WHL Bantam Draft: December Top 22 – #10 to #6

Welcome back!

We hope you made the most of the holidays given the circumstances and this post finds you well-fed but craving more hockey content thanks to the World Juniors. Today we take a look at numbers ten through six and prepare you for our top-five ranked players in this very difficult season.

 

10. Tristen Doyle - Northern Alberta Xtreme U15 Prep

Ash says: "One the premier defenseman in the class, Doyle is a fluid defender who is very active in all three zones. Always moving, Doyle is a constant around the puck and has a huge involvement in just about every NAX do. What I'd call a read and react player, Doyle isn't necessarily the architect of many plays but he excels at working to and executing in space, better than any other defenseman in the class. Doyle is a very fluid mover across the ice, he's got good separation speed and good lateral ability, both with a sense of vigor. He has a very clear method to his game where he doesn't hesitate in his movements and makes very purposeful quick decisions. Doyle thrives at creating space around the blueline and half-wall areas offensively, constantly keeping his skates churning trying to find clean passing seams or good shooting lanes. Doyle doesn't necessarily sit behind the play like a traditional defenseman, rather he is always chasing the puck through the neutral zone and often acts like an F2 when entering the zone. He isn't afraid to go hard into the corners forechecking in hope of creating separation and is very prominent at applying pressure on the forecheck. His tendency to float can cause some issues as he can be prone to getting caught up ice a bit too often and leaves space behind him, this is something that I'd like to see smoothed out of his game; more recognition in timing his movement."

 

 

 

 

"Defensively Doyle isn't a horse one-on-one by any means, but he uses his skating and angles to maintain good gaps and is very methodical and determined in closing the space down. He is a good stick defender and makes most of his 5'8" frame the best he can to jam attackers to the boards. Positionally in the defensive zone, Doyle doesn't usually stop moving, always sourcing the puck and hounding the puck carrier, Doyle displays a relentless thirst to disrupt as much play as he can but also seeks to be an opportunist. "

 

"As he matures physically, I think he's going to get more explosive in most areas of his game. His shot will garner more weight, he'll be able to initiate contact with confidence and I'd like to think his skating has another gear to reach. Overall Doyle is a very well-rounded defenseman who is agile, reads the play extremely well, and gives you 100-percent playing in all situations."

 

9. Tomas Mrsic - Burnaby Winter Club U15 Prep

Zach says: "High-end playmaker with an excellent ability to read the play. Heads up player unafraid to make difficult backhand passes in traffic or thread the needle through the royal road for a one-timer attempt. Tomas possesses great puck skills whether in the faceoff circle, stickhandling, distributing, receiving bad passes, or deceiving defenders to create more space for himself. His skating is adequate but he does a fantastic job of creating space for himself with his feet and evading checks."

"Something he also does quite well is making himself available to teammates for passes or to jump on loose pucks. He almost always has two hands on his stick and is in the ready position to capitalize quickly should he receive the puck. Here he presents ready with two hands on his stick to receive a pass on his backhand which allows him to quickly bring his stick back into the pocket and receive the late pass on his forehand which he handles and keeps out of reach from the defender before getting off a good shot."

On this play, he supports the puck carrier and makes the most of the loose puck, displaying his ability to finish when given the opportunity."

"Though he reads the play really well, he tends to play a very passive game off the puck which can lead to him losing assignments like here with Gavin Garland. A player that reads the game like this and finds space well needs to do a better job of taking away a stick or eliminating his man from the play as he easily anticipates where the puck is going. This comes down to decision making and with experience, he should be able to better decipher when to focus on eliminating a man and when to fill space and be ready for the puck."

"An encouraging sign is immediately off of the subsequent faceoff, his frustration is channeled as he gives this effort and dishes one of his very few but effective bodychecks, although a tad late, on the goal scorer Garland. Adding some assertiveness and urgency to his play off of the puck would afford him more opportunities for takeaways and thus more opportunities for him to maximize his puck possession style of play."

"Overall, a very promising playmaking forward that may be better suited for the wing at the next level if he prefers the perimeter play, however, he is smart enough to play center. Should he add some urgency to his defensive play and an increased willingness to play in the dirty areas he will be able to make the most of his intelligence and anticipation. Either way, he poses to be an offensive threat at the next level, especially on the powerplay."

8. Reid Varkonyi - Northern Alberta Xtreme U15 Prep

Ash says: "Arguably the most polished forward in the class, Varkonyi has seen tremendous growth this season. Varkonyi is a quintessential centre, I believe at both Bantam and higher levels. The most obvious thing about Varkonyi is his effortless skating stride, compete level, soft hands, and all-around skill set. Varkonyi's positioning is excellent in all three zones, he doesn't necessarily drive play in transition but he's often the first outlet on the defensive zone, and his ability to join the rush as an F2 or F3 and find space to create in is spectacular. Varkonyi defensively is very strong around the slot and crease areas and offers great pursuit when the opposing team is in the cycle. He's physical and does a great job of initiating contact around the net, he's a guy that can be relied upon to negate a net-front presence and get below the goal-line to disrupt play. He's relentless on both the forecheck and backcheck and is a great disrupter in the neutral zone, laying hits in order to create puck separation."

"When on the puck Varkonyi is a freight train. His speed and ability to change angles blended with his physicality and puck discipline make him a nightmare to contain. Varkonyi excels in offensive zone puck retention, this is most evident when he's running the cycle. His ability to shield the puck and battle through checks allows him to skate into areas that will allow him to create in. Within that space, he's just as lethal shooting or passing, pick your poison. Reid has a heavy shot and has a propensity to muscle his way into the slot areas before releasing it. Soft hands on top of vision make for an arsenal of playmaking opportunities. Varkonyi can thread laser-like cross-ice passes, subtle little drop-offs to trailing attackers and the ability to find gaps in coverages when working below the goal-line are outstanding. He's also great on faceoffs and is just as creative in forcing offense off of them."

 

 

 

 

"Varkonyi is a complete player with a mature style to his craft and physical edge to match. As he matures he's going to become a more capable scorer and his defense will only continue to improve."

 

7. Tyson Buczkowski - Saskatoon Outlaws AA

Layne says: "The first thing you notice about Buczkowski is his skating. He's a fluid skater with a strong stride north/south and is also good on his edges. He comes from good bloodlines as his father played pro as well as in the WHL. Tyson is a smart player that is engaged in the play in all zones. He has a blistering shot that is very accurate as his previous 30-goal campaign might let on. Solid first pass and makes smart outlets. A future powerplay quarterback on a WHL powerplay that should have no problem playing on the top defensive unit as well. At this point, he is an offensive defenceman but continues to show strides of improvement in his defensive game. Comparable to a Josh Morrissey type player."

We have yet to find video of the Outlaws this season. :(

 

6. Clarke Caswell - Rink Hockey Academy Kelowna U15 Prep

Kaden says: "Caswell is a high-end offensive threat with a tremendous skill set. He has very-good IQ that shines in the offensive zone. He utilizes his brain for the game to set up teammates and get in prime spots to score goals. Once in these spots, Caswell uses a quick accurate release to snap pucks by goalies."

 

 

"Clarke is a very good four-way skater with very good north/south speed and agile lateral ability. He has good separation speed but can he can bring it up a couple of levels to make him a more explosive skater. Caswell is a competitor, he battles and works hard and loves the puck on his stick. Clarke’s defensive game isn’t the strongest part of his game but he’s got a good stick which he uses to break up plays and he backchecks hard to retrieve. Caswell's mind is geared towards offense as that's where he excels and leans towards. Caswell lacks a physical element to his game but he doesn’t avoid it, he’s a battler and invites the physical aspect of the game, a great sign to come once he starts to hit some growth spurts. Caswell's game is smart, skilled, and full of offensive flair. He’s got a battle level and a brain that makes him a threat on the ice."

 

Thanks For Your Viewership!

Come back on Friday when we provide you with the first shock of 2021. At least one of our top-five is sure to surprise you. Until then, stay safe and Happy New Year!


Our Plans & Recruitment

Hello everyone,

The pandemic has obviously spoiled many plans and organizations continue to roll with the punches as the second wave hits. No one knows what this season will look like or if it will be played to completion. The pandemic has also spoiled our plans for this season. With that being said, I wanted to take an opportunity to address the state of minor hockey and DUBNetwork Scouting.

