Here are our current Top-40 skater rankings for the 2024 WHL Draft. 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 40 or 100 ranking, there has to be a lot of hockey watched in both the regional leagues and the significant crossover events to get a sense of how each individual region stacks up against one another.
If you will, imagine a first photograph where you can see the outline of the scenery. You adjust the focus of your lens for another photo and every time you do, the picture gets a little clearer. I spoke with a few head WHL scouts at the Graham Tuer tournament and it is always a little illuminating how the process of each individual program differs. Some will jump from event to event and really start to touch base with their regional scouts early on while others will commit to one region a little more and try to almost check off the boxes of each league to make sure they’ve seen the significant games before moving onto the rest. For example, a scout has said to me in the past, “Usually around this time I’m making my way around Manitoba U15 to get them covered early.”
From a scouting perspective, you’ll see the clipboards, stack of papers, and the odd computer at the bigger events for sure and as we move into the months of Dec/Jan, the regional camps and Albertan hosted tournaments will be full of scouts.
As for these rankings, the big events which were covered internally were the Graham Teur, Bauer U15 Elite, select games from the Rocky Mountain Classic U15, late spring tournaments, and league play. My hope for December is to continue watching games from the Rocky Mountain and dig a little deeper into the AEHL, JPHL, and finish off the month with Sask camps. There will continue to be games viewed in each respective league as well.
While this list is a Top-40, my list of players I’m keeping tabs on is around 110 currently. As the season rolls along, that’ll expand to around 200 usually and helps to refine the Top-100+.
Battle for First Overall?
If you polled WHL teams last season, you might get four different names for who they believed was the top player in the draft. In years past, the perception of guys like Gavin McKenna, Berkly Catton, and Connor Bedard was pretty clear fairly early on in the process. While I have not really had much conversation with WHL scouts around this topic, I’d be surprised if anyone didn’t have Landon Dupont as the projected number one pick come spring. He currently sits with 20 points in 10 CSSHL U18 games and the next closest teammate has 11 points. Keeping him in the CSSHL next season instead of the WHL might even be a little cruel.
While the second player on the list in Eli McKamey is a very good forward with continued room for growth and projected improvement, the solidification of Dupont at number one for me is really firm right now.
Optimizing the Toolkit
One of the common discussion points I have with others around quite a few of the players listed in the 1st round has to do with them having elite traits to their game to try and optimize whether that be the length and power of their stride, the strength and extension of their shot release, or the potential of their offensive efforts to drive possession. When you look at players who have that potential to be really elite, game-breaking goal scorers especially, you can find the names of players like Kyle Obobaifo, Drayden Uhrina, Brock England, among others who immediately jump off the page.
For example, a player who has continued to explode his potential in the WHL this season is Cayden Lindstrom. In that U17 draft eligible season, he was fourth in team scoring behind three other very talented players. The risk/reward assessment on a player like him is certainly up for discussion and I think there are a few players in this draft who have that higher-end potential despite maybe not having the numbers to back it up currently.
AEHL to CSSHL
While crossover views are certainly nice, I got to watch a significant amount of AEHL U15 hockey last season for the rankings which help since there isn’t a small amount of players who elected to find a CSSHL team for the season. Landon Horiachka and Luke Ruptash stayed in the AEHL while others like Matthew Hilderman, Brock England, and Aden Bouchard found their way to the Edge program. Those previous season views and spring camp views can sure come in handy when trying to decipher through that maze of things. It also shows how Alberta is putting forth quite the strong showing once again.
As the rankings continue to expand towards the Top-60 and beyond, I think the general feel I’d like to communicate for this draft is that there really isn’t a huge drop off in WHL potential even into the 60s and 70s. While making the cut for the Top-20 was tough, the process of cutting a few names for the Top-40 felt even harder because of the strength of the forward group.
The obvious adds to the ranking this month were guys like Eddy Spytz, Ludovic Perreault, Prabh Bhathal, Ben Harvey, and Connor Howe. Each of them deserve to have the microscope on them a little bit for their early season success. In the case of Ludovic and Prabh, they are producing wildly higher rates than their teammates at the U15 level and speaks to their upside. Eddy has been a consistent goal scoring threat and has a one-timer from the left side on the PP that’ll come in handy down the road. Ben has been the playmaking consistency for NAX early on this season and when he has the time and space to do so, moves the puck with effective passing timing.
Once you get outside of that grouping, honestly there are a lot of players and a lot of names. I think the success for the draft for quite a few teams this season will come down to getting a steal or two in the 30-60 range ish. If WHL teams have their first three selections, they should be confident they can find really good players with each of their first three picks due to how far the tier of players expands.
If you take a snapshot at the players on the list in the forward groups, stylistically you find very different players even within the Ossie McIntyre, Cohen Pentney, and Jayden Simpson range. A shifty undersized two-way player, a potential powerful centerman, and a game breaking offensive threat already with size. That is what makes the U15 draft so much fun in my opinion.
Since the tiers of these players are really quite close for me at this point, I do think you can expect movement. I expect movement anyways. Subtle but important habits and traits over the year will hopefully begin to separate the players into more defined tiers as things roll along but overall I think this year has the potential for being the most chaotic yet as far as these ranges. It is easy to see how someone who is 60 on one list is 28th on another.
As always, I do encourage folks to send me messages through twitter if they want to discuss the rankings or if they have a player they are particularly excited about which they feel will emerge. There are still months and months of hockey to watch and quite a few more names to be added to the rankings. Until then, I hope your local rink coffee is decent!
Check out the full 2024 WHL Draft rankings.