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WHL BOASTS STRONG 2013 NHL DRAFT CLASS

Jun 29, 2013 - 03:22 PDT
Written By: Watts, Jesse

The 2013 NHL Draft takes place on Sunday, June 30th, at the Prudential Centre in Newark, New Jersey, as NHL Club prepare to stock their pipelines with the next wave of young talent.

One of the leading suppliers of players to the NHL, the Western Hockey League has seen 1,827 players selected since the NHL Draft’s inception in 1969, including 32 WHL players selected in the 2012 NHL Draft last year.

The WHL’s 2013 class of NHL Draft-eligible players is flush with talent.  Headed up by Portland Winterhawks’ defenceman Seth Jones, the WHL boasts eight skaters are ranked among the top 30 North Americans skaters in NHL Central Scouting’s final rankings. 

Jones, a 19-year-old from Plano, TX, is the No. 1 ranked skater in the NHL CSS rankings, and one of six WHL defencemen ranked among the top 32 skaters.  A terrific skater with outstanding vision, poise and hockey sense, the 18-year-old can do it all on the blue line.  Jones is a dominant defender who uses his size, smarts and athletic abilities to shut down the opposition’s top guns.  He’s equally impressive offensively, having scored 14 goal and 56 points in 61 games for the WHL Champion Winterhawks while being named WHL Rookie of the Year in his first WHL campaign.

“His hockey sense is extremely high,” said Winterhawks’ acting head coach and general manager Travis Green.  “It’s really amazing how well he reads the game and understands the game.

“Obviously he’s a great skater, he’s got a great shot, he can play offense and defense, he’s big and strong, but it’s really his understanding of the game that stood out the most,” he said.

A strong contender to go first overall in the 2013 NHL Draft, Jones has all the tools and potential to develop into an elite NHL defenceman for years to come.

“You look at a guy like Chris Pronger, who maybe didn’t have the same skating strength as Seth does at his age, but he had that vision and hockey sense, the ability to make those first passes, and the ability to protect the puck and make the game look easy,” said Green.  “I think that’s how I’d see Seth down the road in the NHL.

“He’s going to be a guy that can play 30 minutes a game, play on your power play and penalty kill, and a guy who ultimately could be someone to build a franchise around…he has that kind of potential,” said Green.

Smooth skating, steady Everett Silvertips defender Mirco Mueller (9th), offensive, puck-moving Seattle Thunderbirds blue liner Shea Theodore (11th), hard-shooting Brandon Wheat Kings’ rearguard Ryan Pulock (12th), and intelligent and gritty Prince Albert Raiders’ defenceman Josh Morrissey (27th) are also among the top 30 North American skaters in NHL Central Scouting’s rankings.  Towering, mobile two-way defender Dillon Heatherington of the Swift Current Broncos and strong-skating, speedy Kelowna Rockets rearguard Madison Bowey rank 31st and 32nd respectively on NHL Central Scouting’s list.

The WHL also has plenty of talented forwards eligible for the 2013 NHL Draft, headed up by Medicine Hat Tigers’ offensive wizard Hunter Shinkaruk, who is ranked sixth among North American skaters.

Shinkaruk, a product of Calgary, AB, has spent the last three seasons putting up points for the Tigers, netting 100 goals and 219 points in 193 career regular-season games in the WHL.  A shifty, elusive skater who shows tremendous offensive creativity, boasts a sharp, accurate wrist shot, and brings a competitive, no-quit attitude, Shinkaruk is the type of guy a team wants on the ice in key situations or when they need a big goal.

“With Hunter, it’s about speed and scoring combined with a competitive drive that makes him stand out,” said Dan Marr, the director of NHL Central Scouting.  “This is the guy you want on the ice when you need a goal or to generate offense, and he’s a guy who can change the direction of a game with his skillset and hockey sense.”

Heart & Soul two-way center Curtis Lazar of the Edmonton Oil Kings is the next highest-ranked WHL forward, coming in at 20th on the list.  The Vernon, B.C., native can score, make plays, and is outstanding in his defensive game.  Lazar is the type of forward who can adapt to any role given to him, and will do anything in his power to help his team win.

“He’ll do anything to win, he’s a highly competitive kid who’ll do whatever it takes, he’s not selfish, and he’ll change his game and role to whatever he needs to do to help the team win,” said Edmonton Oil Kings’ general manager Bob Green.  “He has the ability to play up and down the lineup, and his ability to play with anyone on the team and his willingness to adapt his game, work hard every shift and just bring whatever he needs to the table makes him a special player.”

Regina Pats’ hard-working and offensively gifted forward Morgan Klimchuk, ranked 25th, is the WHL’s other forward ranked among the top 30 North American skaters.  Klimchuk scored 36 goals and 76 points for the Pats this season, and helped Canada’s Under-18 team win gold at the 2013 World U-18 Championship.

Portland Winterhawks’ duo of Nicolas Petan and Oliver Bjorkstrand come in at No. 33 and No. 36 on the list, respectively.  Petan co-lead the WHL and CHL in scoring this past season, netting 46 goals and 74 assists to tie teammate Brendan Leipsic with 120 points.  Bjorkstrand, a 17-year-old from Denmark, led all WHL rookies in scoring with 31 goals and 63 points for the Winterhawks.

Four WHL goaltenders are among the top 10 netminders in NHL Central Scouting’s final rankings, led by Tri-City Americans’ goalie Eric Comrie, who is the second-ranked goaltender on the list.

Comrie, a native of Newport Beach, CA, is a quick, athletic and positionally sound goaltender who approaches the game with a calm, cool demeanor.  Wise beyond his years, Comrie is a true student of the game, from a goaltending perspective.  Though he missed the second half of the 2012-13 season with an injury, Comrie is still a highly regarded prospect.

“He’s mature, dedicated and competitive…a total team player,” said Tri-City Americans’ general manager Bob Tory.  “His preparation, athleticism, and his off-ice work both on video and just focusing on preparation are definitely some of Eric’s strengths.  His competitive instincts are superb.”

Coming in right behind Comrie at No. 3 on the list is Edmonton Oil Kings’ netminder Tristan Jarry.  The 17-year-old from Delta, B.C., appeared in 27 games for the Oil Kings and led all WHL goalies with a 1.61 goals-against average and a .937 save percentage.

19-year-old Red Deer Rebels’ netminder Patrik Bartosak is ranked eighth on Central Scouting’s list.  The Czech netminder was named the WHL and CHL Goaltender of the Year for 2012-13.

For more on the 2013 NHL Draft and to follow the draft on Sunday, visit NHL.com