2022-23 Team: Youngstown Phantoms (USHL)
Date of Birth: February 5, 2005
Place of Birth: Rosemount, MN
Ht: 5-foot-9 Wt: 172 pounds
NHL Draft Eligibility: 2023 first-year eligible
- NHL Central Scouting: 55th (amongst NA skaters)
- The Hockey Writers (Horn): 60th
- The Hockey Writers (Baracchini): 30th
- FC Hockey: 29th
- TSN/McKenzie: 65th
- Elite Prospects: 16th
- Smaht Scouting: 24th
- Dobber Prospects: 45th
William Whitelaw has been turning heads since he was in fifth grade with Rosemount and attending school at Red Pine Elementary. He was named a finalist for the Wiz Wyatt Player of the Year Award given to the top Squirt/PeeWee players.
If there is a skill to be measured, he is the best at it – speed, hands and shooting are just a few of the many. Besides the obvious skills his compete level is fun to watch…he’s never seen a deficit too large or loose puck he doesn’t think he can win.– Rosemount coach
All of those skills continued to develop during Whitelaw’s high school years at the famed Shattuck St. Mary’s where he scored 46 goals and 110 points in his senior year. He then went on to join the Youngstown Phantoms in the United States Hockey League (USHL) after being selected first overall in the 2021 USHL Futures Draft and is now leading his team in scoring with 30 goals and 52 points. Blessed with speed, creativity, and a motor that never quits, the 5-foot-9 dynamo could be another Yanni Gourde – undersized, but bursting with skill and an unwavering compete level.
If you don’t believe me, take it from Phantoms head coach Ryan Ward, who after a 2-1 shootout win over the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders in February praised his young center for having his best game of the year.
“…I don’t think I’ve ever seen a hockey player work that hard. He was backchecking. He was tracking, he was heavy, he was hard. He’s made for those moments. Let’s be honest, Will Whitelaw is a future NHL player and he’s an unbelievable kid.”
As mentioned by Ward, that work ethic will go a long way in making Whitelaw an NHL player one day. Combined with his skill with the puck, NHL-caliber shot, and ability to get fans out of their seat with a highlight reel goal, he is one of the most exciting players in this draft class.
Related: THW’s 2023 NHL Draft Guide
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Whitelaw is a natural center, but might be destined to play wing in the NHL due to his size. That being said, Gourde developed into a pretty effective pivot at 5-foot-9 as he became the Tampa Bay Lightning’s checking line center during two Stanley Cup runs in 2020 and 2021. So, never say never, especially with a driven player like Whitelaw who already knows he needs to improve on his 200-foot game.
“I like to shoot the puck and make plays…I think that my 200-foot game is evolving right now. I know I need to continue to build on that. I think that I’m very good making plays off the rush, getting a quick shot that surprises the goalie, and setting up my teammates.”
Whitelaw’s already counted upon to be an all-around pivot for his team in Youngstown as he plays on both the power play and penalty kill – and is a threat to score on both units. He is second on the team with 11 power play goals and tied for first with three shorthanded goals. If he can develop into a strong two-way center like Gourde, any NHL coach will be happy to have him in their lineup. However, while Gourde went undrafted, Whitelaw is sure to hear his name called on draft day – maybe even on Day 1 – as a lack of size is not the problem it used to be.
Committed to the University of Wisconsin for the 2023-24 season, the same university that helped develop Cole Caufield, Whitelaw is primed to become yet another undersized forward to succeed in the big leagues. Reuniting with his childhood friend and fellow draft prospect Charlie Stramel, he believes Wisconsin is the best place to develop into an NHL player.
“I think they have everything you need to become an NHL hockey player,” Whitelaw said. “I think that’s the goal for me. Everything about it was just special and I knew that’s where I wanted to play hockey. What they have there is great for all the players. It’s going to help me elevate my game to the next level and one day be able to play in the National Hockey League.”
Whitelaw’s work ethic and never-say-die attitude that has followed him since his days at Red Pine Elementary, combined with his relentless motor, vision, and high-end skating will make him not only a prospect to watch in the 2023 Draft but for fans of the team that ultimately selects him.
Other THW Draft Profiles
William Whitelaw – NHL Draft Projection
A lot of rankings have Whitelaw going in the second round, but there are also ones that list him in the late first. Like Logan Stankoven, Caufield, and others before him, he will likely be drafted much lower than he should and instantly become a steal for whichever team selects him. If I was a general manager with a pick at the end of the first round or early second, I would jump at the chance to grab this guy. Having said that, I would not be surprised to see him drop into the mid-to-latter part of the second round like Stankoven, even though he has first-round talent.
“Whitelaw is a shifty and skilled attacking forward who will likely play on the wing at the next level. The undersized forward has undeniable talent with the puck on his stick, and he plays at a high pace. When Whitelaw can get into full-on attack mode, there aren’t many more entertaining players to watch.” – Tony Ferrari, The Hockey News
“He’s [Whitelaw] an undersized, quick skating forward with a real good toolkit to do some damage on offense. He’s fast in a straight line and is real deceptive with his edges when he needs to get shifty on a defender with the puck.” – Douglas Larson, FC Hockey
“Despite being an undersized forward he plays a very gritty, pest role with a lot of skill. He’s hard on pucks and physical along the boards…He’s at his best when he’s the puck dominant player on the ice.” – Austin Garret, Smaht Scouting
- Work ethic
- High compete level
Under Construction (Improvements to Make)
- Two-way game
Whitelaw has been underestimated his entire life and has come out on top more often than not, all due to his philosophy of never giving up.
“I think not giving up is a huge thing,” [Whitelaw] said. “You can always achieve what you want when you don’t give up … I think a huge thing that’s overlooked in life.”
With that in mind, I have little doubt that he will work his hardest to become at least a top-nine forward in the NHL. In fact, I believe he has the tools and attitude to make it as a center rather than transition over to the wing. I really see a lot of Gourde in him – with more skill and a higher ceiling. Judging from his hockey journey so far, he won’t let anyone tell him that he can’t do something. If he believes he can be a center in the NHL, he will do his best to make that happen. Basically, what I am saying is, the sky is the limit on his potential.
Risk – 3/5, Reward – 5/5
Fantasy Hockey Potential
Offence – 8/10, Defence – 7/10
Whitelaw played in the 2023 BioSteel All-American Game.
- The Rink Live – Rosemount’s Will Whitelaw Ready for NHL Draft Year With Youngstown Phantoms