For this month’s WHL report, I figured that the most relevant topic would be focusing on the top WHL players available in the upcoming draft, as it is just around the corner. There are six players from the ‘W who projects as first-round picks this year. I will cover them in the order of my rankings, which you can check out here.
Denton Mateychuk is a fun player to watch. If you want to read an in-depth look at his play, you’re more than welcome to check out last month’s WHL report which focused solely on him. Mateychuk is a “unicorn” — no NHL player really plays the game that he does and that will undoubtedly spook teams and it makes him a candidate to fall to the mid-to-late twenties. However, despite this, he is my eighth-highest ranked player in the class and the second-highest defenceman on my board. Mateychuk is a master of offensive activation. When he gets the puck in the offensive zone he keeps his head up and attacks, often along the boards and constantly scanning for playmaking options. His pass accuracy shines when he’s in motion, and he has the mobility and handling ability to evade defenders before sending a pass to a teammate in the slot. He has a high-end offensive mind, and it makes him a huge threat both with and without the puck.
Off-puck, he likes to drift into the high slot and open himself up as a passing option, when he gets that pass, his shot is a real threat as well. Defensively, Mateychuk closes his gaps very quickly and limits high-danger chances against by constantly scanning and blocking the most dangerous passing lanes. In transition, Mateychuk demands the puck. He wants to send the breakout pass, carry the puck into the offensive zone, and chase after dumped pucks in the offensive zone as the F1 all at once. No player in the class is more implicated in his team’s play than Mateychuk. All of this skill is magnified by an excellent motor. He never gives up on plays and his feet never stop moving. This all combines to make Mateychuk a dynamic player with a very high ceiling.
Savoie is the highest-ranked WHL player in this class according to the general consensus, and it’s clear to see why, even if I see things a bit differently. He’s tremendously skilled and plays at a high pace. He overcomes his size disadvantage by using his low center of gravity to play a fairly tenacious game. His shot is among the best in the class, and his playmaking ability is nearly as good. The tools are there and the production was as well, with 35 goals and 90 points in 65 regular-season games.