It wasn’t a particularly busy month for the 2007 group, however last month did provide us an opportunity to circle back on some of the players plying their trade in the WHL to see how they’ve progressed. As we approach the three-quarter mark of the junior season, we are starting to see which rookies have found their footing and which have struggled to make the adjustment. All the biggest risers, as well as our sole debutant to the rankings, come out of Western Canada this month.
Our biggest riser this month is Nathan Behm who jumps from 109th to 59th as he continues to take on a larger role for the Kamloops Blazers. While the Blazers languish in last place in the WHL, Behm has been one of the few bright spots for the team. He sits fourth on the team in scoring with 24 points in 48 games, a mark which also makes him the fifth highest scoring 2007 born player in the league. With size, skill, and the ability to show consistent development despite the inconsistent supporting cast around him, Behm is sure to get NHL draft buzz next year and takes a corresponding jump up our rankings as a result.
Prince Albert’s Oli Chenier is another WHL rookie with a big jump up our rankings, moving from 326th to 124th. He has fit in seamlessly on a Raiders team fighting for a playoff spot as a sound forechecking energy creator with the ability to chip in offensively. He currently has 18 points in 41 games and has seen time on both the powerplay and penalty kill.
Lukas Kaplan is our next riser (295th to 160th), and unlike the rest of our highest risers he didn’t start the year in the WHL but rather forced his way onto the Everett Silvertips roster with a blistering start to the CSSHL U18 year. After putting up 11 points in 8 games for NAX U18, he earned a callup to the WHL ranks and hasn’t looked back. He has 10 points in 25 games at the junior level and has earned a regular roster spot on one of the top teams in the league in short order. His development this year as a less heralded prospect has been impressive and look for him to continue his climb up our rankings.
Hayden Harsanyi often gets lost in the shuffle among the myriad of high-end talent the Medicine Hat Tigers are blessed with, but he has had an impressive start to his junior career and is firmly part of the core that will carry this team moving forward. He is an incredibly crafty and clever talent who has quickly found his niche and been able to produce supplementary offence for the Tigers almost entirely in 5-on-5 play. He has 23 points in 49 games which is good for sixth among all 2007 born players in league and when you adjust for even strength points, he jumps up to third. He has quietly had an excellent season and has certainly earned his movement up our rankings from 139th to 76th.
The last major riser to discuss is Portland Winterhawk Kyle McDonough. Playing on one of the top teams in the league, McDonough isn’t afforded the same opportunities as some of the other players on our list however he has certainly maximized his chances and shown that he can be a contributor at both ends of the ice at the junior level. The offence hasn’t come in spades yet, but we think that he has shown growth and potential as he moves forward and gains a larger role. He jumps from 287th to 172nd.
Our sole new addition this month is forward Tommy Lafreniere out of Yale in the CSSHL U18 circuit. He has been lights out at the U18 level all season and has stood out as one of the best players in that league in every viewing we’ve seen of him this year. His 15 points in 6 games at the Circle K tournament feature some of the top U18 talent available was the final nudge we needed to include him in our rankings. In CSSHL league play he sits seventh in league scoring overall with 46 points in 25 games, a mark which also makes him the top scoring 2007-born player league wide. As a prospect for a rebuilding Kamloops Blazers team, he is sure to get plenty of opportunity in his rookie year next season and there are certainly parallels when comparing his pathway to a player like Terik Parascak who has exploded onto the NHL radar this season. It would be unfair to put a similar expectation on Lafreniere but it is clear that he is one to watch and has earned a spot on our rankings.