After much consideration, many U16-U18 views on players, and attending the WHL Cup in Red Deer, there have been many changes to the Top-100 list. The first question that many people will certainly ask is… why? Why was someone dropped off the list who was previously on it? Why were some new names added who weren’t on the list before? The answer is simply… more views.
If you take into consideration each of the provincial leagues of U16, U17, U18 and the various competitions in which players change roles and alter their system or pace of play, it takes a while to get a grip on a player sometimes. This rings even more true for defensemen.
At first, you try to get a sense of their skating stride, the way they can move around the ice, read plays, and adapt to pace. Secondly, you have to figure out how to deal with pressure, create space, adapt to teammates, and how they implement their abilities at this level. Next, you have to imagine how physical growth and maturity will impact each of their styles of play; which will skyrocket them or which will stagnate.
I am only one person. I’m attempting to check in on a zillion hockey players over a zillion leagues and honestly, it is quite daunting. For every player included on this top-100 list, there are probably three that I have watched with intensity and opted to not include for one reason or another.
I think that WHL teams are looking for the same thing that I am looking for in the first 4.5 rounds of the WHL Draft. Upside. There are players who did not get included on this list but were very close. If you argued Player X should be there instead of Player Y, I’m sure you could convince me of that much of the time. I say all of this to say, my list will definitely look different than many of the WHL team lists. This list will also look different as the views increase over the next three weeks. There are 22 WHL teams with multiple scouts in each region looking and evaluating with similar intensity to myself. They have experience, insight, and sometimes personal connection with the players. My goal is to try to understand the landscape of players, make as good of projections as I can, and highlight some players who may not be getting the love that maybe they should.
As always, if there is a player you are curious about that was or was not listed on this list, please feel free to reach out. I have probably seen them at least once, but maybe I haven’t.
Follow this link to check out our updated 2021 WHL Draft rankings.
Here are some quick notes on some of the players who moved up these rankings.
Jordan Gavin - F - Delta U17 - He moved from third on the list into the second spot after his performance at the WHL Cup. He is not a perfect player. I think there are issues with his skating stride and his level of physical engagement which could hold him back at continuing to climb the rungs but his shot release and his passing vision are just really special. Whoever takes him needs to implement a plan to address these weaknesses tomorrow. Either way, he will gather a lot of points at the WHL level.
Miguel Marques - F - Delta U17 - I wasn’t sure he would show enough to truly climb this far up but I believed he had it in him. His WHL Cup was spectacular. He shows a creativity and puck patience that is potentially elite. He isn’t done growing or evolving his game yet either.
Tij Iginla - F - Rink Kelowna U18 - The biggest worry I had with Tij coming from the programs in Boston up to Canada was his ability to finish in tight spaces. He was a detailed and layered playmaker but did he have the puck skills to match in a goal scoring capacity. Wrist shots in tight and breakaway forehand to backhand roof goals proved to me he does. He gets better with every watch and should have played more minutes at the WHL Cup.
Tarin Smith - D - Saskatoon Blazers U18 - He’s always shown a more detailed defensive game than some of his peers but had issues with the flow of play and reading space. During the WHL Cup, I thought he started implementing more of his puck control in tight spaces to create scoring chances; drag moves and hesitations to attack.
Merrek Arpin - D - Rink Winnipeg - The more I watch him, the more I like. While other defensemen have offered more consistent offense threat to their game, Merrek has shown a well-rounded, smart, and adaptive style of play which allows him to fill any role you’d like. He was the biggest riser on this list and for good reason. Jack-of-all-trades and one of the smartest and consistent outlet passers in this draft. I would do my best to figure out how much other teams like him, so I could make sure I got him.
Diego Johnson - F - OHA Black U17 - Diego plays the style of hockey I’d like all hockey players to play. He uses his speed to gain the inside position, is relentless on the forecheck at 5on5, and understands how to adapt to changing team-style patterns and fill lanes and space. If he continues on this path, I think he could be an outstanding WHL player. Even in losing games, he gives some of the top competition absolute fits.
Miles Cooper - F - Edge U16/18 - I had seen Miles a few times in the summer and when I circled back to my notes, he seemed to step into success in all the areas I felt he could. If I had to draft him back in April, it certainly would have taken a lot more projection and he would have been probably further down the list just based on risk assessment. This extra time has let him grow physically, and show that his speed and agility can play at the U18 level already.
Spencer Masters - F - SSAC U18 - I’m confident in saying that there is nobody quite like Mr. Masters in this draft. He is unique. He possesses projectable size and ample creativity in order to maintain possession and evade pressure. It is a unique brand of hockey however and I’m never quite sure exactly what he is gonna do in any given situation. There is a lot to like though.
Nathan Mayes - D - Yale U17 - I really like his calm demeanor, steady presence, and well-rounded attributes. Most of what he brings will certainly translate as he moves higher up. I probably have him too low even honestly.