Top 20 WHL Prospects for 2017 NHL Draft

This past June, nine Western Hockey League players were selected in the first round of the National Hockey League’s entry draft. The league had just four players taken in the first round, representing a down year in what has traditionally been known as one of the more productive development leagues in the hockey world.

Don’t fret, though: this year’s WHL draft class has rebounded nicely. In my recent Alternate Rankings update, I projected nine WHL players in the first round. The consensus rankings, compiled from the rankings of major hockey people that aren’t me, have seven WHLers in the first 31 players selected. But even as you dip past the first round, there are a lot of strong 2017 NHL Draft prospects to be found west of Ontario.

The Top 20

Rank Player Pos. Club Birthday Ht Wt
1 Nolan Patrick C Brandon Wheat Kings 9/19/1998 6’3″ 198
2 Kailer Yamamoto C Spokane Chiefs 9/29/1998 5’8″ 159
3 Cal Foote D Kelowna Rockets 12/13/1998 6’3″ 198
4 Juuso Valimaki D Tri-City Americans 10/6/1998 6’2″ 201
5 Nikita Popugaev LW Moose Jaw Warriors 11/20/1998 6’6 203
6 Cale Fleury D Kootenay ICE 11/19/1998 6’1″ 190
7 Michael Rasmussen C Tri-City Americans 4/17/1999 6’5″ 203
8 Stelio Mattheos C Brandon Wheat Kings 6/14/1999 6’1″ 194
9 Kole Lind RW Kelowna Rockets 10/16/1998 6’0″ 172
10 Artyom Minulin D Swift Current Broncos 10/1/1998 6’2″ 198
11 Henri Jokiharju D Portland Winterhawks 6/17/1999 5’11” 165
12 Cody Glass C Portland Winterhawks 4/1/1999 6’1″ 168
13 Mason Shaw C Medicine Hat Tigers 11/3/1998 5’8″ 165
14 Jake Leschyshyn C Regina Pats 3/10/1999 5’11” 181
15 Ian Scott G Prince Albert Raiders 1/11/1999 6’3″ 168
16 Lane Zablocki C Regina Pats 12/27/1998 6’0″ 185
17 Tyler Steenbergen C Swift Current Broncos 1/7/1998 5’10” 180
18 Stuart Skinner G Lethbridge Hurricanes 11/1/1998 6’3″ 209
19 Jaret Anderson-Dolan C Spokane Chiefs 9/12/1999 5’11” 181
20 Josh Brook D Moose Jaw Warriors 6/17/1999 6’2″ 185

Honourable Mentions

  • F Aleksi Heponiemi, Swift Current Broncos
  • F Morgan Geekie, Tri-City Americans
  • F Mark Kastelic, Calgary Hitmen
  • G Griffin Outhouse, Victoria Royals
  • F Dante Hannoun, Victoria Royals

The Rundown

The WHL has two things in abundance this year: defensemen and centers. The centers tend to play strong 200-foot games, with their offensive upside generally determining their overall value – Nolan Patrick has by far the most in this group. Kailer Yamamoto arguably has a bit more offensive promise right now (and slightly less defensive value), but his overall ceiling isn’t thought to be as strong as Patrick’s.

Among the blueliners, most of the brightest prospects fit into the prototypical WHL mold: around six feet tall, around 200 pounds, and generally playing a smart 200-foot game with some physicality. Again, the exceptions are the story here: Henri Jokiharju is playing a bit more of a finesse-based game than the typical WHL style, not uncommon for an import, but he’s picking up the rest as he goes along. Fellow import Juuso Valimaki has already played a full season in the league and has meshed the offensive game with the physical game rather nicely.

It’s a weak year for goalies, with nobody quite as good as Carter Hart was last season, but Stuart Skinner, Griffin Outhouse and potential second-year eligible Zach Sawchenko should provide some value for mid-to-late round shoppers.