The Edmonton Oilers love the WHL and many of their most famous young names (Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Leon Draisaitl) come from the western league. This year, Edmonton will not use their No. 1 overall selection on a WHL prospect but will probably visit the loop in later rounds.
NHL TOTAL PLAYERS/WHL PLAYERS DRAFTED BY YEAR AND TOTAL
- 2014 NHL draft—210 total players, 37 from the WHL
- 2013 NHL draft—211 total players, 33 from the WHL.
- 2012 NHL draft–211 total players, 32 from the WHL.
- 2011 NHL draft, 211 total players, 33 from the WHL
- 2010 NHL draft 210 total players, 43 from the WHL
- 2009 NHL draft, 211 total players, 31 from the WHL
- 2008 NHL draft, 211 total players, 37 from the WHL
- FINAL TALLY: 1475 total players, 246 from the WHL
- PERCENTAGE: 16.68%
OILERS TOTAL PLAYERS/WHL PLAYERS DRAFTED BY YEAR AND TOTAL
- 2014 NHL draft—6 total players, 1 from the WHL
- 2013 NHL draft—10 total players, 3 from the WHL.
- 2012 NHL draft–7 total players, 1 from the WHL.
- 2011 NHL draft–9 total players, 3 from the WHL.
- 2010 NHL draft–11 total players, 4 from the WHL.
- 2009 NHL draft–7 total players, 1 from the WHL.
- 2008 NHL draft–5 total players, 2 from the WHL.
- FINAL TALLY: 55 total players, 15 from the WHL.
- PERCENTAGE: 27.2%
Edmonton chooses a player from the WHL frequently, far above the league average. We know the scouting department is going through a period of transition this summer, with Craig MacTavish, Scott Howson and Bob Green having large roles and Stu MacGregor and his scouts seemingly in evidence-gathering mode. Green has impressive scouting credentials but isn’t clear how much involvement any of these men will have in the final decision-making process with Peter Chiarelli now inserted at the top of the heap.
Last year’s edition of this list is here, and it’s interesting to look back one month before the draft and know who they were going to take at the draft. MacT was telegram Sam for other NHL teams.
TOP DRAFT ELIGIBLES 2015, WHL EDITION
- D Ivan Provorov, Brandon Wheat Kings A fantastic puck-moving defender, perfect fit for the modern game. He was trending in a good direction from the opening whistle and hasn’t stopped since. Top end offense, two-way ability, skates liked the wind. Music! Very likely to go inside the top 10 overall.
- C Mathew Barzal, Seattle Thunderbirds Brilliant offensive player who began the year as the top ranked player from the WHL and had to work like a bugger to get back to No. 2 rank. Had a splendid U18 World Hockey Championships and that display on the world stage may get him inside the top 10 overall. Knee injury early probably cost him a lottery (top 6) position.
- C-R Nick Merkley, Kelowna Rockets. Merkley is a quality prospects who posted a 90-point season with the Rockets. He’s following that up with an impact playoff run and combines speed, creativity and terrific passing ability to impact the game. He is ranked third on this list but there isn’t a tremendous gap between these three player. Size only real issue, likely to go inside the top 15 overall.
- C Jansen Harkins, Prince George Cougars. Solid two-way center with impressive offensive skills, in some ways he’s a better player with the puck on his stick than Barzal or Merkley. He ranks behind them due to speed issues—slight, not drastic—and should be gone before the 20th overall selection. Intelligent player.
- L Jake Debrusk, Swift Current Broncos. Skill winger who surprised with his offensive spike this season (from 15 goals to 42 year over year) and also improved his skating. Whatever ‘it’ is when it comes to cashing goals. DeBrusk has it. Very likely to be a first round pick, may go in the 20-25 range.
- D Ryan Pilon, Brandon Wheat Kings. Pilon has size, speed and is a very good passer. There is some question about his defensive ability but the size/speed combination will be impossible for NHL teams to resist. Very likely to be taken into the top 30.
- D Ethan Bear, Seattle Thunderbirds. Bear is another player with size and speed from the blue and he also owns a hammer from the point that may be useful in the NHL someday. Bear can pass the puck very well too, I think his name gets called inside the top 40.
