The 2022 NHL Draft is filled with Western Hockey League (WHL) prospects that are not getting the attention they deserve. Whether it be because they are in their second year of draft eligibility or they did not put up eye-popping numbers, these prospects have shown through their play that they deserve to be drafted.
This list contains the top-10 underrated WHL players that should go in the 2022 NHL Draft. These are players that most likely won’t go until the third round or later, yet have the potential to be players that make an impact in the future. Here are the ten players fans should hope their team roll the dice on.
10. Austin Roest – Center
NHL Central Scouting- 180th (NA Skaters)
Austin Roest showed his versatility in his second season with the Everett Silvertips moving from the wing to center. The transition proved successful as he scored 13 goals and put up 32 points in 59 games. During Everett’s six playoff games, he registered three assists while finishing fifth on the team in shots on goal with 17.
Related: 2022 NHL Draft Guide
Roest is at his best when he is forechecking. He has strong skating footwork and quick feet which allows him to gain speed from the neutral zone into the offensive zone. One area he really improved on this season was his two-way game as he understands when it is time to pressure, and when it is time to start retreating back into his own zone. Whoever drafts him will be getting a stable player that can handle tough matchups while also adding some offensive production. Overall, he is a safe selection, especially in the later rounds.
9. James Stefan – Right Wing
NHL Central Scouting- 157th (NA Skaters)
The son of 1999’s first overall pick Patrik Stefan, James Stefan is hoping to hear his name called in his second year of eligibility. The 18-year-old led the Portland Winterhawks in scoring this season with 34 goals and finished second on the team with 79 points in 68 games. He also added six points in 11 games during Portland’s postseason run.
Stefan is an offensive weapon that can burn teams with his shot and passing. He can find teammates behind the defence and string passes to them allowing for breakaways and odd-man rushes. Although not the strongest skater, he understands where he needs to be in the offensive zone to make plays and find ways to get open. He may be a late bloomer and should be snagged as a late pick in the draft.
8. Charlie Wright – Left Defence
NHL Central Scouting- 142nd (NA Skaters)
Charlie Wright is rarely talked about, and that is a good thing. The Saskatoon Blades blueliner is a traditional stay-at-home defenceman who doesn’t make many mistakes and can get the puck out of his own zone with ease. This season, he registered one goal and 19 assists in 58 games but what may be more impressive is that he only had six penalty minutes all season. He plays low-event, effective hockey which is something every team needs.
Although Wright is not an offensive force, he does jump up in the rush from time to time. The word that best describes his play is “safe” which is not bad by any stretch. One of the most underrated player profiles is an anchor defenceman that doesn’t make mistakes and can cover while their partner jumps up in the play. While he may not be the most exciting prospect selected, he can make a difference and will be a strong addition to whichever prospect pool he is added to.
7. Mikey Milne – Left Wing
NHL Central Scouting- 119th (NA Skaters)
Mikey Milne is in his second year of eligibility and hopes an 81-point season gets him drafted. The Winnipeg ICE forward finished with 38 goals and 43 assists in 68 games while adding 13 goals and 19 points in 15 playoff games. He also led all ICE players in shots on goal during the regular season and playoffs.
The good thing about Milne is that he is consistent and never takes a shift off. Whether it is driving the net or being the first forward on the forecheck, his effort level is never questioned. Whether his team is up by five or down by five, he is going to give 100 percent effort every shift he is out there. With the right development and team structure, it is very possible he could make it to the NHL down the line.
6. Hudson Thornton – Left Defence
NHL Central Scouting- 109th (NA Skaters)
Hudson Thornton is an offensive defenceman that registered 45 points in 65 games for the Prince George Cougars this past season. He is at his best when he is in the offensive zone and had some success on the power play leading all Cougars with 17 power play assists. His best skill, however, is his work in the transition game as he can send teammates on breakaways with tape to tape passes on a consistent basis.
There is a lot of potential with Thornton as he possesses the attributes needed in the modern-day NHL. Defencemen who can not only jump up in the play with success but also drive the offence are usually looked on favourably by NHL scouts. He is an exciting prospect that teams should be jumping at the chance to draft.
