The WHL typically produces 35 NHL draft players a season. Here’s a list of the top first year WHL forwards for the 2016 draft.
|Sam Steel (C)||0.97||2/3/1998||5’11||L|
|Dillon Dubé (C)||1.02||7/20/1998||5’10||L|
|Brett Howden (C)||0.94||3/29/1998||6’2||L|
|Tyler Benson (LW)||0.93||3/15/1998||6′||L|
|Matthew Phillips (C)||1.06||4/6/1998||5’7||R|
|Noah Gregor (C)||1.01||1/28/1998||5’11||L|
|Simon Stransky (LW)||1||12/21/1997||6′||L|
|Ty Ronning (RW)||0.88||10/20/1997||5’9||R|
|Dante Hannoun (C)||0.82||8/2/1998||5’5||R|
|Jordy Stallard (C)||0.72||9/18/1997||6’2||L|
|Garrett Pilon (C)||0.66||4/13/1998||5’10||R|
|Brandon Hagel (LW)||0.65||8/27/1998||6′||L|
|Tyler Steenbergen (C)||0.69||1/7/1998||5’10||L|
|Patrick Bajkov (LW/RW)||0.65||11/27/1997||6′||R|
|Max Gerlach (C)||0.63||4/4/1998||5’9||R|
|Carsen Twarynski (LW/D)||0.67||11/24/1997||6’2||L|
|Hudson Elynuik (LW/C)||0.79||12/10/1997||6’5||L|
|Jake Kryski (LW/C)||0.58||3/8/1998||5’11||L|
|Tanner Kaspick (C/LW)||0.58||1/28/1998||6’1||L|
Sam Steel (C) (20 – 50)
- Last Word On Sports: Steel is an outstanding skater with strong speed, great acceleration, and outstanding agility. Once he gets a step on a defender, he’s gone. He has outstanding stick-handling ability and very soft hands. He combines this with the skating to weave through traffic and create plays off the rush. Steel also has a good wrist shot and a quick release, allowing him to use defenders as a screen and fire it on net if they back off too much. Add in excellent vision and passing skills and Steel also excels as a playmaker. Steel has outstanding hockey IQ, and thinks the game a step ahead of others. He seems to always make the smart play with the puck on his stick. Steel is also a very hard worker, who constantly keeps his feet moving and is involved in every aspect of the play. He has a bit of peskiness to go along with that high end skill and has shown the willingness to compete on the backcheck.
- The Hockey Writers: Steel is rarely caught out of position and has a good sense of where to be (and where his teammates will be) almost all of the time. Sometimes it seems like the pressure of game situations does get to him, though, as on occasion during key times he’ll press too hard and make bad passes or shots from bad angles.
- Steel’s offense this year was a little shy. He might have a ceiling of a second line center or third line center and could be an excellent two-way player.
Dillon Dubé (C) (20-50)
- McKeens: A speedy and skilled playmaker with excellent vision and creativity. Excellent fluid skater – light on his feet with great flow to his footwork, turns, transition sequences. Skating is both quick and fast; pivots, lateral skating exceptional. He is arguably among the fastest in his draft class.
- NHL Central Scouting: Strong skater with good straight away speed – strong on his feet, effective puck protection game –plays a very responsible two way game – good hockey sense to contribute offensively – very good play making ability and good finishing shot – willing to give and take in physical play.
- The speedy Dube has been compared to Kelowna teammate and last years 1st round pick Nick Merkley.
Brett Howden (C) (20-50)
- Last Word On Sports: Overall Howden is a strong two-way player. The question marks here are about how high in a lineup he can go. It is doubtful that he will ever be a first line center on an NHL contender, but he could be an effective two-way player on the second line. He must continue to work on generating offence, and work on adding muscle to his frame for that to happen.
- Hockey Now: A two-way forward who uses his large frame to his advantage standing in front of the net screening the goalie and collecting rebounds. Will battle hard in front and in the corners with a real physical edge. He won’t drop the gloves but plays a game that suits his size. Has a real long reach that he uses to protect the puck. Has shown much improved play in the defensive zone over the season and is a real mature puck distributor. Skating needs some work and he needs to remember to keep his feet moving away from the puck
- Howden projects to be more of a middle six forward possibly transitioning to wing. He’s brothers with Panthers forward Quenton Howden and actually put up similar numbers as Quenton did during his draft year.
