2019-20 WHL Preview!
Believe it or not, the WHL is home, please leave a messsaaaaggeeee at the beep. There will be a new champion this year. Who could it beeeeeee? Believe it or not, they are home!
What a rise from the Prince Albert Raiders last season. With the help of the explosion of undrafted overager Brett Leason, WHL playoff MVP and Toronto prospect goaltender Ian Scott, San Jose Sharks fourth-rounder Noah Gregor, a Montreal fifth rounder Cole Fonstad, and a whole bunch of others, the Raiders landed their first WHL title in 34 years!
There has not been a back-to-back champion team in the WHL since Kamloops did it in 1994 and 1995, so we can expect that while PA will still be a competitive squad, there will be a new crowned champion for the 2019-20 year. The WHL brings all sorts of surprises when it comes to the rise of draft eligible talent and the dominance of later round NHL picks. 2018-19 was owned by players who were drafted in the later NHL rounds just seasons ago with a few draft eligibles and quality over-agers sprinkled in there for fun.
NEWS AND NOTES
Here is a chance to share some of the significant changes or developments going into this year. Let’s fire these off quickly!
- Kootenay is officially in Winnipeg! The new Ice will roster a super young squad with plenty to watch. This may include a number of games from the first overall pick this year Matthew Savoie.
- The 2020 Memorial Cup is in Kelowna. They’ve already made a splash by acquiring Dillon Hamaliuk, Jake Lee and goaltender Cole Schwebius from Seattle. As exciting as these players are, Kelowna is losing the services from 2019 first-round NHL pick Lassi Thomson. He has elected to return to Finland.
- Jett Woo gets traded from Moose Jaw to Calgary. The Canucks second-round selection will have another shot at a deep playoff run with a quality Calgary team.
- The rights to 2020 draft eligible forward Dylan Holloway have been traded from Everett to Winnipeg. While it seems he intends to be in the NCAA, Winnipeg is betting big that they could convince him next season to join the WHL. They gave up a conditional 1st, 2nd, and 5th round picks in order to do so. Swing big my friends.
- There are already a number of CHL import drafted players who have elected to not join the WHL. GMs certainly take risks on big payoffs and it doesn’t pay off always.
Let’s go through what we know.
- Kasper Puutio – D (2020 draft)- reported to Swift Current
- Michael Teply – F – (2019 fourth rounder CHI) – reported to Winnipeg
- Danil Gushchin – F – (2020 draft) – nothing official but probably will not report to Regina
- Filip Koffer – F – (2020 draft eligible) – reported to Prince George
- Pavel Novak – F – (2020 draft) – reported to Kelowna
- Inaki Baragano – D – (2020 draft) – reported to Kamloops
- Tim Stutzle – F – (2020 draft) – staying in the DEL, will not be coming to Seattle
- Marcus Kallionkieli – F – (2019 fifth founder VGS) – reported to Brandon
- Christoffer Sedoff – D – (2020 draft) – reported to Red Deer
- Keanu Derungs – F – (2020 draft) – reported to Victoria
- Jan Cikhart – F – (2020 draft) – reported to Tri-City
- Jonathan Brinkman Andersen – F – (2020 draft) – reported to Medicine Hat
- Jonas Peterek – F – (2020 draft) – reported to Calgary
- Simon Knak – F – (2020 draft) – reported to Portland
- Lukas Parik – G – (2019 third rounder LAK) – reports to Spokane
- Jesper Wallstedt – G – (2021 eligible) – did not report to Moose Jaw
- Oliver Okuliar – F – (2020 draft eligible, played in the QMJHL last year) – reported to Lethbridge
- Jesse Seppala – F – (2020 draft) – reported to Edmonton
- Libor Zabransky – D – (2020 eligible) – played in the WHL and USHL last year, reported to Saskatoon
- Michal Gut – F – (2020 draft) – reported to Everett
- Ivan Kechkin – F – (2020 draft) – reported to Prince Albert
- Nino Kinder – F – (2020 draft eligible) – reported to Winnipeg
- Danill Gutik – F – (2020 draft eligible) – most likely staying in the MHL, will not report to Kelowna
- Vladislav Firstov – (2019 second rounder MIN) – not reporting to Brandon, going to UCONN
- David Homola – D – (2020 draft) – reported to Tri-City
- Samuel Krajc – F – (2020 draft) – reported to Calgary
- Jonas Brondberg – D – (2020 draft eligible) – reported to Portland
- Matvei Startsev – D – (2020 draft) – reported to Spokane
- Radek Kucerik – D – (2020 draft) – reported to Saskatoon
Let’s take a quick look of drafted players who could make another significant jump in fantasy value.