Hockey leagues and associations have started in a wide range of capacities, from small groups for skills development and practice to scrimmages to league play. Many of the top WHL Draft Eligible players are currently playing their seasons, however, many of these players have been forced to live closer to home and/or switch teams. Many guidelines result in scouts not being allowed in the building.

At DN Scouting, our plan was to roll out in 2021 with a paid subscription model with a large team of scouts and a ton of compiled reports and data on the next generation of WHLers. We have decided to remain a free resource for fans, families, players, and teams for this season and reevaluate in the summer. Our priority is to shed a light on these players and provide a unique resource for all the stakeholders of the WHL first and foremost. When we reach a critical mass of content and scouts we will have to shift to an affordable paid subscription service to cover the costs associated with running a platform like this one.

During the summer, there was a technical failure with our email hosting which led to many correspondences never reaching us and ultimately hurting us. We have shifted to a new email address that we encourage you to use to contact us moving forward. DNScouting@gmail.com. We apologize for the issues in communication this has caused and if you haven't heard back from us this is likely the reason why. Please reach out again!

If you are interested in joining our team and pursuing your passion for scouting and evaluation, please contact the email or fill our "Join Us" form which will send your information directly to our new inbox. Our team looks to learn from one another and share resources that will help us take our reports to the next level and provide value for all stakeholders.

We look forward to seeing one another in the rinks again one day. Until then, we hope to connect you to the rinks and players eligible for the 2021 WHL Draft.


Future Watch: 2021 Draft Eligibles (Part Six)

This week, we sneak a peek at a couple of strong goaltending prospects playing in the Okanagan as well as two more skaters in the CSSHL.

Evan Gardner, Goaltender, Pursuit of Excellence Bantam Prep

"Evan is the type of tender that makes the position look easier than it is. Evan is a calm and technical goalie with very-good footwork. His footwork allows him to navigate his crease with ease and efficiency. Evans pushes from the bottom of his post to the top of his crease quickly, allowing him to close the gap and get square to shooters keeping him in a good position to cut down the angle and make the save. His footwork combined with his vision and focus allows him to track the play very well. Evan doesn’t typically make desperation saves often as he relies on his fundamentals and positioning, but the odd time he needs to make one he keeps his body upright and combines that with his strong lateral movement to make a big save and stay in the play for secondary opportunities. His rebound control is good directing pucks into corners or low-quality areas on the ice. His body is like a sponge as he absorbs pucks from all areas of the ice without giving up bad rebounds. Hugging his posts tightly and uses his legs to cover the bottom of the net are strengths of his game as he takes away the bottom of the net. Evan would benefit from making himself bigger in the net as at times he has a tendency to shrink down and become too compact, leaving open net for shooters up top. His puck skills are attractive as he loves to play the puck coming out of his net, often to help give his team an advantage and quick transition. Overall, Evan's calm technical game combined with his mental fortitude and high-level footwork make him a reliable goalie with an opportunity to be selected in the 2021 WHL Bantam Draft." - Kaden Moore

Jesse Sanche, Goaltender, Pursuit of Excellence Bantam Prep

"Jesse is an athletic and flexible goalie with a high compete level. Jesse tracks pucks well battling through bodies to pick pucks up through traffic. Jesse's footwork is good and will continue to improve as he works on technique. He hugs his posts adequately, though at times loses his post. He gets square to shooters quickly and stays in a good position to take away the shooter's options. His rebound control is strong as he directs pucks into corners and unthreatening spots with relative ease. He doesn’t always absorb pucks as sometimes they drop in front of him, but he controls the puck quickly with his reflexes and athleticism to prevent any second chances. Jesse has a fairly active stick blocking centring passes as well as utilizing his poke check effectively when able. His puck skills are effective and allow him to help his defence corps when he leaves the net to settle dump ins. Jesse could work on his lateral movement to make it more fluid and efficient which would allow him to get across his crease and into position quicker for cross-seam passes or odd-man rushes. Jesse has a raw athletic game that allows him to make saves he shouldn't and keep his team in games. Once Jesse taps into all the potential and refines the technical and fundamental side of his position, he could become a very reliable puck stopper who can take on a big workload at the next level." - Kaden Moore

Nate Crema, Forward, Burnaby Winter Club Bantam Varsity

"A scoring machine for a smallish Burnaby Winter Club Bantam Varsity Team, Nate Crema is one of the more dynamic and exciting players in each game!  Always in the mix of the action at both ends of the ice, Nate shows his skills as an all-around center who isn't afraid of bigger players or the physical play as he is capable of giving and receiving punishment equally well. Even as an undersized center, Nate is a deceptively fast and fundamentally sound skater with good balance and stop/start. Even though Nate gets pushed around the occasion, he protects the puck well and more times than not will outrace any opponent to the loose puck. His strong hockey intelligence allows him to not only see the ice well but to anticipate the play and capitalize on it. On the ice, he never deters from his full-throttle approach to being a better teammate by way of hustle, determination, and understanding of the game. Nate just wants to help his team win, and he plays the game the right way - hard, fast, and fair!

One of Nate's best traits is his willingness to compete for every second of every shift as he never seems to give up!  In his last game of the season in the Championship Game of the Bantam Varsity Division against West Van - Nate scored two goals - the first for his team with a few seconds left in the second period, and with 12 seconds left in the game and the benefit of an extra attacker, Nate used some shifty skating and slick stick work to score his second goal through dense traffic in front of the net!  Nate still thought his team not could, but would score to send the game to OT - that's will, attitude, compete, and determination!" - Phil Dietz

Matthew Lahey, Defenceman, Pacific Coast Bantam Prep

"In his first season with the Pacific Coast Academy Bantam Prep team, Matthew Lahey excelled at both ends of the ice. Lahey became an important player for the Sea Devils and earned the trust of the coaching staff as he was relied upon in all situations. A minute-munching, two-way defenseman, Lahey is extremely versatile, playing on the first unit for both powerplay and penalty kill as well as logging big minutes at even strength. While Lahey is not a prototypical powerplay quarterback, he does utilize great offensive instincts to find ways to sneak down behind coverage and set himself up to receive one-timers. Lahey drives the net whenever it is safe and can finish chances off, even when they are in mid-air where his hand-eye coordination takes over. Lahey also is very smart when taking shots as he can shoot low for rebound chances and find open corners on goalies. Lahey’s skating ability is extremely smooth with great footwork going backwards and forwards. While he does not blow you away with explosive top-end speed, he is able to get where he needs to go without struggling to do so. A good puck handler, he can keep possession regardless of the direction he is going. In his own zone, Lahey is very calm under pressure and deal with opponent forechecks with great poise. After he avoids the pressure, he has the ability to make fluid transitions up ice and makes a great first pass to initiate rushes. Lahey projects as a smart, reliable two-way defenseman that can log tons of minutes and be trusted in any situation, which coaches love." - Adam Goodwin


Future Watch: 2021 Draft Eligibles (Part Five)

We apologize for being a day late for our most recent Future Watch piece. Our fifth week of the Future Watch series highlights a few more of West Vancouver's Bantam Varsity squad and another first-year standout from the Pacific Coast Hockey Academy in the Bantam Prep league. We have even included a goaltender as we gear up for our goalie edition later in July!