Tyler Benson (LW) (20-50)
- Benson was a projected top 15 pick prior to this season by TSN. Button had the following to say, “Well-rounded player who finds ways to contribute with and without the puck and can play in all situations. Uses body well, has excellent sense and is a great competitor. Benson’s stock has obviously fallen a bit since then.”
- McKeens @AndyLevang had a good scouting report. He ‘stated Benson has the skill set to develop into a smaller power forward with some offensive upside.’ A couple of key points were for a 5’11 forward they mentioned him as powerful based on his lower body.
- WHL from Above: A big powerful winger cut from the same cloth as a guy like Taylor Hall. He’s got an extremely powerful skating stride with the ability to separate from the opposition. Has creativity with the puck and is tough to slow down when the biscuit is on his tape and he’s going at top speed.
Matthew Phillips (C) (50 – 100)
- Hockey Now: Very small, very quick but plays bigger than his frame. Noticeable every shift. Tremendous Work Ethic. Will put his head down and skate to the net constantly going to greasy areas. Elusive and can skate himself out of danger on a nightly basis. Uses his speed to beat anybody down the wing and has contributed nearly at a point-per-game pace. Causes many problems for defenders due to his determination with the puck.
- The Hockey Writers: Perhaps what is most impressive about Phillips’ game is his willingness to play a style of game out of his weight class. Never afraid to go into a corner for a puck, even against much larger opposition, Phillips’ play at times can best be described as fearless. Not only will he initiate contact with imposing defenders, but in the majority of cases, will battle for and win any puck battle which he finds himself within.
- Phillips is a wild-card in this draft. He has enough talent to be considered a second round pick, but their will be questions about his size. I think that he’s worthy of a top 90 pick.
Noah Gregor (C) (50-100)
- The Hockey Writers: Gregor’s one of those players that doesn’t have any glaring strengths or weaknesses, which is part of his appeal. He’s reliable in all three zones, tends to be in the right spot at the right times and makes smart decisions with the puck.
- Hockey News: His play with the Warriors has made him one of the biggest surprises in the WHL and now scouts can’t get enough of his quickness, his smarts with the puck and his compete level.
Simon Stransky (LW) (50 – 100)
- Yahoo Sports: Stransky has a good offensive IQ and is really good at finding quick lanes to feed his teammates,” says Future Considerations scout Justin Froese. “He uses this same awareness to go unnoticed and show up in open ice for a look at the net. He has the touch to get pucks through traffic and the creative hands to dance around opponents when he has a step on them.”
- Draft Site: A Czech left wing currently in the WHL with Prince Albert who has good acceleration, shiftiness, puck handling ability and soft hands. His overall skating needs work but he moves well laterally and as he gets stronger, it may address this. He has a very good presence when attempts are made to contain him and he uses his all-around shiftiness to stickhandle in tight areas and escape pursuit. Will use his feet like a soccer player to reposition the puck. Plays quick and patient with the puck. Wait and waits on some carries for the play to form and makes sure the puck best to his lineman. Very creative passer and nimble puck handler and passer who will get the puck ahead through the middle zone and sneak in for the clean up.Needs to improve puck pursuit, and puck control on his zone entries, and build core strength so his skating improves. There are things to like with this player who seems to always be around the puck and action. –Bill Placzek–
- Stransky, a late 97 birthday, is a superb setup man as he had 43 assists. I think he’s a 3rd or 4th round pick.
Ty Ronning (RW) (100 – 150)
- Elite Prospects: A small but industrious speedster that always seeks to be engaged in the play. Skates very well and has the shiftiness to avoid being rubbed out. Isn’t afraid of physical play, but knows his role as an offensive catalyst and plays to his strengths. Excellent hands and hockey sense. Only knock is his size, but that doesn’t impede his compete level. Possesses the fundamental skills and natural goal scoring instincts that make the players around him better. [EP]
- The Province: “A kid who competes that hard, a kid who can score goals like that, a kid who can read the game that way…there’s room for him in the NHL,” Molleken (Red Line Report) said of the son of Cliff Ronning, the former Vancouver Canuck. “He’s not too small, because of his heart and his pride and his desire.”
