With the CHL Top Prospects game having just taken place late January, I thought it would be most appropriate to have this review highlighting the 2017/2018 NHL Draft eligible and NHL team prospects. The WHL was well represented at the top prospects game with 15 WHLers taking part in the event. There have been a lot of younger players this year taking the reins of their team, rather than just the usual 19/20-year-old players.
2017 Draft Eligibles
Nolan Patrick (Brandon Wheat Kings)
The consensus top ranked player in this year’s NHL draft has just returned to the Brandon Wheat Kings lineup after missing several months with an upper body injury. He recorded four points (2G, 2A) in his first game back and has not looked back since. Patrick posted an average performance at the CHL Top Prospects game but is still highly regarded as the top prospect in this draft. Down the stretch, he will be a crucial part in how far Brandon goes in the playoffs. From a scouting perspective, Patrick is a big playmaking center who I compare to Ryan Getzlaf of Anaheim. While he may not be as star-gazing as the previous top picks in recent drafts, he is certainly a top-six center in the NHL and possibly more.
Nolan Patrick scores for the first time since his two-goal effort in his return to the lineup last Friday.— Scott Billeck (@ScottBilleck) January 22, 2017
Dawson Holt (Vancouver Giants)
Dawson Holt may not be one of the big names in this year’s draft class but has been an effective middle-six player for the Vancouver Giants, posting 13 points in 38 games this season. He is a versatile player who can be utilized in all areas of the game, and is offensive threat on the ice who utilizes his creativity and puck handling when given the opportunity. He is a player who will be taken later in the draft but is a name that could breakout in the next couple years with an improving Giants squad.
Cody Glass (Portland Winterhawks)
Probably one of the most unexpected players to emerge this year out of the WHL, the Portland Winterhawk current sits eighth in league scoring with 66 points in in 48 games and has been a crucial part of his team. He was an addition to the CHL Top Prospects game and made a good showing with an assist on the night. He is a solid playmaking winger with a deadly shot and has found himself sky rocketing up rankings lately, being considered as a top 15 pick.
Aleksi Heponiemi (Swift Current Broncos)
Currently the highest scoring rookie in the WHL, the Finnish import has been a crucial part of a highly skilled Swift Current Broncos team. A highly skilled playmaker who is small in stature but plays hard and creates a lot of offense, should be a second rounder in this year’s draft and was a big name left off the CHL Top Prospects game roster.
Aleksi Heponiemi, ranked 35th by NHL Central Scouting, has "Ron Francis 2nd Round Finnish Steal" written all over him.— @FakeChrisCote (@RealChrisCote) January 18, 2017
2018 Draft Eligibles
Jett Woo (Moose Jaw Warriors)
Arguably the top WHL defender in his draft class, Woo is having himself an elite rookie campaign. With 15 points in 44 games as a right handed, two-way defender, he has found himself utilized in all areas of the game even as a 16-year-old. His skating and puck moving abilities have translated very well to the WHL game and he has become a must watch player for me.
Brett Kemp (Edmonton Oil Kings)
One of the Oil Kings newest acquisitions has been a huge part of Edmonton’s offense recently. He has found himself playing consistently in the top-six as well as being utilized on the power play. He is an excellent set-up man and possesses high-end play making abilities. Kemp has been good enough in my opinion to be invited to the Ivan Hlinka camp in August and is a big player to watch in the WHL for next year’s draft. He has six assists in nine games since coming to Edmonton as part of the Aaron Irving trade.
Ethan Cap (Edmonton Oil Kings)
The Oil Kings 1st round pick in the 2015 WHL Draft has been solid in his rookie campaign thus far. I have watched his confidence grow immensely since the start of the season and as he has been consistently anchoring a top-four defensive role. A two-way defender who shows good mobility with the puck and a reliable first pass, he may be one of the more under rated defenders for his age group in the WHL.
Calen Addison (Lethbridge Hurricanes)
The second overall pick in the 2015 WHL Draft has been solid for the Lethbridge Hurricanes this season. He currently leads his draft class, despite being a defender with five goals and 17 assists in 42 games). While he has found himself on the third pairing for the most part, he has been a big part of the Hurricanes power play and been effective in getting the puck out of their own zone. He is a mobile two-way defender with a strong first pass and good hockey sense. Addison should be highly regarded next season for the NHL draft.
Others of Note:
Nolan Foote (Kelowna Rockets)
The youngest son of former NHLer Adam Foote has had a good rookie campaign. Due to his late birthday he is not eligible for the 2018 NHL Draft but will be eligible for the 2019 draft. A big player for his age, standing at 6’3, 177 pounds, he possesses a powerful stride. Foote shows good puck moving abilities and recognizes lanes much better than other players his age. He is someone who will be fun to watch at the Ivan Hlinka next season and in the playoffs for Kelowna. He currently has 17 points in 30 games this year.
Beck Malenstyn (Calgary Hitmen)
The Washington Capitals fifth round pick in 2016 has had himself a solid breakout season for Calgary as an 18-year-old. Not the biggest offensive threat on the ice but he does a good job in all areas of the game and works hard on every shift to make an impact. A physical center whose two-way game shines and is something that could make him a big part of the Capitals farm system in the future. He has 36 points in 47 games with Calgary this season.
Jesse Gabrielle (Prince George Cougars)
One of the most underrated players in the WHL in my opinion, Gabrielle has had a solid year with the WHL’s top team. While he is only at a point-per-game pace this year, he is a dynamic offensive threat who brings loads of intensity and skill to the lineup. He plays with an edge and is very effective when it comes to creating opportunities deep in the offensive zone. He inked his ELC with Boston in December and and should be a player to watch moving forward.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr"><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Bruins?src=hash">#Bruins</a> prospect and <a href="https://twitter.com/PGCougars">@PGCougars</a> forward Jesse Gabrielle has a goal in tonight's game against the <a href="https://twitter.com/EdmOilKings">@EdmOilKings</a>. END 1st 5-2. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NHLBruins?src=hash">#NHLBruins</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NHL?src=hash">#NHL</a> <a href="https://t.co/nEFdpzsIdM">pic.twitter.com/nEFdpzsIdM</a></p>— Mark Allred (@BlackAndGold277) <a href="https://twitter.com/BlackAndGold277/status/825536348119527425">January 29, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
Current Top 10 Bantam Draft Order:
- Prince Albert Raiders
- Kootenay Ice
- Vancouver Giants
- Edmonton Oil Kings
- Calgary Hitmen
- Spokane Chiefs
- Saskatoon Blades
- Swift Current Broncos (Via Red Deer)
- Portland Winterhawks
- Brandon Wheat Kings
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