Friday, May 25, 2012

My WHL Player Rankings For The 2012 NHL Draft: Part Three

Here is the final installment of my WHL rankings ahead of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.  Previously I ranked my 16th-30th prospects, 31st-50th, plus honourable mentions and others.  Today's final ranking covers my top 15 players from the WHL.

Included in my rankings is a description of the player, an NHL style comparison, top end NHL potential and a prediction of where they will be picked in the draft.  The pick prediction isn't necessarily where I would rank them, merely a guess as to how NHL teams might value them.  As for the NHL player comparisons, they are merely used to give the reader an understanding of how the player looks on the ice.  They are in no way meant to say that I expect the WHL player to have an NHL career similar to their comparable.  As mentioned in past blogs, I have seen each of these players atleast 2-3 times this season, with most of them having 5+ viewings.  Some of these players I have seen as many as 150 times live over the past 2+ seasons.

Here's my top 15 and thanks for reading.

#1 - Ryan Murray - Everett Silvertips - LD - 

Murray is a smooth-skating, two way defenceman with leadership capabilities.  He is a well above average defender, he blocks shots, plays in all three zones and can also quarterback a powerplay. He's got a strong work ethic, is an excellent passer and is also considered by many (including myself) to be the most pro-ready defenceman in the draft.  He has been my top ranked player since the early stages of the 2010-2011 season and I see no reason for him to be dethroned at this point.  He got great experience playing for Canada at this year's World Juniors as well as being a part of Team Canada for the 2012 World Championships, despite limited ice time in both events. I fully expect him to be in the NHL next season, regardless of what team drafts him. The only way he doesn't end up there would be if the NHL starts the year in a lockout.

NHL Style Comparable: Scott Niedermayer

Top End Potential: #1 Defenceman, PP Quarterback, 2nd Unit PK

Pick Prediction:  Top 3

#2 - Griffin Reinhart - Edmonton Oil Kings - LD - 

Reinhart is a big, two way defender, standing at 6'4.  He has the ability to defend with size and reach. Physicality continues to be an area to work on, but he made good strides in that area of his game late this season, in the WHL playoffs and so far in the Memorial Cup. His offensive skills and skating has improved all season.  He moves the puck well, reads the play well, can adapt against a forecheck and has an underrated slapshot. Had some questions coming into this season after a serious wrist injury late last year, but has eliminated those questions throughout the season, in my opinion. Biggest knock for me right now is the lack of 'mean' in his game, but even that has improved.  I think he'll get picked in the 8-10 range, but I would slot him just a bit higher than that, personally.

NHL Style Comparable: Eric Brewer or Braydon Coburn

Top End Potential: #2 Defenceman, 2nd Unit PP, 1st Unit PK

Pick Prediction:  8-10th Overall

#3 - Morgan Rielly - Moose Jaw Warriors - LD - 

Rielly is a solid puck moving defenceman who was showing great growth defensively before suffering a serious knee injury in early November. Came back from injury without missing much of a step.  Skates very well, is a great passer and reads the play well above average compared to his peers, excellent hockey sense.  Likes to join the rush and has shown a steady growth in defensive play, despite missing almost all season with his serious injury.  Doesn't have the hardest shot, but he knows how to use it effectively.  Will turn heads at an NHL training camp and is a good candidate to make the jump to the NHL after one more year of junior. Likely a top 12 choice, but I would rank him higher than that, personally speaking.

NHL Style Comparable:  Duncan Keith

Top End Potential: #2 Defenceman, PP Quarterback

Pick Prediction: 10-12th Overall

#4 - Mathew Dumba - Red Deer Rebels - RD -  

Dumba is a raw and explosive defenceman who is very dynamic with the puck. Likes to rush the puck and even saw him on the wing briefly this season for Red Deer, without looking out of place.  Has an excellent shot, with arguably the best release of any defender in the draft.  Gambles on big hits from time to time and isn't the greatest overall defender, but it's an area that has shown significant growth in the last 18 months despite me having concerns on his hockey sense.  Has leadership abilities and is a guy that might have the most overall potential of any WHL player in the draft.  Had an excellent Under-18 tournament for Canada, leading the event in scoring as a defenceman.  He was also the captain for Canada at the event.   A very likely top 8 pick, but I would have him rated in the 9-12 range overall.  

