We present the top-80 skater rankings for the 2024 WHL Draft as it currently sits. For those who are new to these rankings and have not followed in year’s past, the goal is to provide transparency with what is being watched and how the rankings are essentially formed. To provide a fairly accurate Top-20 or Top-80 ranking, there has to be a significant amount of hockey watched in regional and crossover events to get a sense of how players match up against one another. How does the 5th overall league scorer in the WAAAU15 match up against the 5th overall league scorer in the AEHL U15? It is all about the predictability of each individual player.
In January, it was some of the follow up analysis from the Hockey Sask Top-160 event that took the forefront of views in the new year. I was also able to turn my sights to deeper views from Manitoba league players while also finally able to focus on a lot of the depth of the AEHL as I’ve spoken about in the past. I think there is a depth in the defenders in that league as you go from team to team. I was also able to do some follow up crossover work finally from the Rocky Mountain Classic in specific game watches as I rolled into the 2024 John Reid Memorial Tournament and the U15 Canadian Crown Tournament. Beyond those, there was certainly a smattering of individual games watched in each respective league.
One thing that has stuck with me that a WHL Scout once said is that “Everyone around the league knows the Top-40 players. It isn’t about if they will go, but when. After that it really opens up” That brings us to a new range of the draft which is essentially anywhere into the third round and beyond. This is where everyone has a favourite and all lists can differ extremely. Someone might have someone 50th that another team doesn’t like at all. It speaks to how close the competition can be across the leagues. Throughout the next number of months, hopefully the picture starts to come into focus a bit clearer and the debates between very close ranges of players can be solidified with a bit more confidence.
Depth of Defenders
For the Top-60 article I spoke in two sections about a number of the defenders who were starting to create some buzz and how the top overall prospect this year is a defenseman again. What I hope to communicate through the Top-80 now is that my thought processes this month have been about exactly how many potential quality defenders will be available in rounds 3-5 and beyond. Whether it is players like Jeshan Hayer from the Calgary Royals, Kyler Sorochak from the Okotoks Oilers, Calum Brownlee from Winnipeg Bruins Black, or others who have not quite made their appearance on the list, I feel like there are a lot of U15 teams where one of the most consistent upside players on the roster is a quality defenseman.
You’re also starting to see names from the quality of the CSSHL teams arrive on the backend too as players like Dylan Hurren from Delta Green and Grayson Tash from BWC make their first appearances in our ranking. I think this is a great draft to come out with two or three defenders in the top five rounds if you had a pick in each round. If you selected one forward, one goalie, and three defenders, then it makes sense to me.
John Reid Tournament
I think I had three big conclusions coming away from the John Reid Tournament this season.
Firstly, Edge is as much of a monster as I thought they were. I’ve honestly tried to talk myself out of a lot of the top-end and depth players on that squad as I always wanna check my bias. “How can they all be as good as I have them rated? That shouldn’t be.” Well, I’ve come to the conclusion that whether it should be or not, it is the reality. I’ve never said this about any team in the CSSHL but I think it is justifiable that every player off Edge could/should be drafted this year at some point. Whether it is a first round or a tenth round pick, I think scouts should be watching each of them very closely.
Secondly, I think while the BC teams are certainly competitive amongst themselves and some individual players have put up substantial numbers so far this year, the Albertan players/teams match up against them quite well. I think it's an overwhelmingly good Albertan year from top to bottom and I was still trying to assess where the general feel of BC accurately fell. I think the John Reid games gave a clearer picture.
Thirdly, I thought teams like Calgary Flames and St. Albert Sabres showcased the tops of their talent very well. I’m always curious how some of the top teams from the AEHL will do against the range of teams in the CSSHL and I think they won a lot of games deservedly so. Players like Ossie McIntyre, Cohen Pentney, Colt Carter, William Matte, and others played quite well over the weekend.
The Quality CSSHL Forwards
Usually around the fourth round and beyond you start to see a number of the depth of the CSSHL forwards who may not be the leading scorers on their team but they still have a high potential to be a quality WHL player one day. Some that I’ve noticed playing really well recently include Dominik Silbernagel, Ollie Reid, Byron Chin, Forest Karlson, and others. I think in rounds 4-7 specifically are when the debates between good players on strong teams vs best players on weaker teams or squads outside of the CSSHL start to occur.
At the end of the day, the provincial camps are usually where Western scouts make resounding crossover conclusions. It is where you get to see the jumbled messes of leagues all on the same ice. Normally, that is where a few buzz players really make their mark. If you play well there, it most likely gets a number of teams to really take notice and have confidence especially in the top-3 rounds of a draft.
For example, I think it’ll be good to eventually see someone like Forrest Karlson from Pilot Mound Academy in the mix with the other top Manitoba players once the camps occur.