2018 NHL drafted players
- Jett Woo (Vancouver, second round)- Traded to a strong Calgary team, he becomes a very important player for a deep WHL run
- Milos Roman (Calgary, fourth round) – Was one of the most important players on a strong Vancouver squad. They should be poised for another strong season, especially if Bowen Byram finds his way back to the WHL for another one.
- Cole Fonstad (Montreal, fifth round) – With a few older players turning pro, Fonstad will see an uptick in his minutes and PP time. Don’t be surprised to see his name in the Top-15 in league scoring.
2019 NHL drafted players
- The first rounders (Bowen Byram, Kirby Dach, Peyton Krebs, Dylan Cozens, Nolan Foote and Brayden Tracey) – whoever returns to the WHL should be at least Top-30 in league scoring next year. That’s easy to predict.
- Dillon Hamaliuk (SJ, second round) – if you’re in a roto league, watch this kid close. His skating needs some work, but if he can stay healthy, all eyes will be on the new addition to the Memorial Cup host Kelowna Rockets. He has the ability to drive the net hard, hit hard, and dominate play against smaller, younger opponents. His injury didn’t let scouts see a true full campaign.
- Adam Beckman (Minn, third round) – Spokane has lost of important bodies but that simply opens up more space for the always forechecking, incredibly smart Beckman. If he and Eli Zummack find some chemistry, Beckman should be a 40 goal scorer next season.
- Sasha Mutala (Colorado, fifth round) – with bodies moving out, Tri-City will lean heavy on the versatile forward. We’ve already seen him net a hat-trick in preseason. One of Cam Robinson’s favorite draft eligibles could make him look very good for thinking so.
- Reese Newkirk (NYI, fifth round) – All the opportunity in the world to be a leader on a young, strong Portland squad.
There are of course many others who could make significant jumps for different reasons but these should be ones your fantasy eye is watching close. One of the best players last season who showed up on the fantasy radar in a big way was Trey Fix-Wolansky. He went from 89 points in 79 games to 102 points in 65 games. He went from “wait and see” to “grab him now”. I happened to be a day late in picking him up off the waiver wire for the Dobber Prospects Fantasy Hockey League.
2020 NHL Draft
As players begin to emerge onto the scene and define their draft status a little more, there will be plenty of coverage here at Dobber from myself and other writers. From the WHL, you can expect many players to be around 25-80 on most draft boards. The list of potential top-four dmen, depth power wingers, and tremendous playmakers are abundant.
Here’s an initial list of players expected to begin in that draft range.
- Connor Zary – Kamloops
- Connor McClennon – Winnipeg
- Jake Neighbours – Edmonton
- Seth Jarvis – Portland
- Justin Sourdif – Vancouver
- Pavel Novak – Kelowna
- Cross Hanas – Portland
- Michal Gut – Everett
- Jack Finley – Spokane
- Ridley Greig – Brandon
- Ozzy Wiesblatt – Prince Albert
- Brayden Schneider – Brandon
- Kaiden Guhle – Prince Albert
- Kasper Puutio – Swift Current
- Samuel Knazko – Vancouver
- Daemon Hunt – Moose Jaw
- Ronan Seeley – Everett
Now you’re all ready to begin! Watch closely. See who solidifies themselves as a top player in the 2020 draft. You never know who could jump from a potential third to a must-have first round selection.
Happy WHL and we will see you in Kelowna one way or another.
Joel Henderson – Calgary Flames and WHL coverage – @dathockeydoe