Moose Jaw boasts a solid lineup during a year in which Regina hosts the Memorial Cup. Find out all you need to know about the WHL this season
In the last of my three major junior previews, it’s time to turn our attention to the WHL, which will send two squads to the 100th Memorial Cup. We know the host Regina Pats will be there, but who will join them? Based off my survey of experts, the most likely candidates are Moose Jaw and Portland. With the Pats loaded for hosting duties, it’s going to be an exciting year – especially if superstar goalie Carter Hart gets traded from Everett to a contender.
Below, you will find a power ranking of every team in the WHL. And for those of you who follow the NHL closer than major junior, I have included at least one player per team that has been drafted by an NHL franchise, or will be drafted in the future. Enjoy!
1. Moose Jaw Warriors – Smart puckmover Josh Brook (MTL) starts the season injured with wrist surgery, so Jett Woo (2018) will be key. Meanwhile, 200-foot center Brett Howden (TB) lead the charge on top team.
2. Portland Winterhawks – With Cody Glass (VGK) and newcomer Kieffer Bellows (NYI), it’s gonna be hard to keep the Hawks off the scoreboard.
3. Tri-City Americans – Juuso Valimaki (CGY) was a defensive beast over the summer in international play, while center Michael Rasmussen (DET) will prove the haters wrong.
4. Kelowna Rockets – Look for big numbers from Dillon Dube (CGY) up front and more two-way goodness from Cal Foote (TB) on the blueline.
5. Regina Pats – Look for Sam Steel (ANA) to put up gaudy offensive numbers again, while a healthy Jake Leschyshyn (VGK) brings back the gritty element the Pats lacked late last year.
6. Lethbridge Hurricanes – Stuart Skinner (EDM) locks them down in net, while Calen Addison (2018) brings dynamism to the blueline.
7. Swift Current Broncos – Aleksi Heponiemi (FLA) is so much fun to watch up front. The Broncos also return a 51-goal scorer in center Tyler Steenbergen (ARI).
8. Red Deer Rebels – Brandon Hagel (BUF) will be a nice offensive driver for the Rebels, while Lane Zablocki (DET) consistently makes life difficult for the opposition.
9. Spokane Chiefs – Kailer Yamamoto (EDM) and Jaret Anderson-Dolan (LA) will pace the forwards, while Ty Smith (2018) is an exciting D-man to watch.
10. Victoria Royals – Can Matthew Phillips (CGY) top 100 points this year? Probably. Scott Walford (MTL) will be key on the defensive side.
11. Prince George Cougars – Dennis Cholowski (DET) brings great mobility to the defense corps, while Nikita Popugaev (NJ) needs to get his groove back.
12. Medicine Hat Tigers – A torn ACL for Mason Shaw (MIN) really hurts, so Tigers will need David Quenneville (NYI) to bring some offense from the defense.
13. Calgary Hitmen – Look for a monster year from smooth defenseman Jake Bean (CAR) and continued growth from Beck Malenstyn (WSH).
14. Brandon Wheat Kings – With Nolan Patrick gone, Kale Clague (LA) and Stelio Mattheos (CAR) will be counted on even more.
15. Saskatoon Blades – Libor Hajek (TB) will run the back end, while Kirby Dach (2019) brings a very bright future to his first full season.
16. Everett Silvertips – Carter Hart (PHI) is the unquestioned star in net, but does he get traded by season’s end? Riley Sutter (2018) brings size and pedigree up front.
17. Kamloops Blazers – Dylan Ferguson (VGK) is making a name for himself in net, while Garrett Pilon (WSH) brings smarts up front.
18. Seattle Thunderbirds – Jarret Tyszka (MTL) will have to come up big on the blueline for the defending ‘Dub’ champs – because it’s rebuilding time.
19. Edmonton Oil Kings – Returning leading scorer Davis Koch is undrafted, but showed well for the NHL’s Oilers at Penticton rookie showdown.
20. Vancouver Giants – The offense is going to be very Rangers-oriented with Ty Ronning and Brad Morrison both getting returned from New York.
21. Prince Albert Raiders – Ian Scott (TOR) will need more support from the skaters in front of him this year.
22. Kootenay Ice – Cale Fleury (MTL) brings mobility on the back end, while Peyton Krebs (2019) is a star in the making up front.