William McIsaac, Defenceman, West Vancouver Bantam Varsity

"William McIsaac plays an impressive complete game. He sports very good size and mobility with speed.  William likes to lead and/or join the offensive rush, but his instincts as a defenceman are solid which keeps him largely reliable. Vision is a key to William's game as he is almost always aware of where the puck is, his linemates are, and the opposition in all game situations. One of his other assets is his consistency each and every shift, which helps to make his teammates better. Not afraid to use his body to physically punish an opponent along the walls, in the corners, or in open ice - William makes his presence known from the opening face-off to the final horn as he plays each game with competitive fire! William played a fantastic game in the CSSHLBVL Championship game against BWC and while the Warriors were shorthanded on a 5-minute major, William made three tremendous defensive plays in a row to keep the puck out of his own zone. During that penalty kill, he was consistently sacrificing his body to and use up valuable time. His skating ability was apparent, using slick edgework and quick acceleration to antagonize and disrupt the opponent's rush. After watching several of William's games during the season I was sold on his 200-foot game, his ability to play both ways on even strength, with the man advantage, or short-handed equally well. There is no denying William's offensive impact either, as during one game in December he scored seven points (3 G,4 A) from the blueline. The way William competes during each game will likely make him a highly sought after pick in the 2021 WHL Draft as he continues to develop his game." - Phil Dietz

Cameron Sytsma, Defenceman, West Vancouver Bantam Varsity

"When watching the West Van Warriors Bantam Varsity this season it was clearly apparent their defence corps was a driver of their team's play. A huge part of that defensive success was due to the "clamp-down" coverage of big and mobile defenceman Cameron Sytsma. Cameron plays a grinding physical game that allows him to pick and choose his spots to throw a wrench into the best-laid plans of his opponents, dogging fleet-footed and puck-wizard forwards into uncharacteristic mistakes with his deft moves and brutal force. Cameron has steady balance and frustrates opponents by giving them little space or lanes to the net. The mentality which Cameron plays with enables him to exert his force and punish the opposition even if it results in a few trips to the penalty box. As the second-leading player on his team with 66 penalty minutes, Cameron is well known in the league and uses his reputation effectively to dissuade the opposition from taking liberties with some of his smaller teammates. That being said - even though Cameron uses his defensive skills to keep the opposition off the scoreboard, he features deceptive speed and a heavy shot that has him contributing offensively. Another asset Cameron provides, especially on the power play, is his sharp passing and ability to walk the line with his head up and eyes focused on where his teammates are and creating the opportunity for a quick seam pass or deflection in front of the net. Overall, Cameron uses his physical abilities with wisdom, his skating to separate himself from heavy checks, and his hockey sense allowing him to identify where he can make the most important play in any zone for the benefit of his team going either way. Another year of solid development will have his name called during the 2021 WHL Draft." - Phil Dietz

Jesse Heslop, Forward, Pacific Coast Bantam Prep

"Playing for the Pacific Coast Hockey Academy Sea Devils Bantam Prep Team, Jesse Heslop put together a great first season in CSSHL where he was fourth in team scoring. Heslop finished with just over a point per game with 8 goals and 23 assists for 31 points in 27 games. These numbers are fitting for Heslop as he is a pass-first offensive threat. His most developed asset at present is his ability to create chances for his teammates in a variety of ways. Whether it is on the rush, on the powerplay, or off of the cycle, Heslop is able to consistently find his open teammates for chances which shows his great vision, awareness and hockey intelligence. Heslop is a smart playmaker in his own zone as he can make his team’s breakouts more efficient. Heslop’s offensive game is helped by his great skating ability despite not being as physically developed as other players in the league. Able to hit top speed relatively quickly and able to maintain control of the puck all while keeping his head on a swivel to find the open man. His skating and explosiveness should develop well as he physically matures, and he will certainly benefit greatly from that. When Jesse does not find a pass, he does possess a quick and hard release that surprises goalies which is something he should look to utilize more often to become a more unpredictable threat in the offensive zone. Heslop’s numbers are quite impressive despite his current slight physical frame. Standing at only 5’3” and 113 pounds, Jesse has a lot of physical development to go through in order to make a bigger impact at both ends of the ice. As he develops, Heslop will need to become confident in adding some physical engagement to his game as he rarely takes the body against his opponents. Heslop will fit nicely into any lineup as he can play both wings in addition to filling in the center-ice position when needed." - Adam Goodwin

Brayden Burrows, Goalie, West Vancouver Bantam Varsity

"The West Vancouver Bantam Varsity Warriors had another promising goaltender in their stable who, even though small, plays as big as most of his peers when he's between the pipes. Many may look past Brayden Burrows due to his size at present, but he'll impress you with his athletic ability, work ethic, and focus that allows him to play much larger than his body. Last season, Brayden played 12 games in net for the juggernaut Warriors and lost only once in a 7-5 shootout, giving up 6 goals on 34 shots against the Burnaby Winter Club team that was chasing them for the lead in the league standings all year. That being said, however, Brayden continued working diligently on his game and improved greatly to flatten out his goals against for the rest of the season to finish with 2.44 GAA and .901 SV% during the regular season. As Brayden prepared for the playoffs, he played in three games and won all 3 with a 1.33 GAA and .943 SV%. With West Van playing Burnaby Winter Club again in the Championship Game of the CSSHL Bantam Varsity Division, Brayden stepped up his game especially in the final 7 minutes of the first frame when his Warriors team was shorthanded for almost seven consecutive minutes due to a five-minute major and two-minute minor penalties on back-to-back shifts! On several BWC rushes and high percentage shots during that time, Brayden kept his team in the game by making numerous highlight-reel saves with his glove and stick, stopping everything in sight! The second period started with West Van still on the penalty kill for a half minute and Brayden made one last save before the penalty expired, enabling his team to score right after for a 1-0 advantage. Two more West Van goals during the 2nd Period provided Brayden with a 3-0 lead before BWC struck for their first goal right before the period ended as he battled 32 of the 34 shots he faced in the game. Brayden Faced a scrambling BWC assault with another 12 shots in the 3rd Period, but stood on his head for the game and helped preserve a 4-3 victory and the Championship! With another year of growth and improvement in his skills, Brayden will look to build on a strong season and prove to teams that size isn't everything." - Adam Goodwin

 

See you next week!


Future Watch: 2021 Draft Eligibles (Part Four)

Week four of our future watch series brings you twins, Basil, twins! Jaxsin and Corbin Vaughan played big minutes for a surprising Pursuit of Excellence Bantam Prep team that won games over the top competition, despite a roster made up almost entirely of 2006-born players. We take a look at one of Pacific Coast's best draft-eligible players this year and talk about another couple of Bantam Varsity standouts who will also be looking to make a big splash in the Bantam Prep division.

Corbin Vaughan, Defenceman, Pursuit of Excellence Bantam Prep

"A strong, reliable two-way defenceman. Corbin has a strong understanding of how to use his body to eliminate opponents, protect the puck and create space for his teammates. A decent skater with better four-way mobility than his twin brother. Corbin is utilized in all situations from a shutdown role on the penalty kill to a facilitator on the powerplay. His puck skills are average in that he is good in some areas like carrying the puck around guys for a zone entry on occasion and protects the puck well, but does not hold a diversified arsenal of shots. Decent gap control and uses his reach and stick effectively at times. His decision making is rather conservative which shows his understanding of risk mitigation when it comes to moving the puck or picking his spot for a big hit. Overall, Corbin has the potential to do more from the backend especially in terms of engagement and activation. Corbin has the potential to be a more threatening and dynamic defenceman in transition with further development of his puck skills and skating. He shows flashes when handling the puck and has jumped in the play effectively at times. Should he develop his puck skills, including a threatening shot from the point and first pass, and find another gear, he will be one of the most effective all-around defencemen in the Bantam Prep league next season." - Zach Moffat

Jaxsin Vaughan, Center, Pursuit of Excellence Bantam Prep

"Built like a bull. Jaxsin plays a simple and reliable two-way style utilizing his spatial awareness. Physical in that he will occasionally land a big hit or eliminate a defenceman on the forecheck but also in that he is willing to play through the opposition creating space for his linemates. Willing to play the tough minutes and sacrifice for his team. Over the course of the season, Jaxsin developed his puck skills at speed and showed increased confidence with the puck against older, top-level competition. He drives his lanes and finds the soft spots around the net to capitalize on rebounds or provide a passing option for a linemate. He won't razzle-dazzle you, but he is capable of producing offensively and plays a style that makes him effective even when he's not contributing offensively. His size may have held back his foot speed this past season, should he become more explosive and find another gear for his top speed he will be a very difficult player to handle in this year's Bantam Prep division." - Zach Moffat

