With the World Junior’s and WHL trade deadline approaching. Top teams in the WHL are starting to surface and top guys are starting to find their touch.
Kootenay may not be a top of the standings right now, but after years struggling the Ice have shown some real push back this season and currently sit third in the central division. Their roster is highlighted by the 2016 number one pic, Peyton Krebs, who has almost maintained a point-per-game pace in his rookie campaign. Kootenay’s top nine has really impressed and the way they structured their D-core, while not highlighted with any big names but guys who are effective and simple. This could be a big turning point for the Kootenay Ice, with another top forward in Connor McClennon coming up next season.
Moose Jaw Warriors
The CHL’s fourth ranked team is coming off of a strong month in the WHL. A threat in the Eastern Conference, they currently sit first in the heavily packed Eastern Division. Led by captain and Tampa Bay Lightning first rounder, Brett Howden, the Warriors have been able to string together some big wins against top teams in November like Swift Current, Regina, Victoria.
Moose Jaw’s group of '97’s has strung together 133 points in the 28 games played this season and have been the main point production for the Warriors. Top draft-eligible prospect, Jett Woo currently sits near a point-per-game average and has been heavily utilized in a versatile role.
Ranked second in the CHL’s recently released team rankings, Portland has had a strong month of November and currently sits with a record of 19-4-0-1. The Winterhawks currently hold a heavily stacked roster, with three first round NHL picks on the team. Led by WHL player of the month, Cody Glass who currently leads the team in scoring with 47 points. Defenseman, Henri Jokiharju currently sits second in the WHL in defenseman points with 35 in 26 games played.
World Junior Championship:
Potential top players to watch from the WHL in December’s World Junior Championships:
Kale Clague (Brandon Wheat Kings) – Currently the top scoring defender in the WHL, Clague has continued to improve every season in the Dub. A real mobile defender who chips in offensively and thinks the game at a high pace. A returnee to the team Canada roster, Clague will be heavily relied upon offensively.
Sam Steel (Regina Pats) – Despite not making the team last year for team Canada, Steel led the WHL in scoring last year with 131 points in 66 games and has surfaced as one of the NHL’s top prospects coming up. Steel does things right on both sides of the puck, and is someone I expect to play a heavy two-way role on the team.
Carter Hart (Everett Silvertips) – The November player of the month, Hart suffered early in the season with lingering effect of Mono but since returning has been a standout in the WHL. Expected to be the starting goalie for Canada, Hart’s role for Canada might be the most important for their success.
Kailer Yamamoto (Spokane Chiefs) – Despite his slow start since returning from the Edmonton Oilers, Yamamoto is still expected to be a top line guy for the Americans. His play in their summer camp was exceptional and he did not look out of place with Edmonton. There will be very high expectations going into the tournament.
Kieffer Bellows (Portland Winterhawks) – A returnee to the American’s World Junior roster, Bellows came over to the WHL this past season after a one year stint with Boston University. A powerful skater with a pure goal scoring mindset, Bellows could post some high end number at the tournament and be a huge offensive contributor.
Aleksi Heponiemi (Swift Current Broncos) – The WHL’s top scorer, Heponiemi will join Finland in this year's World Junior Championship. An intelligent offensive force who lacks size but makes up for it with his ability to find ice with and without the puck. His game could very translate well to the World Junior style of play.
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