Joel Henderson’s 2020 NHL Draft Rankings – WHL – APRIL

Joel Henderson

2020-04-23

**Photo: NHL.com

NHL Draft Rankings – WHL April 2020

 

At the beginning of the 2019-20 season. one could argue the WHL was going to have a weak year. Coming off an NHL draft which saw three players drafted in the top seven picks, and seven players in the top-31, it seemed the expectations may have left the 2020 WHL a bit in the shadows.

As far as WHL league dominance, 2018-19 saw only three first-year draft-eligible players finish top-30 in scoring across the league (Cozens, Tracey, Dach). Well, in 2019-20, you’ve got five of the top-18 scorers dominating the competition. Perspective. 

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I’ll take you a tiny bit into my background so you can get a sense of who I am. 

I’ve been an editor with DobberProspects since 2016? It’s tough to know anymore. Covering the Calgary Flames prospects since I’ve joined has allowed me expand my knowledge of organizational rankings, scouting philosophies, and watch prospects evolve over time as you see growth in role, minutes, strength, height, weight, tendencies, consistencies, and a whole lot more. 

What once was a scrawny twig who was played second-line winger and second-PP has now taken the reigns of the team and showed what they are capable of now that the puck is on their stick. 

It’s been wonderful seeing development from Rasmus Andersson, Dillon Dube, Matthew Phillips, etc. When all goes right, a substantially undersized winger can become a top-line AHL forward in their second pro season. If a team selects well, you can turn a couple of second-round picks into a dependable top-4 Dmen or a top-9 creative winger. 

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In 2018-19, I got the assignment of focusing solely on the WHL in order to provide better fantasy value for our readers. It was the first season I’ve truly dove that deep into things and was the beginning of forming relationships with others who follow the WHL with such passion and dedication. Grabbing a media pass and a subscription to the online backlog, I was able to focus and identify skill-sets on a shift-by-shift basis. That led to releasing my first ever WHL rankings on Twitter and being offered a position at Future Considerations focusing on Saskatchewan and the WHL. 

 

Successes? Failures?

My biggest success at this point was how much I trumpeted Adam Beckman. He was playing in a supplemental role on Spokane but his skillset shone through. He performed his role incredibly but one was left wondering how his play would advance once he was given control. His mobility, quick-release, soft hands, zone entries, puck control, screamed high-ceiling and when the season had come to an end, I’m sure people still had not watched him enough. He fell about a round lower than I would have taken him and he’s proven his worth. Led the WHL in scoring and I should have even put him higher. 

 

My biggest failure was not understanding how NHL GM’s and scouting programs valued defensemen. Jake Lee was on my draft radar because of his agile feet and his defensive attention to detail. He was tough, physical, and left a lot of development room to be able to learn the aspects of offensive transition. He struggled with anything beyond simple small outlet passes and often made the game a little tougher than it needed to be. He has the skills. He has the potential. But NHL GM’s passed, and thus led to me having many conversations with scouts about potential and development. Jake Lee had a much better season with Kelowna and I’m sure he will once again attend NHL camps, but alas, lessons were learned for me. 

 

2019-20. Working for both DobberProspects and Future Considerations has given me access to better mentors such as Cam Robinson. Many hours are spend debating skill sets and upside, all the while still learning how NHL teams form their lists. 

Here’s a link to CAM ROBINSON’S APRIL 2020 DRAFT RANKINGS, if you missed it. 

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At the end of the day though, you gotta make your own list. My draft list is NOT compiled based on an average consensus or a fear of looking like a fool down the road. You can’t think that way. Regardless of the noise, you watch players, and let the evidence speak for itself. 

My list will look similar to others in some aspects and might surprise you in others. There are also many players on this list that I’ve slotted in spots, but personally, I wouldn’t be the scout in the room stickin’ my neck out. Either way, hopefully it gives you another viewpoint. 

I’m still probably going to alter this list though. I’m not done watching. We got time.

Also, I don’t rank goalies for this.

I believe I saw about 30+ live WHL games (In Swift Current, Regina, Moose Jaw, and Saskatoon). WHL vs Russia. And hundreds of hours of games online. Includes internal discussion with WHL reps and lengthy discussions with people at DobberProspects and Future Considerations. 

So, here ya go. 

