WHL: February Edition

Puneet Sharma

2023-02-02

Photo credit: NHL.com

Welcome back to February’s edition of Dobber Prospects’ WHL update. Now that the WHL trade deadline has passed, we can take a quick look back at a few trades that made an impact and turned heads. With a few months left, there are some players that have separated themselves from the pack (we obviously know one!) and some that are starting to shine and make a stronger case for themselves boosting their draft value down the stretch.

Trade Recap

The trade deadline saw a lot of player movement. The Kamloops Blazers went out and acquired top Anaheim defensive prospect Olen Zellweger and Washington Capitals centre prospect Ryan Hofer from the Everett Silvertips. What they gave up was a clear indication that they wanted to win, especially with the Memorial Cup being held in Kamloops this year. This is a big move, as they added players that are capable of making an impact on any game at any level they play. Speaking about impact, since the trade Zellweger has posted nine points in five games. Hockey Prospecting has Zellweger pegged to become a consistent NHLer with star potential drawing comparisons to Samuel Girard. Klingberg’s disappointing year with the Ducks and possible departure leaves the door open for Drysdale and Zellweger as the top two defensemen in Anaheim. Add in players like Trevor Zegras, Mason Mctavish and a top NHL Draft pick this year to the mix and things look promising in Anaheim.

The Blazers are fighting for top spot in the Western Conference standings. On the above trade please see the tweet below for more. Ben Gehrels’ article from January 11th also summarized it well (see article here).

Winnipeg top prospects Brad Lambert and Chaz Lucius have been sent over to the Seattle Thunderbirds and Portland Winter hawks respectively. Lambert, formerly from the Manitoba Moose, has been struggling in the AHL this year with only three points over a 14-game stretch. Since joining the Thunderbirds, he has had one goal and one assist over two games. A change in scenery may be in the cards for Lambert, as his overall value has decreased since being drafted. Playing alongside players such as Jared Davison, Nolan Allen, Kevin Korchinski, and Lucas Ciona will hopefully boost Lambert back to what everyone expects out of him.

Seattle traded Colton Dach from Kelowna for two players and three picks which were desperately needed after the Zellweger and Hofer trade. The Winnipeg Ice also added Canadian World Junior Champion and Ottawa Senators prospect Zach Ostapchuk from the Vancouver Giants, bolstering their team to make a push for the Memorial cup.

Let’s be honest here, the name we all wanted to hear—Connor Bedard—has not been moved, although there are teams that would not mind forking out a king’s ransom for him. With that being said, Bedard having a no trade clause was an obvious obstacle, and the price for a player who would not be back in the WHL next year may not be something teams are willing to entertain.

Around the WHL

Koehn Ziemmer (RW, Prince George Cougars, 2023-eligible)

Ziemmer was recently named WHL Player of the Week, completing a three-game multi-goal week where he posted six goals and two assists. Ziemmer has a reputation of being a strong power forward. He shoots like a sniper and is already at a great size for the NHL. According to NHL Central Scouting, he is ranked 20th overall among his North American peers. Playing on a mid-tier team, Ziemmer is putting up stellar numbers and is currently top five in scoring in the league with 26 goals and 62 points over 44 games. His puck handling skills are smooth, and his ability to find the open space in the offensive zone for an opportunity is outstanding.

Brayden Yager (C, Moose Jaw Warriors, 2023-eligible)

Yager is a dominant two-way player who has a solid shot. Last season he scored 34 goals (second highest in the league) and 25 assists through 63 games. There is a lot to be said when it comes to Yager—-coming off a Rookie of the Year campaign, he has been riding high. Let me also point out that his defensive game has grown over the years. The only downside that many scouts are seeing this year is that Yager can drag his feet on the ice rather than push for that extra step. On offense, his size helps create room and separation from his opponents, which allows for an easy transition into pushing the play up into the offensive zone. His quick release and ability to deceptively get shots off without the opposition seeing it coming are things of beauty. Aside from Bedard, Yager could possibly be one of the best pure goal scorers in this coming draft. This year with Moose Jaw, Yager is projected to hit over a point per game with a current point total of 55 points in 48 games. From an overall draft ranking perspective, Yagers’ draft position is further down the list. However from a centre standpoint, he would be higher up the list.

Lukas Dragicevic (RD, Tri-City Americans, 2023-eligible)

Lukas Dragicevic is a big ,strong defender with plenty of raw skill that may take some time to develop. As a defender, his skating can at times be questionable; however, his offensive flare and ability to see the ice are unmatched. He is an explosive rearguard that can log a ton of minutes and still put up impressive offensive numbers. Dragicevic is the only defenseman in the WHL who has been able to put up over a point-per-game pace (1.24 ppg) and holding a 27-game point streak of seven goals and 30 assists from October 14th to December 30th. He is in good company with the ongoing other longer point streaks from Connor Bedard and Logan Stankoven.

Andrew Cristall (LW, Kelowna Rockets, 2023-eligible)

Cristall currently leads the Kelowna Rockets with 36 goals and 26 assists. The Rockets continue to struggle, and things do not look any better with the news that Cristall may be out for a few games, possibly more, as he has been sidelined with a lower body injury since early January. Despite the recent news, Cristall has been exceptional on the ice and has been a mainstay on the leaderboard behind Bedard all season. He is downright magical with the puck, and his creativity on the ice is what makes it very hard for defenders to gauge what he will do next.


Thanks again for reading and see you next month!
Cheers
Puneet Sharma

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