The Western Hockey League has been one of the most consistent producers of talent for the National Hockey League for decades. The teams have a level of familiarity with the style of hockey played in the NHL that is arguably only approached by some Ontario Hockey League teams – it helps that a few WHL teams are owned by NHL organizations.
The 2018 class from the WHL may lack the star power of previous seasons – there’s no Nolan Patrick here – but the secondary group of depth prospects is one of the best they’ve had in several years. Here’s a glance at the top 20 WHL prospects for the 2018 NHL Draft.
Top 20 WHLers In 2018 Draft
|1||Ty Smith||D||Spokane Chiefs||Second pairing D|
|2||Alexander Alexeyev||D||Red Deer Rebels||Second pairing D|
|3||Calen Addison||D||Lethbridge Hurricanes||Second pairing D|
|4||Jett Woo||D||Moose Jaw Warriors||Second pairing D|
|5||Cole Fonstad||C||Prince Albert Raiders||Middle six winger|
|6||Milos Roman||C||Vancouver Giants||Middle six center|
|7||Riley Stotts||C||Calgary Hitmen||Bottom six center|
|8||Chase Wouters||C||Saskatoon Blades||Bottom six center|
|9||Riley Sutter||RW||Everett Silvertips||Bottom six winger|
|10||Filip Kral||D||Spokane Chiefs||Second pairing D|
|11||Kyle Topping||C||Kelowna Rockets||Third line center|
|12||Ryan Chyzowski||C||Medicine Hat Tigers||Bottom six winger|
|13||Justin Almeida||C||Moose Jaw Warriors||Third line center|
|14||Tristen Nielsen||C||Calgary Hitmen||Bottom six forward|
|15||Luka Burzan||C||Brandon Wheat Kings||Middle six forward|
|16||Kristian Reichel||C||Red Deer Rebels||Bottom six center|
|17||Vladislav Yeryomenko||D||Calgary Hitmen||Second/third pairing D|
|18||Connor Dewar||C||Everett Silvertips||Bottom six center|
|19||Wyatte Wylie||D||Everett Silvertips||Second/third pairing D|
|20||Egor Zamula||D||Calgary Hitmen||Second/third pairing D|
Seven WHLers went in the first round of the 2017 NHL Draft – Patrick, Cody Glass, Michael Rasmussen, Cal Foote, Juuso Valimaki, Kailer Yamamoto and Henri Jokiharju. It’s a leaner year for the Dub and could be one of the leanest ever: Smith will definitely go somewhere during the first round, but he’s the only guarantee.
Alexeyev, Addison and Woo could all sneak into the late first round, but all seem easy bets to be gone by the middle of the second round. From there, the pack from Fonstad to Almeida are all likely third and fourth round selections, but could slide a bit. If nothing else, there may be a run on WHL prospects in the sixth and seventh round depending on which players are left on the board.
It’s a weaker year for established talent, as teams have to bank on potential in a lot of cases and try to project the WHL draftees into NHL depth players. That said, there are several strong defenders here and a few crafty centers in the later rounds.
In addition to the Top 20, here are ten more players that almost made the cut (in alphabetical order). These players could potentially be drafted in the fifth, sixth or seventh rounds. If nothing else, keep an eye for these players on development camp invite lists over the summer.
- C Eric Florchuk – Saskatoon Blades
- C Carson Focht – Calgary Hitmen
- G Joel Hofer – Swift Current Broncos
- C Brett Kemp – Edmonton Oil Kings
- LW Jackson Leppard – Prince George Cougars
- G Max Paddock – Regina Pats
- LW Cole Reinhardt – Brandon Wheat Kings
- LW Brodi Stuart – Kamloops Blazers
- G David Tendeck – Vancouver Giants
- D Libor Zabransky – Kelowna Rockets