Ollie Josephson, Forward, Pacific Coast Hockey Academy Bantam Prep

"As a 13-year-old playing for the Pacific Coast Academy Bantam Prep team, Ollie Josephson showed promise of being a solid and reliable two-way forward. Second on his team in scoring behind only 2005-born Ty Halaburda (2020 2nd round pick, #32 overall by Vancouver Giants), Ollie averaged well over a point per game (1.28) and has a natural ability to play both ends of the ice at a high level. Ollie is a strong skater with quick first step acceleration which allows him to receive passes at top speed for dangerous up ice rushes. To go along with his great footspeed, Ollie is very agile and able to work his edges to leave opponents stumbling in pursuit. In the offensive zone, Ollie is more of a chance creator (27 assists in 29 games) both at even strength and on the powerplay, as he is able to set up teammates in prime scoring positions. Josephson is also gifted with smooth hands and a fantastic stickhandling ability which allows him to maneuver around opponents and keep possession. In addition to his offensive abilities, Ollie is very engaged and committed to playing a full 200-foot game. In his own zone, he shows great awareness, keeping his head on a swivel, with his eyes on both the puck carrier and potential scoring threats around him which allows him to anticipate and disrupt opponent zone time. This is in part due to his high-level compete in all areas of the ice whether it’s going to the net to score, taking a hit to make the safe play or his all-around engagement in the game. At 5’6 and 125 pounds, Ollie will certainly benefit from his physical maturation in the coming years and should allow him to take his game to the next level as the level of competition increases." - Adam Goodwin

Gabriel Guilbault, Defenceman, Burnaby Winter Club Bantam Varsity

"On the talented Burnaby Winter Club Bantam Varsity team this past season, strong-skating defenceman Gabriel Guilbault was the second-leading scorer among 12 players with at least a point-per-game average!  Through 30 games when the season was cut short, Gabriel scored 19 goals from the blue line and added 23 assists for 42 points with only 14 penalty minutes!  Stellar on the power play, Gabriel scored eight of his goals with the man advantage (tops on the team) with two game-winning goals.  His huge back-end presence was evident in helping BWC hold the opposition to less than two goals per game, and Gabriel was a solid defender on the penalty kill.  With his long reach and stick, Gabriel can poke check the puck out of scrums along the boards and in the corners quickly and reset for transition either way.  Physically strong and agile, Gabriel uses his body to his advantage - but fairly and with punishing force.  Because of his offensive skills with a hard and heavy shot with accuracy, Gabriel is a scoring threat from either point or closer in, effortlessly using his cruising ability to make space for crisp passes and the no-look snipe.  One of Gabriel's greatest assets is his endurance - he seems to be able to skate on multiple lines, double-shifts, and both powerplay and penalty kill even back-to-back without even appearing to look winded.  Working to stay active in positional play without the puck will be something to improve on this next season, but considering Gabriel's stamina, desire to learn, and work ethic, he will improve in all areas of his game and become a prized prospect for the 2021 WHL Draft." - Phil Dietz

Chase Valliant, Forward, West Vancouver Bantam Varsity

"On a team full of rising stars, one of the most impressive players is velvet-smooth skater, Chase Valliant!  A lightweight, but growing, center, Chase is hyper agile and bounces off contact like a pinball, quickly regaining his balance and speed. His change of direction while maintaining control of the puck is great and displays his relentless work ethic going to create magic at the net front. He attacks defenders head-on and is able to deceive them with his shoulders and force an overplay or sharply change direction to gain space. Another of his strengths is his puck skills, with a quick stick and eye-hand coordination, Chase not only controls the puck well but is consistent in the faceoff circle, setting up teammates ready for one-timers. In most cases on the breakout and pushing the rush, he makes very accurate lead passes which allow his teammates to gain and maintain top speed for a fast-paced game.  A relentless, tenacious center that utilizes his speed to cause havoc for the opposition and consistently produce offensive chances. With next season definitely bringing even more improvement and a heavier frame for more physical play, Chase looks to be a candidate to be taken in the first round." - Phil Dietz

See you for next week's edition of Future Watch!


Future Watch: 2021 Draft Eligibles (Part Three)

This week we planned on adding a couple of goalies to the list but have decided to do a feature for just goaltenders in a future edition. This week we take a look at a few more CSSHL Bantam Prep players before moving on to a duo of impact forwards from West Vancouver's Bantam Varsity squad and out east for a look at an under the radar prospect. Many of our groups' current reports are from CSSHL due to accessibility to video. If you have any video of your team or program's games that you would like to link to us, email us at scouting@dubnetwork.ca and help expand our reach in this long offseason!

Dryden Kuramoto, Forward, Burnaby Winter Club Bantam Prep

"Kuramoto has excellent skating ability, quick acceleration and is fluid at high speeds. He has a strong hockey IQ. His speed creates another layer of separation, outracing the opposition to loose pucks. He will play in the paint when necessary and isn’t afraid to mix it up in the dirty areas. He is able to get scoring opportunities while warding off defenders in close. He would benefit from being stronger on his feet to fight through more physical traffic effectively. Better puck control when deking through traffic would complement his excellent skating ability. He is deceptively fast and can catch the defence off guard with his quick acceleration. He skates hard for a full 60 mins. He possesses excellent forecheck skills, making good use of his speed. He tends to react to the game around him and could initiate more scoring opportunities consistently. Comparable to Kailer Yamamoto, in both size and aggressiveness. Excellent ability to change directions. His two-step acceleration is top-notch. He demonstrates a high level of maturity, avoiding unnecessary penalties and plays with integrity. His passing is crisp, and tape to tape consistently. Finds open areas of ice with ease, and this translates into scoring opportunities." - Paul Flores

Linden Burrett, Defenceman, Burnaby Winter Club Bantam Prep

"A native of Surrey, B.C. Linden Burrett is a puck-moving offensive defenseman. What stands out most about Burrett is his poise with the puck. Burrett has the ability to deal with opponent forechecks effectively and retain possession of the puck. With his clever use of body feints and great edgework, Burrett easily shakes off the pressure and in turn opens up acres of space for him to initiate the rush for his team. Burrett has a great first pass to get his team going in the right direction to start an attack in the offensive zone where he excels with his fantastic offensive instincts. Linden loves to jump into the rush whenever the opportunity arises where he will drive to the net and look for rebound scoring opportunities and can also create chances off the rush for teammates. Burrett holds the offensive blue line well and keeps the puck in to prolong zone time for his team by pouncing on smart pinch opportunities. In retreat, he is a great backwards skater, able to stay in front of the puck carrier which allows him to maintain a proper position to deal with opponent rushes. Burrett is incredibly versatile, able to play both sides of the ice and plays in all situations. In order to take his game to the next level, his forward skating will need some improvement as sometimes he cannot get back in time when his team’s rush is broken up. Also, as Burrett gets stronger, he will need to develop more physicality to deal with bigger players as he mostly relies on positioning and stickwork in his own zone." - Adam Goodwin

Ryder Ritchie, Forward, Pursuit of Excellence Bantam Prep

"Ritchie fits the bill as your prototypical small forward in today’s game, he’s an intelligent, high-skilled player with a motor that never turns off. Ritchie has good top speed with very-good acceleration and is able to use his hips and feet to evade defenders. He combines his shifty skating with deceptively good hands, making him a hard player to contain. As he grows into his body he should become a very effective player with the puck. His playmaking ability is strong as he makes solid forehand and backhand pass to set up teammates for prime opportunities. One of Ritchie's drawbacks is a lack of strength, which will surely develop with time. He is intelligent with his shot selection and to find open space, but doesn't currently have the power to finish outside the slot. His defensive zone relies a lot on his knowledge of the game and instincts, as he finds ways to block lanes and interrupt chances. His reliability in his own zone will only get better as he continues to develop and become even more relied upon by his coaches. As Ritchie goes into his second year his coach will rely on him a lot in all situations helping him develop in all aspects of the game. As his strength and shot take leaps next year look for a player who can be very dangerous in all situations." - Kaden Moore

Carson Wetsch, Forward, West Vancouver Warriors Bantam Varsity

"Carson Wetsch crafted an impressive stat resume as a first-year in the Bantam Varsity league. Carson led his team with 77 points and 67 penalty minutes in 29 games, showing not only a hot scoring touch but his physical presence as well. At 5'8", Carson stood out as a long, rangy forward in his league and used his size advantage to intimidate opponents at times. Carson is a very strong finisher who doesn't give up on the puck or the play - keeping his eyes moving and thinking ahead to reposition himself offensively and defensively. He reads and anticipates the play intelligently and can explode, either way, pushing the puck up the ice or making the long stretch pass to his teammates on the tape. A dogged defender using his stick to disrupt opponents passes and shots is a tenacious trait in an offensive winger like Carson.  He is strong on his skates and difficult to knock off the puck with his balance.  Even though Carson will certainly work on and improve his play away from the puck in his draft season, his continual motion and cycling mentality are what set him apart from other physical players. With another season putting in the effort, he should continue to excel among his peers and command a high first-round selection in 2021." - Phil Dietz

