I think what I keep coming back to at the start of every season is the phrase, “You gotta start somewhere.” I talk to WHL head scouts about some of their routing and tournaments they get early views on and at this point in the season most are still getting those first 2023-34 looks at a lot of the prospects. At this point, it is less about the detailed notes of a prospect and instead giving them a general assessment of where they could go in the draft. The details will come as the season unfolds.
So, this is where we are at. If you’ve looked at the list and said to yourself, “I can’t believe ______ isn’t on there, trust me I’m with you. I think there were at least another 10 players in which I considered putting in those spots due to strong offensive performances and obvious upside in growth and potential. To name a few, you’ll be seeing players like Connor Howe, Graham Pickering, Ryder Dunn, Ben Harvey, Cohen Lewko, Prabh Bhathal, Ludovic Perreault, Dade Wotherspoon, Jaxon Pisani, Tyson Chrunik, Jayden Simpson, Cooper Bratton, and quite a many more very soon. I think that speaks to not only how deep the top 60-70 is within this draft class but how close a lot of those players are to jumping up the rankings in substantial ways.
I know early rankings can cause all sorts of emotions for folks so if it helps just look at this list with all 20 players getting a start of the year A-grade from me. These are all players who are good players and could potentially go near the top of this draft if everything breaks right. If they rise or fall a bit, it just speaks to the quality of competition throughout. I’m a fan.
This top-20 won’t be the same by the end of the year. It won’t.
But, you gotta start somewhere.
1. Landon Dupont | Defense | Edge U18
The player who would have been my first overall selection in the 2023 WHL Draft had he been eligible comes at no surprise as our top ranked player to begin the year. Landon has ample explosiveness in his first few strides, elite balance and power, and knows how to attack through transition and zone play with strong wrist shots and elite passing in motion. As of writing this, he has 4 goals and 4 assists in 4 U18 games to begin the season.
2. Eli McKamey | Forward | Shawnigan U18
Eli possesses the ability to build power and speed very quickly while also having the strength and whip to fire off catch-and-release shots off feeds in the slot or by carving into space off the wing. With him, you’ll find smart touch passes, bursting into dangerous areas without the puck, and the ability to attack one on one off the rush when the situation calls for it. A well-rounded and powerful player.
3. Jacob Schwartz | Forward | St George’s U15 Prep
This high-IQ player reads and reacts to pressure so well by spinning away from checks, accelerating into space, and loving to find moments to slip into better shot spacing. He’s well-rounded, physical when he needs to, and is part of that first wave of offense on a very talented St George’s roster. The floor is very high for a player like this due to how he continues possession positively.
4. Brock Cripps | Defense | St George’s U15 Prep
The scoring pace of St. George’s is baffling at this point. Brock is a highly intelligent defenseman who plays with the puck control and decision making in flow of a top-end forward. He’s constantly pushing up the ice, turning away from pressure to find outlets, and uses the strength of his teammates to boldly push himself into scoring space. He’s already found himself in some U18 games playing forward and even taking faceoffs.
5. Mirco Dufour | Forward | Edge U15 Prep
One of the most dangerous scorers in prime scoring situations this season has been Mirco Dufour. On a talented Edge roster, Mirco does not have to worry about end to end rushes, being muscled off every puck, or shooting from distance against opponents who have purely zoned in on him. He’s had ample opportunity to shoot from the wing on a strong cycle, to showcase his puck control off breakaways and 2on1s, and make intelligent passes once zone play has established. His puck control and IQ make him a consistently dangerous scoring threat.
6. Blake Chorney | Forward | NAX U15 Prep
With Blake, you have a really terrific blend of dual shot/pass decision making in motion. He certainly leans towards being aggressive by cutting back towards shooting areas and continuing to change the angle of attack off the rush or the cycle. That tenacity to curiously attack and explore new strategies is a pathway that could lead to much success for the Saskatchewan forward.
7. Matthew Hilderman | Forward | Edge U15 Prep
One of the more well-rounded forwards in this draft can stickhandle around you one-on-one, chip and chase to win board battles against you down low, or be effective by tipping pucks and finding space in the slot and net front to create offense. While at times he lets others on the line handle the puck in transition a bit more than him, his game without the puck is getting better as well.
8. Calder Hamilton | Defense | Martensville Marauders U15
You don’t always see 5’7 and 135 lbs defenders this high on initial draft lists but that speaks to how impressive Calder has been in all of my viewings. He’s a crafty defender with outstanding balance and puck handling in motion which leads to him finding seams to cut into offensively and passes to teammates in motion consistently. He’s got the wrist shot power and accuracy, a slick slapshot, and loves open ice hits. Upside galore.