NHL Style Comparable:  PK Subban

Top End Potential:  #2 Defenceman, PP Quarterback

Pick Prediction:  6-8th Overall

#5 - Colton Sissons - Kelowna Rockets - RW - 

Sissons is the captain of the Rockets and plays in the mold of a power forward.  He works as hard as anyone on the ice and is often the first guy in on the forecheck and the first guy on the backcheck. Has good hands around the net, being able to finish or find teammates.  Footspeed will be the thing he needs to work on most to become a player at the next level.  Is underrated in terms of how NHL ready he actually is.  Could make a big name for himself at a pro camp and stick around longer than expected, if there is no NHL lockout.  Is ranked ahead of Pouliot because I think he's a much safer bet to one day be an NHL pro.  Compares very similarly to a guy like Andrew Ladd, the captain in Winnipeg.

NHL Style Comparable:  A right handed Andrew Ladd

Top End Potential: 2nd Line Forward

Pick Prediction:  25-30th Overall

#6 - Derrick Pouliot - Portland Winterhawks - LD - 

Pouliot is a very good skating offensive defenceman. He is an elite passer with great hands and the ability to finish on the rush. Had a good postseason for the Winterhawks, but his ability to defend is still a concern going forward. I think that he has arguably the highest offensive potential of any WHL blueliner in the draft, but is also a bigger risk to make it as a full-time NHL player because of his size, strength and play away from the puck. With that being said, he's not afraid to play physical in the corners and in front of the net, so that's a good sign in regards to his defensive growth.  He could be considered a boom or bust player by some people.

NHL Style Comparable:  Brian Campbell

Top End Potential: #3 Defenceman, PP Quarterback

Pick Prediction:  18-25th Overall

#7 - Dalton Thrower - Saskatoon Blades - RD - 

Thrower is a hard-nosed, hard-hitting blueliner.  Owns a rocket of a slapshot and grew leaps and bounds defensively this year, showing huge growth in his decision making with and without the puck. Was forced to play a ton of minutes late in the season and proved that he can be a #1 defenceman when the Blades lost key defenceman to injury. He leads by example and will fight any challenger, also excelling as an agitator. A likely top 45 selection in the draft, but could go as high as the late 20's.

NHL Style Comparable:  Kevin Bieksa/Kris Letang hybrid

Top End Potential: #3 Defenceman, 2nd Unit PK, 2nd Unit PP

Pick Prediction: 25-40th Overall

#8 - Coda Gordon - Swift Current Broncos - LW - 

Gordon is a goal scorer, through and through, scoring 30 goals as a rookie for a bad Broncos club.  Owns a good frame, but is not nearly as physical as he could be. Still goes to the dirty areas of the ice and has very good finishing ability. Footspeed needs to improve as his stride is somewhat awkward and clunky, but with work it won't hold him back at the next level.  Oozes hockey sense and is very good positionally.  Can still use development in regards to playing in his own zone, but that's a common knock on someone coming off his first year in the CHL.  I like him as a top 45 pick, but I doubt he goes that high.

NHL Style Comparable:  Matt Moulson

Top End Potential: Top 6 Winger

Pick Prediction:  Late 2nd, early 3rd round

#9 - Damon Severson - Kelowna Rockets - RD - 

Severson is a big, fairly mobile two-way defenceman for the Rockets.  Owns a hard slapshot and can play on the powerplay and the penalty kill.  He looked very good for Canada at the recent Under-18 tournament, playing in a number of different situations. He's a right handed shot, which is another asset that is sought after in the draft. He has solid physical tools and projects well as a top 4 defender.  Could come off the board higher than some people expect.