Diego Buttazzoni, Forward, West Vancouver Warriors Bantam Varsity

"Having watched several West Vancouver Warriors Bantam Varsity Games and their plethora of talented skaters, it's difficult to miss Diego. Diego Buttazzoni is a hard-driving, slick skating, two-way power forward who loves to mix it up in the trenches. In an effort to control the puck so as to move the play up ice in the offensive zone quickly to make chaos in front of the net. Diego is built like a stout fireplug on quick blades. Hard to knock off the puck or even off the check, Diego's low center-of-gravity, skating style and extreme balance make it difficult to remove him out of any play, offensively or defensively. His knack for making a blind pass to his teammates is sometimes a surprise to them on the rush or in tight when he's chasing the puck into the corners, but that smart, heady play many times pays huge dividends as his teammates have warmed up to his deceptive strategy that stuns on-rushing checkers who can't respond as quickly as he can escape trouble. The way Diego protects the puck and finds the open man with cross the seam passes is already an elite skill amongst his mostly bigger peers. His stick looks short but plays long in how Deigo plays defence with a quick-poke accuracy and lightning-fast reflexes. One of the most impressive skills Diego possesses is his motoring ability with quick feet skating north, south, east, or west with ease and elegance. When he stops - he's back up to speed in a stride or two and he outraces most of his opponents - especially when avoiding jams, double teams, and checks. I see Diego as a rock-solid, versatile forward who will make the difficult play look easy and keep his team in the game on every shift. With a possible growth spurt in the next year, I believe Diego will improve immensely and emerge as a high-end, early-round pick in the 2021 WHL Draft." - Phil Dietz

Ashton Tait, Forward, U15 Prince Albert Pirates

"Tait will enter this season with the U15 Prince Albert Pirates with high expectations after finishing last season 2nd on the team in scoring with 45 points in 31 games. Tait is an offensive catalyst with really strong puck skills. He has a potent wrist shot with a quick release. However, the strongest aspect of his game is his hockey sense.  In the offensive zone, he is quick to find seams and distributes the puck well. He’s not always the most noticeable player on the ice but more often than not his name is on the scoresheet multiple times. He isn’t a really physical player but has a good stick when defending. Currently, he projects to be selected around the third round in next year's WHL draft but if he grows he might find himself going higher." - Layne Lysitza

We will continue publishing Future Watch articles every Monday for the near future as our team prepares for their first season!


Future Watch: 2021 Draft Eligibles (Part Two)

Part two of our Future Watch series highlights five first-year bantam players that excelled against the older competition this past season and will look to be key leaders in the CSSHL's Bantam Prep league this upcoming season.

Jordan Gavin, Forward, Delta Green Bantam Prep

"Jordan Gavin is an effective player who has the capabilities of really excelling next season. A standout aspect of his game is his acceleration, he can really pull away from players with quick, explosive strides. Gavin's top speed is also difficult to keep up with as he plays a fast-paced game that the opposition has a difficult time keeping up with. He has good footwork that with some work into, it could really become a big selling point to his game. He has an accurate shot, however, the velocity of his shot can vary, this is something that could easily be developed over the off-season. In regards to moving with the puck, Jordan is able to keep up with his skating ability, he has good puck-work as well as puck protection allowing him to keep control even when he has a defender on him. Consistency in the delivery and reception of passes is something that could be improved in his game and will really highlight his mature vision and high hockey IQ. Gavin finds himself in the right position very frequently as he processes the game faster than most of his peers, allowing him an extra split second for decision making. When watching Jordan play his work ethic is evident, he races to loose pucks and rushes on the backcheck and on the forecheck. Jordan is willing to play physical and use his body to block shots, this is a very mature team-first attitude especially for his age. A very adaptable player who plays quality in whatever position that is asked of him, he has a well-developed powerplay that makes him stand out from his teammates. One of the best qualities of Gavin's game is his net-front presence. He gets in tight with the opposing defender pushing and battling to get his ideal positioning. This allows him to set up a good screen on the goaltender giving his team a better shot at goal. For a first-year bantam, Jordan Gavin really stands out on the ice. As he continues to develop and refine his puck skills he should be a top prospect at next year's draft."- Brayden Abbott

Gavin Garland, Forward, Delta Green Bantam Prep

"One of the top prospects heading into their Bantam Draft season, Gavin Garland is an explosive scoring center with the potential to become a relied upon two-way centerman. An explosive skater with great top speed, strong balance, and excellent mobility, Gavin punishes teams on the counter-attack and through the neutral zone. Capable of beating guys wide or driving hard through a crowded neutral zone, opponents need to be aware of him at all times. Gavin's puck skills are evident in his ability to both stickhandle through traffic and protect the puck while at speed. Added to the threat of his speed and attack on the rush is his solid ability to finish his chances. A quick and sometimes deceptive release allows Gavin to catch goaltenders off guard while mid-stride or stickhandle. When under pressure, even below his own red line, Gavin is able to maintain his composure and patience, making sure he makes the right play as opposed to a desperation play. While his compete is evident in all three zones as he is almost always the first forward helping his defencemen, he can tend to get puck focused in the defensive zone which causes him to over pursue the puck at times. Gavin will almost certainly develop his all-around game and be a top scorer next season as he transitions from EDGE Academy to the Delta Green Bantam Prep squad. Look for Gavin to become one of the best all-around centers in next year's Bantam Draft." - Zach Moffat

Reid Varkonyi, Forward, Northern Alberta Xtreme Bantam Prep

"Reid is a smooth-skating center who uses his strength and agility to get to higher-quality scoring positions rather than settling and putting the puck toward the crease.  His shot is a screamer and accuracy is what makes the difference as he puts the puck in difficult spots for the goalie to handle. What is also impressive is Reid's ability to stop on a dime and see what is in his peripherals and ahead of him in a split second.  In a late-season game against the Edge School Mountaineers, Reid was in his own zone with his back to the blue line when he intercepted a pass skating backward, immediately found his winger with a nice backhand pass sliding up ice behind him, turned and joined for a 2-on-1 rush as the trailer and then slapped in a deft return pass for the opening goal!  When it comes to his hockey IQ it's not necessarily off the charts, but as one of the younger players on the NAX team, Reid shows a lot of promise as he seems to read the ice well and is cognizant of his teammates' positioning.  Although his shooting skills are that of a scorer, Reid is a selfless playmaker who makes his linemates better. As Reid continues to grow he will be a much more forceful and physical presence on the ice, especially around the net where he loves to position himself to pounce on rebounds and loose pucks. In the face-off dot, his stick is quick and sure.  Heads up play is a skill that enables Reid to play in any situation as a multi-tool forward as he gets out of tight jams easily and quickly, using both his quick feet and stick along with a physical intelligence to avoid major contact.  With Reid's anticipated growth and the effort he puts forth consistently, he should improve tremendously through his draft season and quite possibly be a first-round selection." - Phil Dietz

Gavin Hodnett, Forward, RINK Nationals Bantam Prep

"Gavin Hodnett is a hard-working two-way forward. Hodnett is an effective skater, he has a nice stride that keeps him moving at a high speed. His first few steps show strong acceleration qualities that allow him to pull away from the defence when he's attacking and catch players when he's backchecking. Gavin also has good mobility, he showed aspects of great edgework and could stop and start effectively. His quality skating ability paired with his great work ethic allow him to play his role as a two-way forward at a high level. Hodnett delivers the puck well with his passing, he leads his man and doesn't give them a pass that is difficult to control. This leads in well to his playmaking ability. When on offence, Hodnett is imaginative and shows great vision for the game, this allows him to identify teammates in a better position to score. Gavin also shows the capability to read and react to the play, he has a great sense of what playing a good two-way game means, he gets himself in a position to transition into a counter-attack or a backcheck. He shows a well-developed mind when it comes to decision making, especially for his age, Gavin "cheats" into the offence at the right time and doesn't take bad risks. However, one thing Hodnett needs to work on is not getting caught out of position when he forechecks, he sometimes has a tendency to lose "formation", which can be a massive exploit when killing a penalty. Hodnett has good positioning on defence and always seems to keep his man in close, he doesn't get caught flat-footed and communicates his position well with his teammates. He can read the play well and can find opportunities to intercept a pass. A very positive aspect of Gavin's game is how he plays under pressure, he seems to not let it get to him and doesn't get him off his game. A big thing Gavin will need to address going into next season is his physical play, he tends to get caught "fishing" with his stick as opposed to taking the body, lots of times this is due to a lack of confidence which is shown in many first-year bantam players, especially those that are undersized. Finally, Hodnett showed quality leadership abilities and should be able to be a huge role player for his team next year as a veteran in the Bantam Prep division." - Brayden Abbott