9. Brock England | Forward | Edge U15 Prep
He’s a shoot-first, powerful stride forward who loves to step into releases off the half wall or off the rush. He has the capacity to spin away from pressure, win puck races, and change the course of a game with his power and intensity. He’s playing on a star-studded roster at Edge this season and he’s yet to find that true efficient groove in the young season but all the tools are there.
10. Joaquin Geras | Defense | Edge U15 Prep
At this point, he’s the most explosive and well-rounded two-way defenseman in the CSSHL U15 Prep. He closes gaps, finishes with physicality, understands passing and shooting lanes, and delivers a quick first step and strong wrist shots from the point. He certainly leans towards outlet passing over end-to-end rushes and strong wrist shots in traffic vs one-on-one dangles, but the details and efficiency of his play are tough to ignore.
11. Drayden Uhrina | Forward | Rink Winnipeg U15 Prep
A dynamic and powerful forward with the puck on his stick. His skating stride can burst quickly and protect along the exterior while making fierce pull and drag moves to the extension of his reach in heavy traffic. The combination of his power, control, and quickness of motion make his potential very strong.
12. Kyle Obobaifo | Forward | Burnaby Winter Club U15 Prep
Between the length of his skating stride, quick touch on passes in motion, and his ability to control the puck at his reach, there is a lot of growth potential still left in an already excellent hockey player. BWC has strong puck-moving defenseman and high-possession players so we will get to see how much of that he can unlock this season.
13. Luke Ruptash | Forward | St. Albert Sabres U15
Luke is a strong, two-way forward who can burst up the ice with power in every stride to gain separation off a break or back check with intensity. His strengths come with lateral drag moves in tight and strong wrist shots from the high slot. While not all plays flow through his puck touches, his strength and wrist shot power make for interesting upside.
14. Jacob Dumansky | Forward | Yale U15 Prep
After getting to see Jacob during the spring and the summer, the details of his puck control, strong battle along the boards, and his understanding of how to drift into off-puck shot lanes or give second effort to dig for pucks net front make him an interesting package with size, skill, and intellect. At this point, the biggest thing holding him back from being higher is seeing how much he can build on the speed and explosion of his pacing. High potential player indeed who is coming off a four goal performance.
15. Aden Bouchard | Defense | Edge U15 Prep
An offensive defender who comes alive in transition and on the PP. He has a quick reaction time to shift his balance laterally when he’s a puck carrier and looks for positive outlet passes and spots to step into his strong shot release from the point. If the engagement and anticipation he shows offensively can filter more often situationally into his defensive play, he could be a true gem.
16. Boston Tait | Defense | Estevan Bruins U15
The wild stallion of this draft is off to a terrific start on the season with 11 goals and 5 assists in 6 SAAHL U15 games. At 6’2 and 165lbs, the lanky defender can drag laterally in motion and has the shot whip and power you love to see from an activating defender. Quite often, he leads the puck rush, stays deep in for the cycle, and essentially plays positionless hockey for much of his icetime. That does leave lots of challenges defensively in some spots. The reality though is that not many players are able to slice through the competition and get scoring chances in the high slot like he has been early on. One to watch.
17. Madden Tymchak | Defense | Rink Winnipeg U15 Prep
He’s a two-way defender with what I’d call determined snarl. He loves to be physical in spots and finish hits while defending zone entries along the boards. There is upside there with the length of his stride in his crossovers and how he walks the blueline to get into shot lanes. As far as the defensive class, he is one of the highest with that battle and grit factor. While Rink Winnipeg has matched up well against Delta Green and Rink Kelowna, there are tougher games coming which will be a good test.
18. Alexander Laing | Forward | DHA Green U15 Prep
A high-IQ and soft touch playmaker who thrives in tight goal scoring areas. His subtle finesse in high traffic shows off his ability to read pressure and adapt in stride. He has the wingspan, reaction timing, and puck control to be a consistent threat. Alexander has shown a strong start to the season and a quality Bauer tournament as well. I’ll be looking to see if he can add another layer to the dynamics of his skating stride as the season progresses.
19. Lucasz McIsaac | Defense | St George’s U15 Prep
A two-way defender who plays behind one of the most active defenders in the draft. There have been a number of strong performances from Lucasz which involved his explosive skating stride, detailed decision making and adjustments, and excellent efforts in gap control and stick swipes. Early this season, he’s maintained a good balance in taking risks to pinch and keep the zone or use strong first cuts to force players to attack the zone on the exterior.
20. Kayden Stroeder | Forward | Humboldt Broncos U15
The high-IQ, puck controlled forward can sometimes be lost in the mix since he’s not a big and explosive presence at this moment. Either way, his balance and posture through his turns and crossovers is excellent, and any added power to his performances will only let him thrive offensively in greater amounts. With or without the puck on the attack, Kayden has a nice understanding of spacing and how to use his teammates to find prime scoring opportunities. When he’s found breakaways and rush chances, he’s been lights out.
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