WHL April Rankings – 2020

1. Seth Jarvis VAN C/LW
2. Connor Zary KAM C
3. Braden Schneider BDN D
4. Kaiden Guhle PA D
5. Ridly Greig BDN C/W
6. Tristen Robins SAS C/W
7. Jake Neighbours EDM LW
8. Ozzy Wiesblatt PA RW
9. Justin Sourdif VAN RW
10. Daemon Hunt MJ D
11. Ronan Seeley EVT D
12. Alex Cotton (OA) LET D
13. Lukas Svejkovsky MH C/RW
14. Connor McClennon WPG RW
15. Josh Pillar KAM C
16. Jack Finley SPO C
17. Pavel Novak KEL RW
18. Luke Prokop CGY D
19. Cross Hanas POR LW
20. Christopher Sedoff RD D
21. Simon Kubicek SEA D
22. Danila Palivko LET D
23. Kasper Puutio EVT D
24. Gage Goncalves (OA) EVT C
25. Jonas Brondberg (OA) POR D
26. Daniel Baker (OA) MH D
27. Simon Knak POR RW
28. Oliver Okular (OA) LET LW
29. Ryker Evans REG D
30. Ben King RD C
HM: Cole Shepard VAN LW
HM: Robbie Fromm-Delorme POR LW/RW
HM: Landon Kosior PA D

SEVEN DEEPER  THOUGHTS

  1. Seth Jarvis continued to rise up my draft board consistently due to his aggressive play. Many talk about his best asset being his speed but I would argue his best asset are his soft hands. Many of his goals came from a simple flick of the wrist in tight. That aspect of his goal-scoring should translate well.
  2. Connor Zary isn’t very far behind Jarvis. The ceiling on Jarvis is very high due to his progression, but Zary is currently much more rounded. They both can make small plays in little space with such effectiveness. I get the same level of excitement from someone like Robert Thomas as I do with Zary…except Zary will probably score more goals at the NHL level.
  3. Ridly Greig is an August birthday and showed his youth throughout the season. When he is off, he can float around the neutral zone, lose defensive coverage by cheating the zone, and take poor penalties in rough spots. When he is on, he can go skate to stick at full speed, he can drag a puck laterally using his full stick length, and can cause havok for defenders as he protects the puck and drives in hard. There is a lot to like but he is still very raw. He bounced around my second round seemingly all year but his puck control and decision making are showing improvements. He’s learning how to use his body and that is dangerous. 
  4. Tristen Robins is my Adam Beckman of this season. He wasn’t ranked on almost any lists and I complained. I’ve pleaded my case and some have come around. I was able to interview him a few days which will be coming out tomorrow paired with some video breakdown. The Cole’s Notes though…. he had 54 points in the last 33 games playing against top lines. Only Seth Jarvis had a better PPG over that span. Stay tuned for the full analysis and chat. It’s not about the point totals. It’s about how he got them. 
  5. Lukas Svejkovsky had such an odd season. I saw him play twice live pretty early on as Vancouver visited Moose Jaw and Regina. He dominated. His skating ability is next level. I’d argue the fastest three steps in the draft class from the WHL. He grabbed loose pucks, controlled tempo, and looked like he could be a top-45 pick based on his talent. As the season wore on, he became easily the most perplexing player to me. His usage. His role. His skating paths. I have no question that once he becomes a more relied on player with the puck on his stick, his talent will show. On the flip side, if there is any highly-ranked player on this list that teams might let go through the draft, it’ll be Lukas. 
  6. Josh Pillar is another player that grew on me a lot. I continually brought him up in many discussions and it seemed I was an island for a while. He played C behind Connor Zary in Kamloops and as the season rolled on, his playmaking ability, quick elusive passing after zone entries, his control off the half-wall on the PP, and his north-south speed on the forecheck made him one to watch. His 32 points in 36 games since December was also a testament to his improved play. I might be higher on him than other lists are but there is a lot of growth left. I think NHL teams will agree with me.
  7. Danila Palivko. What a beast. When I first watched him, I noticed that fundamentally he was doing close to everything right. For being a 6’5, 200lb defender, he was using the fullness of his reach, showing above average transitional awareness, and cutting off the attack with his long stick. He reads the flow of the game extremely well. The issue? He was about a full step behind in his skating. Forecheckers at times got a stick on a puck simply because his movements were too slow. But… as the season wore on, he improved to only a half-step behind. His reach and awareness allowed him to progress up the lineup and grab minutes partnered with Calen Addison. Terrific potential.

 

If you read all of that, let me congratulate you. You truly do care about NHL draft prospects. 

As always, I look forward to being right and wrong in multiple ways, but alas there is only so much we can control in this world. 

Check back soon for the interview with Saskatoon Blades’ Tristen Robins. It was fun. 

Joel Henderson – WHL/Flames coverage – Twitter – Dathockeydoe

 

LATEST PROFILE UPDATES

Name Fantasy Upside NHL Certainty
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Igor Shestyorkin 9.5 9.5
Isaak Phillips 2.5 3.0
Rory Kerins 5.0 2.5
Daemon Hunt 4.0 2.0
Ruben Rafkin 3.0 3.0
Evan Vierling 5.5 3.0

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