With the first round of playoffs just finishing up, it's time to highlight some of the top performers in playoffs. For anyone not closely following here's how the series turned out (Best of Seven Series):
Regina 4-0 over Calgary
Swift Current 4-3 defeats Moose Jaw in seven
Medicine Hat sweeps Brandon 4-0
Lethbridge comes back to beat Red Deer 4-3
Portland over Prince George 4-2
Kelowna 4-2 over Kamloops
Everett beats Victoria 4-2 (Their 5OT contest was the longest in WHL history)
Seattle sweeps Tri-City 4-0
Michael Spacek (Winnipeg Jets – 2015 – 108th Overall)
The 2016 Memorial Cup veteran led WHL scoring in the first round of playoffs with 12 points in seven games. He was a key contributor in game three with four points and was one of the more consistent performers with a point in all seven contests. Spacek is still unsigned by the Winnipeg Jets and could possibly re-enter the NHL Draft this summer. He is an elusive offensive threat who can create with his playmaking abilities, and also posesses some underrated finishing abilities in tight which helped guide him to a 30-goal season. Through the past few years he has learned to better control and protect the puck, as well as create space for himself.
Sahvan Khaira (NHL Draft Eligible – 2017)
One of the more surprising entries on this list, brother of NHLer (Jujhar Khaira) Sahvan saved his best performance for playoffs. A notorious road performing player, the athletic right handed defender was consistent in the series and shown improvement as the games went on. He only managed one point but was a consistent defensive juggernaut for Swift Current. Personally I have liked Sahvan in my live viewings because of his 6'3" frame and the competitive nature he brings to the lineup.
Keegan Kolesar (Columbus Blue Jackets – 2015 – 69th Overall)
When you think of the Seattle Thunderbirds you often don't think of Keegan Kolesar as much as you should. However, with Ryan Gropp and Mathew Barzal out of the lineup, the Columbus third rounder in 2015 was clutch posting 11 points in four games. He is a versatile gritty forward who works hard and shows consistent determination. It is expected that he will join Cleveland next season and start his professional hockey career.
David Quenneville (New York Islanders – 2016 – 200th Overall)
Recently returning from a lower body injury, Quenneville hasn't missed a beat. Tied for the playoff lead by defenders with nine in four games, David helped propel Medicine Hat to a sweep of the Brandon Wheat Kings. With three multi-point games, the New York Islanders seventh round pick has had a solid season and has come a long way in his development. He has a big right-handed shot that is utilized well on the power play and an underrated gritty side to himself defensively. Standing at 5'8", David plays much bigger than his size dictates and has vastly improved his skating. A dynamic offensive presence on any CHL blue line, it will be interesting to see how far Quenneville can take Medicine Hat and how he can build on his successful season.
Caleb Jones (Edmonton Oilers – 2015 – 117th Overall)
One of my personal favourite defenders in the WHL, Caleb Jones has developed temendously in Portland and was a key reason why the Winterhawks bested the highly touted Prince George Cougars in six games. The mobile left handed defender has played a versatile role for Portland all season and has been a leader on and off the ice. A solid puck transporter, Caleb is starting to get noticed more and more as a top prospect in the Oilers system and is expected to step into the Bakersfield lineup next season. Jones play will be crucial this next series if Portland wants to continue its success against Kelowna.
Carl Stankowski (NHL Draft Eligible – 2018)
When it comes to playoff performers you don't often expect a 16-year-old to be on the list, and especially not a 16-year-old goalie for that matter, but Carl Stankowski has taken the reins in Seattle. In the four game series sweep of Tri-City he had a 2.00 goals against average and a .932% save percentage. Stankowski has battled through injuries through most of the season and hasn't got the recognition as a potential top goalie in the WHL. However, he has returned in great shape and hasn't missed a step. It will be interesting to see how touted he will be going into his draft year next season and how he will build off this series going against one of the best goalies in the CHL in Carter Hart.
Patrick Bajkov (NHL Draft Eligible – 2017)
The undrafted late-97 has taken huge leaps this season production wise. Through only six playoff games he was one of the top scoring players in the first round. Bajkov, who is more of a two-way threat, has solid offensive abilities and hockey sense. I've always been a fan of the way he thinks the game and the consistent effort level he brings. Patrick will be a huge piece to Everett's success throughout the playoffs and is a wild card potential pick in the upcoming NHL draft.
Ryan Vandervlis (NHL Draft Eligible – 2017)
The 6'3" center has seemingly broken out in the playoffs for the Lethbridge Hurricanes. He scored seven points in the first round of playoffs, including a four-point performance in game seven that helped propel his team past Red Deer. A big-bodied center who has seemingly found his scoring touch, uses his big frame well. Vandervils is someone to watch down the stretch of the playoffs to see if he can get his name out there to scouts and fans more.
Prince Albert Win Draft Lottery
Despite finishing second last in the regular season, the Prince Albert Raiders found some luck when they won the draft lottery in March. Prince Albert, who has had only one first overall pick in their existence, seemingly have two options in my opinion. The top option I could see is them taking the mobile two-way defender Kaiden Guhle, who's brother Brendan had spent many seasons there and was their third overall pick back in 2012. Guhle is one of the more WHL ready players I have watched, even at age 15. He is a strong puck transporter who sees the ice well and has a well-rounded game. He has improved his approach on the blue line this season. The other option there is a dynamic under-sized offensive threat in Connor McClennon. Arguably one of the top players in his age group, Connor has seemingly separated himself from other forwards this season with his consistent ability to create offense and take over the game effortlessly. A potential 50-goal scoring center in the WHL with his speed and shot, and not someone people out East know of yet, but will very soon.
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