- L Paul Bittner, Portland Winterhawks. Big (6.04, 204) winger with scoring ability (34 goals) but we have to be careful with this player. Portland boasts three impact talents (Oliver Bjorkstrand, Nic Petan and Chase De Leo) offensively and the totals posted by Bittner may overstate his offense. He could go in the first round, but a better spot would be inside the top 50 overall.
- L Ryan Gropp, Seattle Thunderbirds. Big winger (6.02, 187) with some scoring ability (30 goals), he appears to be much lower on most lists than Bittner. I’m not sure it’s a wide gap between these two players. It might be a skating issue but he’s a good prospect. A likely second-round selection.
- D Noah Juulsen, Everett Silvertips. Regarded as one of the best true defensemen in this draft, Juulsen has a range of skills. Good skater, passer, defender, that has value in any era. I think he’ll go in the second round.
- C Tyler Soy, Victoria Royals. A brilliant offensive player, he’s a wicked passer and one can’t help but think of Tyler Johnson and his career track in the same league. I have Soy as an early third-round selection, he may not get drafted. Why? Size.
- D Brandon Carlo, Tri-City Americans. On the other side of the coin is Carlo. He’s a big prospect who can skate well but doesn’t bring a lot of offense. This player is very likely to be chosen in the first round and will probably track in a Luke Schenn-like career path. These players have value, but the Moneyball play suggests this player should go in the third round, and that’s where I have him.
- D Parker Wotherspoon, Tri-City Americans. An apparent lock for the first round, there are some defensive issues and he is not an offensive defender. He can skate, has posted offense in the WHL and is regarded (apparently universally) as a quality defensive player. I think he’s a tweener.
- C Glenn Gawdin, Swift Current Broncos. A nice range of skills, he has some grit and can win battles. Gawdin improved his draft number with a good performance at the U18 World Hockey Championships.
- L Jesse Gabrielle, Regina Pats. He’s a gritty player with some skill, I’d love to see his TOI totals, especially from the Brandon games. I could be overrating him but there’s some interesting math here.
- R Deven Sideroff, Kamloops Blazers. A smart player with skill, I’d have him higher but Sideroff plays with some impressive forwards in Kamloops. Performed well at U18’s and may end up inside the top 60 on my final list.
- Austin Wagner, Regina Pats. Size, speed and he can score, enjoyed a mid-season spike and that has him trending. Wagner is a June 1997 and could end up higher on my final list.
- C Brad Morrison, Prince George Cougars. Speed, skill, intelligence. A very nice combination of skills, he’s probably benefiting from playing with Harkins in PG. I’ll have a closer look as we get closer to the draft, he could rise.
- G Adin Hill, Portland Winterhawks. .921 SP and he’s 6.04. I’m going to call him Dubey if the Oilers draft him.
- C Giorgio Estephan, Lethbridge Hurricanes. A very good skill player on a bad team, he is probably wildly underrated here.
- D Brendan Guhle, Prince Albert Raiders. I like him plenty, just can’t see him getting drafted in the first four rounds. A nice range of skills, just can’t find anyone who really likes him. Fascinating prospect.
- R Adam Musil, Red Deer Rebels. He’s a favorite of mine (fun to watch) but the offense didn’t come this year and his ranking reflects it. His EV scoring is especially troubling.
- D Andrew Nielson, Lethbridge Hurricanes. Big two-way defender, his offense isn’t much but it’s impossible to tell how good he is because Hurricanes. He can pass the puck well and play defense. 6.03, 207.
- C Wyatt Sloboshan, Saskatoon Blades. Skill forward has injury issues and size is a concern, but he’s a nice player.
- R Keegan Kolesar, Seattle Thunderbirds. A big two-way winger, he didn’t score enough to get into the top 20 names on this list. He’s an intriguing player based on scouting report.
- R Evan Weinger, Portland Winterhawks. A developing player, he has skill and added a nice playoff.
- C Brayden Burke, Lethbridge Hurricanes. Was very good in half a season.
- L Braylon Shmyr, Brandon Wheat King. Small, skilled. Fearless.
- L Pavel Karnaukov, Calgary Hitmen. Under the radar but emerging in playoffs. Lanky winger.
- C Andrew Koep, Edmonton Oil Kings. Imp with skill, I really like his aggressiveness.
Jordan Papirny is worth a mention, too. Last season, Edmonton drafted only one man from the WHL, I’ll guess they pluck only one from the dub again this season. Guesses? Adin Hill or Ethan Bear.