Tomas Mrsic, Forward, Delta Green Hockey Academy

"For a temporarily undersized center, Tomas is a strong skater with high-end stickhandling and anticipation!  As one of the youngest players on his Delta Green Bantam Prep team, Tomas showed that he can battle with the best of the rest and hold his own in any situation. Not afraid to muck it up along the boards or in front of the net, Tomas uses his agility and shiftiness to navigate through heavy traffic and make the right play consistently, setting up teammates and keep the offensive play moving.  The way Tomas sees the passing lanes is pretty incredible for a player of his size and age while staying true to his positional territory. Tomas' ability to play all forward positions and appear comfortable on either side of the ice as he receives the puck equally well and distributes it quickly and accurately.  One of the skills that Tomas exhibits extremely well is moving in and around other players because of his size and speed while getting back into position for a smooth transition defensively or offensively.  Tomas does need to add some weight to be a more effective player against the bigger boys in the corners.  By pushing the puck up ice with his head on a swivel to anticipate where his teammates are or will be is another eye-popping skill of his. With another year's growth and experience, Tomas will likely be a much sought after early-round prize in the 2021 WHL Draft.  In this situation, the old cliche of 'Good things come in small packages' rings true!" - Phil Dietz

 

Next Monday, the team will highlight some more top prospects including some goaltenders!


Future Watch: 2021 Draft Eligibles (Part One)

While fans, staff, and players all eagerly await the return of their hockey seasons, we are taking a look at some of the 2006-born players to watch next season and whose names may very well be called in the top-50 come draft day.  Part one brings us five solid prospects who all had outstanding seasons in their own right, playing against the top competition from the 2020 WHL draft class.

Berkly Catton, Forward, Saskatoon Contacts Midget AAA 

"Catton is probably the most hyped prospect to come out of Saskatchewan since Jared Stoll and is sure to apply for exceptional status next season. Catton's skating ability and strong edges allowed him to battle much bigger competition this past season. Catton is a cerebral offensive player that is an exceptional playmaker who also possesses a quick release. He is a creative player who has quick hands. When hockey restarts he will be playing up a level with the Saskatoon Contacts. Catton played one game with the Contacts last year as a double underage and did not look out of place, even scoring a goal. There aren't any holes in Catton's game and the offence almost always goes through him.  Even with all his offensive tools, he is often the hardest working player on ice causing turnovers in all three zones. He is considered a strong leader by example from his teammates." - Layne Lysitza

Tristen Doyle, Defenceman, Northern Alberta Xtreme Bantam Prep

"Tristen is an average size defenceman for his age, but plays much bigger and more aggressively because of his mature hockey sense and compete.  He pushes the puck up ice quickly and accurately with a snappy stick, receives the puck well, and knows where to be on the ice at all times to be an effective team player. A responsible distributor of the puck, Tristen rarely turns the puck over. During a playoff game against RINK Hockey Academy, Tristen was an impressive standout defenceman on both sides of the puck.  His ability as a two-way defenceman was uncanny. A great skater both forwards and backwards, with a real jump in his first steps and acceleration to match any forward and excellent edgework.  One of his major skills with his feet/skates is his ability to receive a pass in his feet, stopping the puck and gaining control, as well as his knack for blocking shots in the defensive zone and transitioning the puck to the offensive zone. Tristen's soft hands allow him to calmly control the puck and facilitate offence from the backend or get the puck up ice and out of his own zone. His shot from the point is quick and accurate, making it difficult for goaltenders and forcing them to make a save through traffic or off of a redirect. Despite being smaller than most of the older kids in the Bantam Prep league, Tristen's low center-of-gravity and balance allowed him to protect the puck and win battles. A solid defenceman with a great compete level and intelligence, look for him to be a high pick come 2021." - Phil Dietz

Charlie Elick, Defenceman, EDGE School for Athletes Bantam Prep

"The son of former professional hockey player Mickey Elick, Charlie is one of the top prospects for the 2021 WHL Bantam Draft. A prototypical elite, right-shot defenseman, Elick spent his 14-year old season playing for the Calgary Flames Bantam AAA, one of the top teams in the AMBHL. There he excelled as the team’s number one d-man, registering 25 points in 33 games in the regular season and 8 points in 10 games in the playoffs. Elick is physically gifted sporting a 6 foot, 170-pound frame already with some more growth expected in the coming years. Elick excels in every area of the game as he plays in all situations including quarterbacking the powerplay. In addition to a heavy, accurate shot, Elick is a creative passer, faking shots to find open teammates and holds onto pucks a split second longer to create better chances for his unit. A gifted skater, Elick loves to lug the puck up the ice in all scenarios and is able to create separation from his opponents with a smooth, powerful stride that allows him to effortlessly transition from defence to offence in a flash. Elick is able to create and finish plays off the rush because of his exceptional hockey sense. Elick’s hockey IQ is best demonstrated by his incredible ability to calmly manage the puck even when under intense pressure from his opponents. He is able to elude forechecks with his slick skating and get the puck moving up ice with his exceptional passing ability. Simply put, whenever Elick gets the puck on his stick, he always seems to make the smart play but also takes chances when the opportunity presents itself. In addition to his elite offensive ability, Elick is as sound as they come defensively. When retreating, his positioning is outstanding and is able to step up to disrupt opponent rushes with ease. Elick’s gap control is great in one-on-one situations and he easily angles opponents to the boards to take the body and retrieve the puck for a smooth transition up ice. Elick is incredibly difficult to get past as he easily neutralizes the opponent’s attacks with both his body and stick work. Elick will move to the Edge School for Athletes for the upcoming season and will certainly be a first-round talent in the 2021 WHL Bantam Draft. Elick is a must-watch and possesses all the tools to be an elite number one defenseman at the next level and beyond." - Adam Goodwin

Landon Cowper, Defenceman, Pursuit of Excellence Bantam Prep

"As a first-year player in the league, Landon was heavily relied upon for the young Pursuit of Excellence (POE) team. He played lots of minutes and quarterbacked the power play, at times killing penalties as well. He has a high offensive IQ to go along with a repertoire of offensive tools giving him every ability to generate offence from the backend.  Landon is a very good forward skating defenseman with excellent three-way mobility. He walks the line effectively using his hips to evade forecheckers and create time and space to make plays. His forward skating allows him to gain the offensive zone as well as angle guys to the outside of the defensive zone, his backwards skating has room for development for him to be a complete 4-way skating defender, though. His shot is hard and accurate when he gets chances he capitalizes on them he needs to work on his shot from the point getting through traffic but when it does it creates problems for the goalies. Landon's passing is a very attractive part of his game he makes great cross-seam passes, as well as a crisp breakout passes that are hard, accurate and always seem to find their target, even through traffic. He plays a physical game too, not shying away from throwing hits and blocking shots. Landon's biggest spot for improvement is his defensive game, as he can be passive at times, lacking urgency. He doesn’t cause a lot of problems for his team as he possesses a good stick, blocks shots and is a physical player at times. At times he would benefit from a more consistent urgency and analysis of the play in his own end to avoid taking penalties when out of position. However, the young POE team had a stellar season given the number of 2006-born players on the squad and Landon was relied upon heavily. Next season Landon will be given every opportunity to play important minutes and should take huge strides in his development. When his defensive game catches up to his offensive game Landon will be an impactful presence in all areas of the ice." - Kaden Moore

