), including 13 power-play goals and six game-winning goals. The highlight of the season for the Surrey, B.C. product was a five-goal game on September 29, 2018.
The Kamloops, B.C. product posted new career-high totals with 18 points (5G-13A) in the 2018-19 WHL Regular Season, following up on a 2017-18 campaign that saw him post seven points (2G-5A) in 51 games. All seven of Ludvig’s career goals in the WHL have come at even strength with one game-winning goal.
A 47-goal explosion from the Calgary Hitmen captain saw him rank third in the league in goals while leading all players with 24 power-play goals. With NHL blood running through his veins from his father Ed, Kastelic has talent that could make him a late-round steal for some teams looking to grow up front.
The North Vancouver, B.C. product ranked third in scoring on the Prince George Cougars with 40 points (13G-27A) this season. His 13 goals ranked him in a tie for eighth among all WHL defencemen while he was tied for 11th in power-play goals with five. Moberg posted two multi-goal games during the regular season.
Jackson van de Leest
After having his rookie campaign cut short due to injury, van de Leest posted 21 points (1G-20A) in 67 games with the Hitmen this season. The Kelowna, B.C. product has also had success on the international level, winning silver with Canada Red at the 2017 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.
The 1999-born forward from the Czech Republic finished fifth in team scoring on the Americans with 51 points (21G-30A) in 63 games. A five-assist performance against the Hurricanes on Dec. 8, 2018 was his best game of the season while he also recorded 11 multi-point games throughout the regular season.
In a season split between the Medicine Hat Tigers and Oil Kings, Williams recorded 33 points (14G-19A) in 66 games. He made a good early impression with the Oil Kings, posting five points (2G-3A) on a four-game point streak from Jan. 13-25, 2019. The Langley, B.C. product has added to the long list of local talent available. Read More
Spending the season with the Thunderbirds before being acquired by the Rockets at the 2019 WHL Bantam Draft, Lee posted 24 points (3G-21A) in 67 games from the team’s blue line. The Sherwood Park, Alta. product posted four assists in a game on Oct. 13, 2018 while collecting three other multi-point efforts.
Connor Horning followed up his title as a WHL Champion with the Swift Current Broncos in fine fashion for the 2018-19 WHL Regular Season. His 31 points (8G-23A) was tied for the team scoring lead while has 23 assists led all skaters. Horning factored into 20 of his team’s 34 power-play goals during the season.
The 6-foot-2, 205-pound defenceman from Salmon Arm, B.C. thrived with the Americans this season, posting 16 points (4G-12A) in 58 games, doubling his offensive performance from the 2017-18 WHL Regular Season. All six of his goals in his WHL career have come at even strength.
He’s not the first member of the 2015-16 Lloydminster Midget AAA Bobcats to thrive in the WHL’s Western Conference, but that’s no reason to overlook the Silvertips’ leading goal scorer in 2018-19. Kindopp doubled his offensive performance from the previous season with 73 points (39G-34A) in five fewer games.
Splitting the 2018-19 WHL Regular Season with the Oil Kings and Tigers, Brett Kemp was just shy of being a point-per-game player with both clubs, finishing with 60 points (33G-27A) in 64 games. Kemp potted the first hat trick of his WHL career on March 13, 2019 against the Red Deer Rebels.
Joining the Rockets in the second half of the season, Swetlikoff posted 14 points (6G-8A) in 32 games with the Rockets. Once he recorded his first goal on Feb. 6, 2019, he didn’t waste any time in scoring his second almost immediately as part of a three-point game that night. His season featured two other multi-point games.
The Regina Pats defenceman recorded 19 assists to lead all active Pats on the blue line. A product of Tyumen, Russia, Sedov recorded the first point of his WHL career on Oct. 5, 2018. His top individual performance of the season came on Jan. 25, 2019 as he recorded three assists in a game against the Wheat Kings.
With 39 points (15G-24A) in 68 games this season, Barlage played an important secondary-scoring role for the Hurricanes. Barlage recorded seven multi-point games throughout the season, including one multi-goal performance. The Humboldt, Sask. product came to the Hurricanes from the Swift Current Broncos in the deal that sent Giorgio Estephan and Stuart Skinner to the Swift Current Broncos last season.
A product of Uppsala, Sweden, Malysjev recorded 17 points (3G-14A) in 63 games with the Blades this season. He recorded an assist in his WHL debut, then followed it up with two assists in his home debut the following night. He scored the first goal of his WHL career Nov. 30, 2018 against the Kamloops Blazers.
The Chestermere, Alta. product played the full season with the Victoria Royals, posting 34 points (13G-21A) in addition to three power-play goals and two game-winning goals. His standout performance of the season came on December 11, 2018 when he beat now-teammate Shane Farkas three times for the first hat trick of his WHL career.
