“It’s a deep draft for defense. The defensemen will go early so teams can get their hands on a top defender that is so valuable.” – Western League scout on the 2009 WHL draft.
The youngest class of all the Canadian League drafts, this year’s WHL selection process is open to kids born in 1994, or 14 years old.
With a penchant for bringing along devastating defensemen who have graduated to become impact NHL blueliners, the Western League is undeniably an integral part of the NHL’s future. In fact, a few recent defenders who went No. 1 in the WHL draft have proven to be blue-chip NHL prospects (Jared Cowen in 2006 and Colten Teubert in 2005) and current NHLers such as Cam Barker, Jay Bouwmeester and Braydon Coburn were top-three picks in this young man’s draft.
This year’s bantam draft is full of the bread-and-butter the West Coast has become expected to export. Top-notch defensemen litter the high end of the draft and you can bet some, if not all of them, will one day be wearing the sweater of an NHL franchise.
But before that happens, they go through the ‘Dub’ draft and a couple years of major junior competition where they can fine-tune and round out their games.
While the top of the draft is going to be about defense, there are some impressive forwards as well. However, goalies aren’t the name of the game this year. As one WHL scout said, “It’s a hit and miss with goalies,” before pointing out the 1989 class of Dub goalies that included such prospects as Dustin Tokarski, Tyson Sexsmith and Chet Pickard.
In a few years, expect some of the following players to be highlighted in THN’s annual Future Watch, which hits newsstands next week.
In the meantime, you might find them playing bantam minor hockey or perhaps being introduced in Ryan Kennedy’s Prep Watch, which also appears Thursdays on TheHockeyNews.com.
Without further ado, here are a few of the hot prospects for the 2009 WHL Bantam Draft to be held in early May, according to a few Dub scouts:
Tayler Balog, LW – “He’s a good skater, handles the puck well and he’s good around the net. He sees the ice very well. When you’re young your weaknesses are obviously without the puck and he has to remember to keep his feet moving at all times.”
Derrick Pouliot, D – “He’s a special player. He’s very smart with the puck, sees the ice well, skates well, rushes the puck and jumps into the play. He’s an offensive defenseman, but he’s good on the back end, too. To be honest, from the games I’ve seen he pretty much brings it every game, so there’s not much negative. He’s able to reach up to the next level of hockey he’s playing and really rise to the occasion.”
Morgan Reilly, D – “Similar to Pouliot. Those guys are just two special players. Reilly is very responsible in his own end, but he needs to get a little bigger for his game to advance. He’s a very good rushing defenseman and he knows when to jump into a rush.”
Mike Winther, C – “This guy is a dynamic forward. He has tremendous skill and his stickwork is top notch. As a 13-year-old he had about 70 points or so, which was just incredible. As any young guy, he needs to get bigger to be more effective, but his frame leads him open to that development.”
These are the kids of the future and have been watched by scouts since they were in at least peewee hockey. Our 2009 Future Watch issue touches on a couple of the above mentioned players plus a few more eligible for the summer’s draft, but it won’t end there for this group of youngsters.
Keep an eye out for these skaters. The WHL is no pushover when it comes to NHL futures.
A Scout’s Life is a weekly look at the world of minor and pro scouting throughout North America. Each week we’ll talk to different scouts from all levels of the game, getting a first-hand perspective of the different aspects of talent evaluation.