Clarke Caswell, Forward, Pursuit of Excellence Bantam Prep

"Clarke Caswell is a high IQ two-way forward, as an '06 born player he still has a year to improve until his big day. Caswell shows an incredible edgework for his age, he can switch directions at high speeds without losing momentum. He has a very accurate shot, he hits the net and is consistent in forcing the goalie to make a save. He has a strong stickhandling ability which works well with his high-end skating, allowing him to maneuver well in tight situations. One of the strongest aspects of Clarke's game is his ability to shield the puck and utilize his well-developed vision and hockey IQ to find the right pass or shot. His passing is solid and he can receive pucks well, allowing him to work give and go's at a fast tempo with his teammates. Caswell has a great work ethic and a scoring touch, he is smart around the net and finds open areas, he gets himself open enough to provide time and a clear shot on goal. He forechecks and backchecks well and works hard to win back possession at either end of the ice. The best part of Clarke Caswell's game seems to be his hockey sense. Caswell tends to always be in position and has an elite level of anticipation, he makes smart decisions even when under pressure. Clarke shows on-ice leadership by example, he is the first to tap up his goalie after a big save, he hustles in all areas of the ice, he gets low and blocks the shot and isn't scared of taking a hit to make a play. For Caswell to improve to his full potential he will need to develop the physical aspect of his game. He tends to be knocked off the puck too frequently, it is definitely something that will both come with growth and need to be worked on. Clarke doesn't shy away from a physical game but he also doesn't go out of his way to get into one. Lots of times he could choose to play the body but instead, he tries and force a turnover with his stick. All in all, Caswell is an extremely smart two-way forward, who should go pretty early in next year's draft." - Brayden Abbott

 

Stay tuned for part two, next Monday, where the team takes a look at five more 2021 prospects!


2020 WHL Bantam Draft Thoughts: Winners

 

With the dust settled, let's take a look at some of the WHL teams we believe had very successful drafts. While we believe many other teams had strong drafts, these are some of the teams and selections that really stood out to our group. Rest assured, if your team wasn't mentioned, that does not mean they had a poor draft by any account.

Prince George Cougars

The Cougars find themselves winners not only because of the number of picks they possessed but the players they selected. Three first-round picks afforded the Cougars the ability to select three different types of players that all project favourably when it comes to the WHL. Adding the elite offensive winger in Riley Heidt who brings exceptional skating, speed, skill, and intelligence bolsters a future first-line featuring Heidt and last year's fourth overall pick, Koehn Ziemmer. To complement these two sublimely talented youngsters, the Cougars opted for a strong, intelligent, two-way forward in Caden Brown, who captained the powerhouse Delta Green Bantam Prep team this past season. Rounding out their forward group in the first round was the selection of a relentlessly physical and offensively talented winger in Ryker Singer. These three selections bring a complement of assets to the Cougars forward corps in future years, which may allow them to be one of the more versatile and dynamic teams in the league. At 26th overall, the Cougars added one of the more complete defensemen in the draft in Bauer Dumanski. Dumanski projects to be a solid two-way contributor on the backend while bringing some much-needed physicality for the tougher games down the stretch. With their next pick, the Cougars opted to take another complementary player to their current crop of prospects in puck-moving defenceman Rylan Brown. One area of need for the organization was addressed in the 6th round, where the Cougars selected goaltender Liam Hallett. Hallett performed admirably down the stretch this season, winning big games for his West Vancouver Warriors squad and has the upside to easily develop into one of the best goaltenders in this draft class. For these reasons, and more, the Cougars turned their draft currency into an excellent draft class that should make them a very competitive team in a few years.

Seattle Thunderbirds

The T-birds were able to land one of the most prolific offensive weapons this year in Sam Oremba. The exceptionally talented skater and scoring machine that would have likely been a top-4 or -5 pick in many other drafts, but was overshadowed by a plethora of top-end talent this year. Oremba posted the highest point total (133 points) of any player in the SBAAHL in the last 18 years, surpassing Logan Barlage's mark of 125. Complementing the Oremba pick, the Thunderbirds followed up with the selection of prolific goal-scorer Brayden Dube. Dube posted a line of 74G - 56A - 130P in 36 games played. Last year's second overall selection, Connor Geekie, managed 49 goals and 37 assists in 31 games played (almost a full point-per-game less than Dube's mark). While both are very different players, it is an exceptional stat line that hopefully projects to a level of success worthy of a first-round pick. Capping off a tremendous first three picks, the Thunderbirds selected arguably the most athletic and competitive goaltenders of the bunch in Scott Ratzlaff. Like all goaltenders selected at this age, Ratzlaff will require grooming and learn to conserve his energy at times, but this hyper-competitive and aggressive goaltender showed tremendous improvement over the course of the season and oozes potential.

Spokane Chiefs

The Chiefs were missing their third-round selection this year but were able to get a tremendous amount of value in their first four picks. Saige Weinstein, selected 18th overall, projects to be another smooth-skating, two-way defenceman that the Chiefs seem to always have a plethora of. Saige brings a strong and balanced game to the defence corps with an explosive and difficult to contain transition game. In the second round, the Chiefs selected a teammate of Weinstein's in Kooper Gizowski. Kooper brings a ton of offence to the fold and loves to play physical and get in on the forecheck. Capable of creating on his own off the rush or on the cycle, Kooper has a more physically mature and demanding style of play that makes him difficult to play against. Another strong and physical forward, Jake Gudelj was selected in the fourth round. Gudelj brings a straight-line power forward mentality to his team as he uses his strength, balance, and straight-line speed to make the lives of opposing defenders miserable. A high-compete winger with limited offensive upside but a safe floor as he is already physically capable of stepping into the league. Lastly, Spokane was fortunate enough to land Tyler Chan at 100th overall, one of the best value picks in this draft. The undersized forward brings a well-rounded game and an underrated offensive upside to the table. A creative, speedy, and shifty forward that is relentless on the puck and shows no fear in battling those much bigger and stronger than him. As he grows, expect him to be a later bloomer than some of his peers and prove to outperform many of his peers selected before him.

Kamloops Blazers

The Blazers have done a fantastic job of retooling on the fly while acquiring valuable draft capital over the last two seasons. After what appears to be a strong 2019 draft class, the Blazers were handed a couple of gifts at this year's draft and extracted a ton of value from their selections. At 19 and 27, the Blazers were able to acquire two exceptionally talented players out of the West Vancouver Academy, Kaden Hammell and Grayden Slipec. Both players could be found in many evaluators' top-15 rankings, but their draft stock may have been hit due to issues stemming from the West Vancouver Academy. The Blazers staff compared Kaden Hammell to a Shea Theodore type of player, a versatile defenceman that can excel in a variety of situations while being a physical, mobile play driver, and sometimes a riverboat gambler, on the backend. Hammell already boasts a 6' frame and has an exceptional upside that could make him a number one defenceman down the road. Grayden Slipec shockingly fell out of the first round and was a no-brainer decision for the Kamloops brass. Slipec is one of the most difficult players to contain in this draft class as he can beat you in a variety of ways. Slipec has one of the most accurate shots in the draft, complemented by exceptional vision, creativity, puck skills, and elite hockey sense in all situations. The Blazers continued to stockpile under-valued skill guys in their subsequent picks, landing a relentless and skilled undersized forward in Luke Korte who plays a complete game with a motor that few can keep up with, and a well-rounded two-way defenceman, Ryan Michael, who played in the shadow of Tanner Molendyk most of the season. The Blazers then took a flyer on the only NCAA-committed player in this year's draft, Kai Matthew in the 5th round. Kai is a mature physical specimen and already plays a pro-style game, which would have made him a certain first-round pick should he have committed to the WHL route. The Blazers not only added to already stocked cupboards with some signings but should they convince either last year's first-round pick Connor Levis or Kai Matthew to commit to the WHL, the team appears to be on its way to becoming a powerhouse once again.