5. Thomas Milic – Goaltender
NHL Central Scouting- 28th (NA Goaltenders)
After a spectacular season, Thomas Milic deserves to be drafted into the NHL. This is his second year of eligibility but that shouldn’t scare teams away. This past season, he posted a 27-16-4 record with a .912% save percentage (SV%), a 2.44 goals-against average (GAA) and three shutouts with the Seattle Thunderbirds. While his regular season was good, it’s the playoffs where he has shined.
Milic has been lights out in the 2022 WHL Postseason leading the Thunderbirds to the WHL Final. In 19 games, he has a 12-5-2 record with a .926 SV% and a GAA of 2.16 in 19 games. He also has posted two shutouts and is 5-0 when his team is facing elimination. Lastly, he has only lost back-to-back games once this entire playoff run. Yes, he may be in his second year of eligibility but his performance this playoffs has shown he could be an intriguing prospect to have in a prospect pool.
4. Graham Sward – Left Defence
NHL Central Scouting- 93rd (NA Skaters)
Graham Sward enters the NHL Draft process for a second straight year after going unclaimed in 2021. The Spokane Chiefs defenceman had a bounce-back year registering 43 points in 57 games after finishing last season with one goal and one point in 11 games. Overall, he finished second on Spokane this season in points and was one of only nine defencemen across the league to register a shorthanded goal and assist this season.
Sward is strong at both ends of the ice and was relied on heavily in Spokane in 2021-22. He doesn’t make a ton of mistakes in his own zone and has a certain level of calm to his game. His positioning is strong and when he does steal the puck, he is able to make the smart play rather than just dumping the puck down the ice. The way he plays is a coach’s dream which is why there should be general managers ready to call his name come draft day.
3. Ben King – Center
NHL Central Scouting- 96th (NA Skaters)
No player had more goals in the WHL this season than Ben King. The Red Deer Rebels star scored 52 goals along with 105 points in 68 games. Some may ask why is a player that led the league in goals and had over 100 points ranked so low? The reason is, that this is his third year of eligibility in the draft and he has already turned 20.
King turned 20 years old in mid-May 2022 but that shouldn’t stop teams from taking a chance on him. At 6-foot-3, 201 pounds, he can shield the puck well from defenders and knows how to use his size to his advantage in front of the crease. The question is, will he still be successful at the NHL level when he is no longer one of the biggest players in the league? It is a risky pick because of his age, but whoever drafts him will still be getting a strong prospect that could bring a physical presence every night.
2. Mason Beaupit – Goaltender
NHL Central Scouting- 5th (NA Goalies)
Despite his statistics, Mason Beaupit had a strong season in his first year as a starter for the Spokane Chiefs. He posted a 20-22-4 record with a .893 SV% and 3.63 GAA in 49 games. At the end of the season, he was named the Chiefs’ Player of the Year as he backstopped Spokane to an unexpected playoff spot.
What makes Beaupit special is his combination of size and athleticism. He is listed at 6-foot-5, 185 pounds and uses every inch to his advantage. Whether it is covering up the corners or sliding across the goal crease, he is able to take away angles from shooters. If he can be paired with the right goalie coach and development system, he will play in the NHL one day.
1. Brayden Schuurman – Center
NHL Central Scouting- 76th (NA Skaters)
Brayden Schuurman registered 54 points in 68 games for the Victoria Royals this season. He was also selected to Canada’s World U-18s team where he scored twice in four games. A player that can play the wing or center, he poses high-end offensive talent that was on full display this season.
Schuurman not only possesses blazing speed, but he also has a shot that can handcuff goaltenders. He also has great puck control which allows him to maintain control across the blue line and into the offensive zone. Once there, he can slow the game down and either find teammates or get a shot on the goal. He has all the tools to be a playmaker at the pro level and whichever team selects him should be very excited about his potential.
This 2022 Draft is very deep when it comes to WHL talent. In total, 53 players were named to NHL Central Scouting’s year-end list with six projected to go in the first round. While the players listed above may not be first-rounders, they are value picks with potential that teams should consider selecting. It is very possible one of the players above could be the next Braden Holtby, Brendan Gallagher or Jared Spurgeon. A team just has to give them the opportunity by selecting them on July 7 or 8.
Adam is excited to be joining The Hockey Writers as part of the Seattle Kraken and Vancouver Canucks team. His work can also be found at area51sportsnet.com where he covers the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League.