The start of this month was spent re-watching a number of games from the John Reid Tournament from St. Albert, heading out to Notre Dame to catch a weekend of CSSHL games, watching assorted viewings of players I had previously watched and had notes on, and finishing it up with the Hockey Saskatchewan Top-80 event in Balgonie.
Here’s where I am at this point.
I think in this draft there is a grouping of players at the top end who are all very close in my mind for projectable success in the WHL. It is a big grouping too. I’ve spoken before about the last two seasons and how in my mind there was a coast-to-coast number one selection in Berkly Catton and Gavin McKenna. While I obviously spent time really considering if players might surpass them, it ended up never changing in my mind and wasn’t very close to changing.
This year, big 6’3, 198 lbs defenseman Keaton Verhoeff has been our number one player for quite some time. It isn’t the same scenario as in years past though. In the showcase of NAX vs Rink Kelowna, I think Daxon Rudolph (ranked 5th) had the better individual game. If I am even more honest, I thought Joe Iginla played better than both of them. So, all of this to say, I think because of how close a lot of these players are draft day could be interesting because when you throw in regional dynamics, players wanting to play closer to home, and all the rest, I think you might as well throw 10-12 names in a hat and close your eyes.
Each of these players brings a slightly different element. Each of these players has something clearly that could end up holding them back a bit from being a star in the WHL. For some players it is their skating stride, for some it is the details of play without the puck, for some it is their transition passing decisions, and for others it is just how often they choose to become engaged with those high-end flashes that are clearly there. There’s always a bit of something to work on.
Once you get into the mid-first round all the way through to the mid-second is where things get interesting. I’ve often said that I think the value in that spacing might be found in a top-4 projectable defenseman more so than the certainty of a forward but this month I am planning on going through a lot of players one by one and building up our eventual draft profiles for May. There are events like the Alberta Cup at the end of April that really could solidify a draft spot for a player with a top-end performance. Last year, it was that event which sealed the deal for me on how highly I thought about Julien Maze for example.
I plan to put out an in depth article on this later on focusing on the Sask forward grouping but I think it was a bit of an odd event. I don’t think there were any players who dominated and showed they were a cut above the rest. I think some players who has a net positive event were guys like Jake Missura, Cohen Harris, Nigel Boehm, Tyler Hudec, Beckett Hamilton, Mason Fauser, Keaton Lesperance, Boston Schmidt, Carson Deichert, Dryden Deobald, Davey Fisher, and others. I think most of the widely considered top-end grouping of 5-10 players either played to expectations or maybe slightly moved down a list or two. As I’ve said, it is a very close years especially in that mid-first to mid-second round so don’t be discouraged by a bit of movement on lists.
In the end, I was surprised by some of the cuts too. I’ve said all year that I think the depth of the Saskatchewan Dmen are good this year and I think some of the players left off kind of prove that.
Included on this month’s list are some of the top players from the BCEHL and WAAA U15 such as the high-end goal scorer Charles Robinson from the Vancouver NE Chiefs and the wildly creative Carter Kingerski on Winnipeg Wild Red. It is always great to see as many crossover events as possible leading up to the provincial camps because I certainly know my evaluations could be slightly off when comparing league to league. Watching the Canada Games U16 Male hockey events the last couple weeks has certainly made me leery to take more consideration in that. I think one player in the event who really impressed me was how seamlessly Ty Coupland flowed into the Team BC grouping. He moved from the BCEHL last year to the Burnaby Winter Club U18 this year and is having a great season too.
Some players who really jumped out to me in my viewings this month though were
- Avery Watson on the KC Squires and his speed
- Dryden Deobald from the Regina Monarchs and ihs engagement at the Sask Camp
- Mason Fauser from Swift Current and his size/skill combo
- Wyatt Dyck from Winnipeg Wild Red and his two-way intellect
What you can expect at next month’s rankings is honestly probably just a lot of movement. If you pay attention to our rankings across Canada, you’ll notice that our writers have tried to do our best to expand each month in symmetry with one another and push to find confidence in the top-80. At this point, we are leaving it to each writer to kind of expand as they feel comfortable and see fit. I’m not sure what next month’s rankings will look like or even how long the final list will be, but you can expect changes.
I think outside of the top 60-80 it really begins to expand for me. I’ve had folks reach out to me asking for a general area of a player and usually those players are in the big grouping that has yet to be posted. I expected to include a few more AEHL defensemen in this last update too so I’m sure there are things to tweak in the list.
As always, I just wanna remind folks that this is just one list and one perspective. Year after year we see some young men drafted late or not at all exceed expectations and leapfrog many people in front of them. The draft really opens up after the first 3-4 rounds and people have the ability to write their own stories and determine their own futures. So if your name isn’t on this list or you think someone should be higher, that may be the case. I’m just trying my best to give you my honest thoughts from the perspective of someone who watches way too much hockey.
Full ranking can be viewed here.
I hope all is well with you and yours.