Kelowna Rockets

In a disappointing season that resulted in the cancellation of the Memorial Cup tournament, the host Kelowna Rockets' management did a tremendous job of preserving their first- and second-round picks, not giving them up for short-term help. In Lorne Frey's last draft as Assistant General Manager and Director of Player Personnel, the Rockets took a big swing on the highly skilled forward from St. George's Academy, Andrew Cristall. Cristall led a middling team in scoring with 80 points in 27 games played. What made this number all the more impressive, was the fact that the team's second-leading scorer, Arjun Bawa, played 3 more games but had 39(!) fewer points. Cristall brings an absolutely elite skillset to the table with his puck skills, vision, and hockey IQ, once he adds strength and improves his skating, he could be one of the best players to come out of this stacked draft class. The Rockets then used their second-round pick on excellent offensive defenceman, Caden Price. Price brings stellar mobility and offensive production to the Rockets, after posting 55 points in 31 games for the Saskatoon Generals Bantam AA squad. Given time to develop his two-way game, Price will be a capable and versatile defenceman in the WHL with excellent offensive upside. Using the third-round pick the Rockets acquired from Spokane in the Leif Mattson trade, the team selected another exceptional skater in Marcus Pacheco. Pacheco was one of the fastest skaters in this year's draft class and spent the season refining his two-way game for OHA Edmonton Bantam Prep as he logged heavy minutes in all situations. The centerman plays a simple north-south game with an accurate shot and strong offensive skills. As Pacheco's two-way game becomes a habit, he will be able to focus on diversifying his offensive arsenal to become a more potent attacker both on the rush and on the powerplay as he matures in the WHL.

Moose Jaw Warriors

Despite only having three selections in the top 125, the Warriors managed to knock their first three picks out of the park while strengthening their prospect pool down the middle. Brayden Yager fell into the Warriors' lap after Prince George opted to take a more sure commitment in Riley Heidt. Brayden Yager, one of two forwards to play Midget AAA for the Saskatoon Contacts this season and one of three players to apply for exceptional status, is a complete two-way center with elite speed and hockey sense that leads most to believe he has a very high floor and will surely be a true number one center, built to play in the WHL. In the second round, the Warriors selected another player close to home in Ben Riche of the Balgonie Prairie Storm Bantam AA squad. Riche is another strong centerman with great speed and character.  Riche drove play for his squad using his speed, strength, balance, and poise with the puck all while being one of the most consistent 200-foot players in this year's draft class. The Warriors then addressed goaltending, selecting uber-athletic and talented goaltender in Jackson Unger from the Calgary Bisons. Unger brings more tools than most goaltenders his age and should be able to easily develop into the future backbone of a strong Warriors team.

Next week, we will feature some of the top prospects in next year's draft class and where you can follow their development this upcoming season.


2020 WHL Bantam Draft Thoughts: Value Picks

 

Part Two of our WHL Draft analysis includes some of our evaluator's favourite picks in the draft and provide reasons they might go on to better WHL careers than peers selected ahead of them.  While these are but a few selections that could pay huge dividends, this is a testament to how deep a draft class this year's crop of kids were.  Here are just some of our favourite picks:

You can click on the player's name to be directed to their profile page.

Brayden Abbott (Manitoba Scout)

Joey Lies - Center (133rd Overall, Round 7, Swift Current Broncos)

  • Size, he is enormous
  • Elite shot
  • Power forward
  • Good speed and power but skating requires improvement for next level
  • Good two-way game
  • Fantastic potential just needs to do the necessary work on his development

Phil Dietz (Oregon Scout)

Matteo Fabrizi - Defenceman (31st Overall, Round 2, Red Deer Rebels)

  • Built like a man (6'3" and 220lbs!)
  • Heavy shot
  • Physical and heavy on the walls and at the net-front
  • Good skating and mobility for size
  • Good puck skills
  • Tough to play against
  • Potential diamond in the rough and a great fit with Red Deer

Adam Goodwin (Alberta Scout)

Thomas Matte – Forward (200th Overall, Round 10, Moose Jaw Warriors)

  • Huge frame, physically gifted at 6’3, 190 lbs.
  • Great hands
  • Good skating needs improvement though
  • Shows flashes of high-end skill
  • Very natural ability to play the game at both ends can score and distribute
  • Compete level is inconsistent, needs to use his size and physicality more frequently
  • Could be a case of learning how to use his body to his advantage

Matthew Paszkiewicz – Forward (173rd Overall, Round 8, Everett Silvertips)

  • Creative and skilled offensively
  • Great shifty skater, knows how to maneuver through traffic
  • Fantastic hands, chance creator
  • Undersized at the moment, only 5’5 and 130 lbs.

Benjamin Stokes – Forward (101st Overall, Round 5, Tri-City Americans)

  • Pure shooter/goal scorer (34 goals in 32 game)
  • Fantastic skater with the puck uses his edges well
  • Positions himself well to shoot
  • WICKED RELEASE on his shot
  • Trigger man on the PP
  • Attitude might be a problem, had some poor body language and shaking his head at teammates when he didn’t get the puck in certain situations
  • Pure offensive player, not much engagement in own zone

Aiden Oiring – Forward (58th Overall, Round 3, Winnipeg ICE)

  • Dynamic offensive player, unreal hands
  • Elite speed, edgework, and agility
  • Can score from any angle
  • Creates a ton of chances for linemates, fantastic vision
  • Leading scorer in AMBHL (28 goals, 45 assists – 73 points in 32 games)
  • Wins a ton of faceoffs
  • Doesn’t shy away from contact and goes to the dirty areas
  • Plays in all situations
  • Was the captain
  • Not sure if you would consider Round 3 a true steal but in my opinion this kid’s only weakness right now is his size (5’4, 130 lbs.)
  • If he was bigger I think he would’ve been a first-rounder easily

Logan Dochuk – Defenseman (115th Overall, Round 6, Kelowna Rockets)

  • Incredibly smooth-skating, two-way defenseman
  • Natural, effortless stride
  • Skating allows him to recover from mistakes
  • Moves the puck up the ice by both his skating and passing ability 
  • Good size at 6’0", but needs to fill out a bit
  • Blocks shots, great defensive awareness
  • To me, just seems like a solid, reliable top 4 defenseman at the next level
  • Going to Kelowna is a good fit with how they develop countless top-level d-men

Brent Hoshowski – Forward (188th Overall, Round 9, Victoria Royals)

  • Well-rounded offensive player (18 g, 17 a, 35 points in 31 games)
  • Can score and make plays
  • Likes to be physical, likes to mix it up with opponents (96 PIMs)
  • Goes to the dirty areas, goes to net to score
  • Willing to battle for space and possession
  • Doesn’t wow you with anything but just solid all-around, reliable player
  • Could easily be a top 9 forward at the next level who can play in all situations 

Zach Moffat (Director of Scouting)

Kai Matthew - Winger (107th Overall, Round 5, Kamloops Blazers)

  • Mature playstyle ready-made for the WHL
  • Strong, balanced winger
  • Great skating (speed and explosiveness)
  • Strong off the rush or in the cycle
  • High-end puck skills
  • Good finish
  • Fell solely due to being the only player in the Draft with an NCAA commitment, otherwise, he is easily a first-round talent

Tyler Chan - Center (100th Overall, Round 5, Spokane Chiefs)

  • Great skater
  • Good motor
  • Great hockey IQ
  • Very-good playmaker (vision, controls play from half-wall)
  • Strong two-way game and excellent in battles
  • Size and lack of prolific scoring numbers contributed to his availability in the fifth round

Rhett Ravndahl - Defenceman (83rd Overall, Round 4, Portland Winterhawks)

  • Excellent hockey IQ
  • Strong defender
  • Good mobility, size, and range
  • Strong down low, on walls, and box-outs in front
  • Heavy point shot
  • Not a world-beater offensively, but the potential to be a strong shutdown guy

Grayden Slipec - Center (27th Overall, Round 2, Kamloops Blazers)

  • Very-good playmaker
  • Outstanding puck skills and deception
  • Ability to beat you with a shot or pass
  • High-end hockey IQ
  • Underrated two-way game
  • Easily a top-15 prospect in this draft, it is criminal he fell this far.

Matthew Wood - Forward (41st Overall, Round 2, Regina Pats)

  • Elite scorer
  • Good size and frame
  • Good compete
  • Very-good awareness and anticipation
  • High-end offensive potential
  • Skating needs work but has the ability to take it to the next level

Kaden Moore (British Columbia Scout)

Marcus Pacheco - Center (49th Overall, Round 3, Kelowna Rockets)

  • High-end skater
  • Smart two-way player
  • All situations guy
  • Very-good puck skills
  • This pick could literally and metaphorically burn the WHL for years

Luke Korte - Left Wing (52nd Overall, Round 3, Kamloops Blazers)

  • Tenacious, fast winger
  • High-ceiling
  • Great puck skills
  • Great playmaking
  • Johnny Hockey with a bigger motor
  • Was available in round 3 due to current size - 5'1"

 

Stay tuned for part three where we look at the potential winners of this year's draft!