WHL Update: January 2023

Puneet Sharma

2023-01-04

Just passing the halfway mark of the season, we are now starting to see some separation in
team standings and player statistics. Before we dive into all things WHL, lets first touch on a few
items on the WJC.

The IIHF WJC Quarter finals are over. At the beginning of the tournament, things looked as if the
outcome may be a different than previous years. Connor Bedard showed up, and well, that’s
history, literally. At this point Bedard has officially surpassed Eric Lindros and holds the all time
Canadian record for career goals and points at the the WJC. It is not out of the realm of
possibility that he will break the overall record of 42 career points and 31 points in a single
tournament which are both held by Peter Forsberg since his appearance in 1993.

He is doing things on the ice that most hockey players cannot even imagine to do and he is doing all at just
17-years-old. Bedard’s performance is one for the books and there are so many highlight reels to
choose from but here is one that is outstanding and even better when it is slowed down.

Owen Beck of the Mississauga Steelheads has replaced Chicago Blackhawks prospect Colton
Dach who suffered a shoulder injury that will prevent him from playing the remainder of the
tournament. It is a tough break for Dach who has already missed time with Kelowna Rockets
nursing two concussions. Beck was one of the final cuts on the Team Canada selection during
camp tryouts so it makes sense for the call up.

At the time of writing this the Finnish team has fallen to Sweden in an elimination match with a
score of 3-2. Finland was very aggressive on the forecheck however their puck movement out of
their own defensive zone was their downfall during this elimination stage. The first goal given up
by Finland should have been a simple pass up the boards rather than up the middle of the ice
which Sweden took advantage of and resulted in a goal. Simple transition breakdowns like these
by Finland is why there are not moving on and we should give credit to Sweden who came into
this tournament with a decimated blue line. Leo Carlsson was clutch with two goals in the
Quarter Finals and the last minute heroics of Victor Stjernborgs’ short-handed goal pushed
Sweden on to the next round.

Team Canada beat Slovakia in overtime with a goal from Connor Bedard and this now sets the
stage for Canada to go up against Team USA. This is what we have all been waiting for, too bad
it was not a final matchup but nonetheless it will be exciting!

Around the WHL

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the WHL was still moving on with their season. Prior to the World
Juniors the WHL named their player and goaltender of the week – Josh Filmon from the Swift
Current Broncos and Devils 6th round pick who posted seven goals and one assist over three
games and net minder Scott Ratzlaff of the Seattle ThunderBirds with a solid 3-0-0 record and
1.00 goals against average and 0.963 save percentage.

We had some holiday cheer going around in the WHL with a trade that took place on December
27th between the Everett Silvertips and the Victoria Royals goaltenders. Tyler Palmer who has
posted a 3-10-3 record with a 4.22 goal against average has made his move over to the
Silvertips and Braden Holt over to the Royals. Holts logged a 13-13-1-0 record with a 3.57 goals
against average.

We also saw the Edmonton Oil Kings acquire net minder Logan Cunningham from Victoria Royals
in exchange for a 2025 5th round pick.

Although these may not be major trades that send ripples throughout the WHL, it is however an
indication that a few more are possibly coming down the pipeline with the WHL Trade Deadline
looming.

Even with Bedard taking time away from the WHL to participate in the WJC, he is still the leading
scorer in the WHL with 64 points over 28 games played. Aside from that, I thought I would
cover a few additional prospect centers throughout the WHL who are trailing behind Bedard, but
are still putting up stellar numbers.

Kai Uchacz – C – Red Deer Rebels (Undrafted)
Since coming back from the holiday break Kai Uchacz has been on a scoring spree with three
hat-tricks over the course of four games against the Edmonton Oil Kings and the Calgary Hitmen.
I think I have a feeling I know who is going to be the star of the week. Uchacz has been the
Rebels leading scorer and one of the primary contributors to the team’s success. He has now
taken over as the WHL scoring leader with 33 goals in the season.

Zac Benson – C – Winnipeg Ice (2023 Draft Eligible)
Nearly half way into his third year with the Winnipeg Ice you’re only going to see more
production from Benson. The talent on this Ice team is elite and as I write this Benson is well
over a point per game pace with 50 points in 32 games and leads all players on his team. He is currently on an eight game point streak with six goals and nine assists. He is making a case for
a top five pick in this coming 2023 NHL Draft. His offensive prowess is extremely effective and
his speed is a great asset but his shot is really something to watch out for. Benson typically plays
the centre position but he also has the capabilities of playing at the wing.

Jared Davidson – C – Seattle Thunderbirds – (Montreal Canadians – #130, 2022)
Davidson is continuing his strong play from last year into this year. The Montreal Canadian draft
pick is in top ten scoring with the WHL at 19 goals and 28 assists over 28 games and is the top
scorer on the Thunderbirds. His ability to find the trailing man or lure in the defensive line to
open up space for his teammates shows how high level his awareness really is. The Thunderbirds
are on a 12-0-0-1 winning streak and are competing with the Portland Winterhawks and
Winnipeg Ice for the best record in the league.

For those fans out there the CHL and TSN have announced the broadcast schedule for the
remainder of the 2022-2023 seasons. The Broadcast schedule begins Jan.13 and will run until
March 10 with additional games on their digital platform TSN.ca and the TSN app.

Click to see the WHL website and more details.

Thanks for reading!
– Puneet Sharma

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