From the eighth round of the 2015 WHL Bantam Draft onto the NHL Central Scouting rankings, there’s something Scouts see in Edmonton Oil Kings forward David Kope. Back-to-back 14-goal seasons has Kope earning more chances offensively that should come in following seasons that could give rise to his offensive totals.
In his first full season with the ICE, Muir posted career-high totals of 27 points (11G-16A) in a full 68 games. Factoring in four multi-point performances and a pair of short-handed goals, Muir has shown himself to be effective in all situations. How the Vista, Man. product develops in the off-season leading into next year will be critical for his stock as a NHL prospect or if he is to rise up the draft rankings in 2020.
The 6-foot-7, 190-pound netminder, dominated the crease in his rookie season with the Medicine Hat Tigers positing a 19-8-2-2 record in 37 games, 2.64 goals-against average, .921 save percentage and three shutouts. The product of Aalborg, Denmark, made a definite impact on the Tigers’ success in the regular season and in the first round of 2019 WHL Playoffs. The 20-year-old also has international experience on his resume competing with Team Denmark at the IIHF World Junior Championships this past year. Read More
A product of Brandon, Man., goaltender Trent Miner shared equal success with Arizona Coyotes prospect David Tendeck in the triumphant run of the Vancouver Giants to the 2019 Rogers WHL Championship Series. Sporting a 24-5-1-1 record, 1.98 goals-against average, .924 save percentage and three shutouts, Miner quickly became hot topic on the NHL Draft radar. Read More
Gauthier, a Calgary, Alta. native, was the backbone to the Cougars this year, supporting them with a 15-30-4-2 record, 2.35 goals-against average, .899 save percentage and three shutouts. With recent international experience with Team Canada at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup and World Junior Championship Under-18 tournament, the 6-foot-2, 180-pound netminder looks ready for the next step in his career. Read More
As per tradition, the Everett Silvertips have produced another top-end goaltender in the form of Dustin Wolf. Following in the steps of Carter Hart (Philadelphia Flyers) Wolf came extremely close to beating Hart’s record-setting season stats with a 41-15-2-2 record, 1.69 goals-against average, .936 save percentage and seven shutouts. Wolf’s explosive season also included six WHL Eli Wilson Goaltending Goaltender of the Week awards. Although the Tustin, Calif. native only stands at 5-foot-11, 160-pounds, Wolf commands his net with a large presence, getting from post to post in a controlled, but speedy manner.
Wolf also excelled in the classroom as he was named the recipient of the WHL and CHL Scholastic Player of the Year Award. Read More
Although the Meadow Lake, Sask. product only appeared on the WHL scene in January 2019, Ross quickly became the talk of the league aiding the Seattle Thunderbirds with a strong, second-half comeback. Following his initial month’s performance, the 6-foot-4, 280-pound netminder was awarded the WHL’s Rookie of the Month for January. Posting a 16-5-1-2 record, 2.76 goals-against average and .919 save percentage, Ross could see his whirlwind season become even more incredible with the addition of an NHL Draft selection.
Basran got the starting position for the Kelowna Rockets this season where he posted a 20-19-3-1 record, 2.79 goals-against average, .906 save percentage and two shutouts. The Kelowna, B.C. born netminder stands at 6-foot-2, 193-pounds and will look to improve upon his records next year with his team as they host the 2020 Memorial Cup presented by Kia.
The Pilot Butte, Sask. netminder aided the Red Deer Rebels in a competitive Central Division this season. Anders posted a 28-22-4-1 record, 3.09 goals-against average, .907 save percentage and two shutouts. As the leading goaltender for the Rebels, the 6-foot-1, 171-pound goaltender will look to continue with the next step of his development with an NHL Draft selection.
A product of Yorkton, Sask., goaltender Nolan Maier enjoyed a stellar campaign with the Saskatoon Blades, going 36-10-6-0 with a 2.64 goals-against average and .910 save percentage and four shutouts in 53 regular season appearances. The 6-foot, 168-pound netminder was selected in the second round, 25th overall at the 2016 WHL Bantam Draft and recently competed at the IIHF Under-18 World Championship in Örnsköldsvik and Umeå, Sweden for Team Canada
A product of East Vancouver, B.C. Makaj obtained a 5-22-5-3 record, 4.41 goals-against average, .878 save percentage and one shutout in 39 regular season appearances with the Winnipeg ICE. The 6-foot-3, 209-pound netminder set a strong precedent for his rookie season and will look to continue his progress next year with the ICE.
As Regina’s starter for the second season in a row, Paddock continued to take on a leadership role on the ice. The Brandon, Man. born netminder sported a 11-28-1-2 record, 2.52 goals-against average, .896 save percentage and two shutouts. Standing at 6-foot-2, 161-pounds, this will be Paddock’s second year of eligibility at the NHL Draft.