NHL Style Comparable:  Brent Seabrook

Top End Potential:  Top 4 Defenceman

Pick Prediction:  40-60th Overall

#10 - Tim Bozon - Kamloops Blazers - LW - 

Bozon is a slick, offensive forward for the Blazers. He registered a point per game in his first WHL season, including scoring 36 goals, a number that led all first year WHLers.  He's a very good skater with good acceleration and the ability to beat defenders 1 on 1.  Might have the most offensive potential of any WHL player in the draft, but he also plays with some grit to his game and has the ability to play the agitator's role.  Speaks 4 different languages and is the son of longtime French NHL and Olympic hockey player Phillipe Bozon.

NHL Style Comparable:  Marian Gaborik

Top End Potential:  Top 9 Winger

Pick Prediction:  45-70th Overall

#11 - Brett Kulak - Vancouver Giants - LD - 

Kulak is a solid, but somewhat unspectacular defender for the Giants.  He's got good size and is a solid skater, but he isn't overly physical. He moves the puck well, plays with his head up and has great poise with the puck.  He defends by using his body positioning and stick very effectively, but could definitely bring more mean into his game.  He won't jump off the page at you in anything he does, but he rarely is caught out of position or makes mistakes with the puck.  Projects to be a 4th round selection, although I would have him rated slightly higher than that.

NHL Style Comparable:  Marc-Edouard Vlasic

Top End Potential: Top 4 Defenceman

Pick Prediction: 4th Round

#12 - Mike Winther - Prince Albert Raiders - LC - 

Winther is a speedy forward for the Raiders, who also has a great release and plays with some grit.  Isn't afraid to hit, battle in the corners and even drop the mitts if needed.  Shows flashes of inconsistency and needs to work on his strength, but when he's on he's a heck of a player who can do many things well.  Might transition better as a winger going forward into the pro game.  Along with his skating, his shot might be his next best attribute, being able to score off the rush with it.  Came on very strong in the second half of the WHL season and might even be picked in the late 1st round.

NHL Style Comparable:  Antoine Vermette

Top End Potential: Top 9 Forward

Pick Prediction: 50-80th Overall

#13 - Troy Bourke - Prince George Cougars - LW - 

Bourke is a slightly undersized, offensive forward for the Cougars.  Possesses good hockey sense, a good shot, above-average skating ability and a solid amount of grit in his game.  Had a strong showing for Canada at the recent Under-18's, ultimately moving him a couple spots up in my rankings because of his increased versatility at the event.  Can play the powerplay and the penalty kill and has a good motor. Might not have the highest potential, but he's well suited to one day make an NHL roster.

NHL Style Comparable:  Zach Parise

Top End Potential: Top 9 Winger

Pick Prediction: 75-100th Overall

#14 - Lukas Sutter - Saskatoon Blades - LC - 

Sutter grew his game this year, showing he has more offence than originally thought. Played the role as shutdown center, while still putting up 59 points. On offence, he showed improved footspeed and overall quickness, while also looking much more comfortable handling the puck this season.  Scored many of his goals by using a quick release from within 12 feet of the net.  He's physical and can play an agitators role, although he could be more consistent in that area of his game.  Might not have the highest upside, but is one of the safer bets to one day be an NHL player.  Son of longtime NHL player Rich Sutter.

NHL Style Comparable:  Steve Ott

Top End Potential: Top 9 C

Pick Prediction: 3rd Round

#15 - Henrik Samuelsson - Edmonton Oil Kings - RC - 

 Samuelsson is a big-bodied forward who joined the Oil Kings in the last half of the season. An impressive size and skill combination as he showed the ability to produce offensively throughout the year. Plays angry and often crosses the line in regards to dangerous hits, filling the role of a true agitator.  Skating needs to improve in order for him to be counted on as an offensive player at the next level, but it doesn't hold him back in junior.  He protects the puck well and has good vision and could be a legit point per game player before his junior career is over.  Could go much higher than I have him rated. I like him as a 3rd round pick, but could go as high as top 45.  Son of former NHL player Ulf Samuelsson.

NHL Style Comparable:  David Clarkson

Top End Potential: Top 9 Forward

Pick Prediction: 40-60th Overall

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