Jordy Stallard (C) (100-150)
- The Hockey Writers: He’s a good skater and has good mobility, but his defensive-zone awareness isn’t tremendous and because he’s still a bit of a thin, wirey young man he doesn’t have the muscle to effectively out-battle opponents in the corners.
- WHL from Above: Another Hitmen player cracks this list, with Stallard possessing plenty of attributes that make him worth tracking. He’s got a good frame at 6’2 and 176 pounds, skating well and possessing decent hands and worth ethic.
Brandon Hagel (LW) (150-200)
- Hagel is a late birthday (Aug. 27th) and has scored nearly 80% of his offense at even strength. At evens he scores similar to Sam Steel and Noah Gregor. Hagel is thin (6’ 165 lbs) and needs to add more strength, but could be worth a late round pick.
Tyler Steenbergen (C) (150 – 200)
- Red Line Report via Lowetide: “ Astonishing improvement in his skating, and his development has been so rapid in the second half that it’s like watching a completely different player.”
Hudson Elynuik (LW/C) (150 – 200)
- Elynuik is an intriguing prospect, his father Pat was a 1st round pick of the old Winnipeg Jets. He is big (6’5) and finished the season strong injuries elevated him to the top line. Here is an old scouting report, from Jeff Hollick, ‘He’s got a lot of skill, he’s got some ability and he’s going to be very hard to play against. He competes hard and he is going to make it tough on he opposition once he fully matures as a player.’
Garrett Pilon (C) (150-200)
- Too Many Men On The Site: Garrett Pilon is not shy about playing a physical game. He is a smart two-way center that is known for having an excellent work ethic. An underrated prospect, Pilon should continue to climb draft boards leading into June – He possesses serious NHL potential.
Jake Kryski (LW/C)
- Buckeye State Hockey: Kryski did a real good job at creating scoring chances. He used his good speed to beat defencemen. He displayed strong vision, dishing out some good passes. He was also trusted by his coach as he was sent out when Vancouver had their goalie pulled.
Dante Hannoun (C) (150 – 200)
- There’s a good chance that Hannoun, who is small (listed as 5’5 on WHL site), doesn’t get drafted and if he does get selected it will likely be a late round pick. Victoria Royal’s GM Cameron Hope: “Dante is a dynamic talent who plays with intensity and he sees the ice as well as anyone in the game. He’s an intelligent player who can finish and makes his teammates better.” Here are the positives he is a late birthday (August 2nd) and he has decent offensive production. I used, whl.prospect-stats.com, to look at Hannoun versus Matthew Phillips and looked Even Strength Goals per Game & Even Strenght points per game. Hannan ES/GPG (.296) ES/PPG (.642) versus Phillips (.292) / (.634). Now, Phillips is a little taller (2 inches) but based on offense I think he could be worthy of a 7th round pick.
Max Gerlach (C) (150 – 200)
- Gerlach is a smaller player that is likely to be a late round pick, if he gets selected. Ryan Pike from the Hockey Writers, “he’s got a laser of a wrist shot and he’s got great acceleration and speed and he’s a right-handed shot.”
Carsen Twarynski (LW) (150 – 200)
- Twarynski is a (97) birthday, Hitmen head coach Mark French, French. “If you just look at his stat line, maybe you don’t get a true appreciation for what he brings. He certainly can skate at the next level, and I think that’s the first thing a lot of people look for is ability to play with pace, and he can. I think there’s a lot of upside with him.”
Patrick Bajkov (LW/RW) (150 – 200)
- Baikov is a (97 birthday) plays a two-way game and likely doesn’t bring enough offense. Perhaps a team could pick him up in the 6th or 7th round.
- WHL from above: Owns a good shot but could use more power in his stride.
Tanner Kaspick (LW) (150 – 200)
- Draft Site: An elite shooter who finishes without any hesitation. Very strong on his skates, he capitalizes on any opening he is given, and is the guy no one saw sneak in for the backdoor play. –Bill Placzek–
- Kaspick is a gritty player more likely to play a bottom six role.
Please Note: WHL Overagers will be a separate Edition.