The strength of the WHL 2008 class lies on the blueline this season, while a group of supposedly undersized forwards are sure to have their names called at the 2008 Entry Draft. A pair of goaltenders also distinguished themselves this past season.
1. Luke Schenn, D
Nov. 2, 1989
6’3, 209 lbs
Schenn scored seven goals and 21 assists in 57 regular-season games, while posting a plus-5 ranking and 100 penalty minutes in his third full WHL campaign. He made the Rockets roster as a 15-year-old and played in 60 games during his rookie season. Last year, he played in all 72 games, collecting 29 points and 139 penalty minutes.
A staple in Hockey Canada programs for the past three seasons, Schenn was a part of the 2008 WJC. He plays in all situations for Kelowna and is looked upon as a key leader during the Rockets resurgence this season. Touted as a shut-down defenseman, Schenn is generally underrated offensively, an aspect of his skill set that is likely to materialize as he matures in professional hockey.
He appeared tired during the final four weeks of regular season, understandable based on his activity level and significant international travel over the past two years. However, those who watched all year know what he can do.
2. Kyle Beach, F
Jan. 13, 1990
6’3, 203 lbs
Beach scored 27 goals and 33 assists in 60 games, while collecting 222 penalty minutes. Last season, he tallied 29 goals and 32 assists in 65 games along with 196 penalty minutes. He picked up 11 points in 11 playoff games last season, second on the Everett Silvertips to Peter Mueller (PHO).
Among the crop of 2008 eligible forwards, Beach is as close to a total package as the WHL has to offer. A bruising power forward, Beach is plagued by supposed attitude problems, generally perpetuated by media types. But hockey experts know what Beach is capable of and he will be given every opportunity to develop as a professional. As Director of Scouting for the Atlanta Thrashers Dan Marr said, “he’s an 18-year-old.” Marr said that Beach learns and isn’t a repeat offender.
On a more important note, Beach suffered a concussion and fractured cheekbone after a brutal sucker punch in January and was unable to play in the CHL Top Prospects Game in Edmonton. His absence denied the hockey community the opportunity to see Beach compete among the best. He also had a shoulder injury this year. However, he remains one of the WHL’s most sought-after prospects.
3. Tyler Myers, D
Feb. 1, 1990
6’6, 194 lbs
Myers scored six goals and 13 assists in 65 games while battling some nagging injuries. He played nine games as a 15-year-old, then 59 games in his first full season.
An effortlessly fluid skater, Myers size and potential has captured the attention of pro scouts. He is gifted offensively, providing scoring potential from the backend for the Kelowna Rockets. His size alone will earn a serious look from NHL teams.
Myers has yet to show signs of dominant play in any aspect of the game, suggesting the upcoming WHL season will serve as an important step in his development.
4. Colten Teubert, D
March 8, 1990
6’4, 181 lbs
White Rock, BC
Teubert scored seven goals and 16 assists in 66 games, along with 135 penalty minutes and a minus-8 ranking. He played 14 games as a 16-year-old and last year, in his first full season, appeared in 63 games.
At the beginning of last season, on a deep blueline in Regina, the Pats relied on the defensemen to contribute offensively. The trade in January that saw Nick Ross (PHO) moved to Kamloops provided Teubert an opportunity to amp up his offensive contributions. This aspect of Teubert’s game is certain to develop over time, however his strength at this point looks to be keeping the puck out of the Pats’ net.
Teubert was prominent in testing at the CHL Top Prospect Game, but was mediocre in the game itself. Continued focus on building foot speed and quickness will complement his physical stature. Size and toughness are obvious attributes. It is difficult to imagine Teubert having to wait much past the top 12 selections before hearing his name called at the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.
5. Zach Boychuk, F
Oct. 4, 1989
5’9, 176 lbs
A proven scorer, Boychuk collected 51 points in 64 games as a rookie, then managed 31 goals, 60 assists, and a plus-19 ranking last season while finishing third overall in the WHL regular season scoring race. Last season, in 61 games, he scored 33 goals and 39 assists.
Boychuk toiled for the Lethbridge Hurricanes and was a key contributor to the success that landed the club in the WHL Championship series against the eventual Memorial Cup champion Spokane Chiefs. To the organization’s credit, he has not been held back from putting his offensive skills on display. He was a member of Team Canada at the WJC.
With the plethora of big, physical defensemen available from the WHL, Boychuk is likely to be the first of many supposedly undersized forward from the loop to be given an opportunity by an NHL team.
6. Mitch Wahl, F
Jan. 22, 1990
6’, 183 lbs
Seal Beach, California
Wahl scored 20 goals and 53 assists in 67 games while posting a plus-33 ranking that saw him among the league leaders. The previous season, he tallied 16 goals and 32 assists in 69 games.
On a Spokane team built patiently for a breakout season, Wahl and crew spent the entire campaign consistently ranked in the CHL’s top ten. The Chiefs waltzed through the WHL playoffs, defeating the Vancouver Giants, Tri City Americans and Lethbridge Hurricanes for an undefeated run in Kitchener at the Memorial Cup Championship.
A tireless worker, Wahl is effective at both ends of the rink and was successful in maintaining consistent production. Playing alongside veteran Chris Bruton and Drayson Bowman (CAR), Wahl performed as a key player on the club’s top forward trio. His solid play after a successful appearance at the CHL Top Prospects Game in Edmonton was instrumental in the Chiefs run to the Memorial Cup.
7. Chet Pickard, G
Tri City Americans
6’3, 200 lbs
Pickard began the year with the thankless responsibility of following Carey Price as the Amerks starting goaltender. He embraced the opportunity, posting a 46-12-2 record in 64 games for the WHL regular season champions.
A goaltender who uses his size effectively, Pickard gave the Americans a chance to win every night. Another in the long list of butterfly-style keepers, Pickard covers the net with efficiency and has become proficient in corralling the many pucks that inevitable come into contact with his upper body. He plays his angles well and is committed to improving his puck-handling skills.
Pickard was rewarded for his consistent play this season, recognized during the Memorial Cup festivities as the Top Goaltender in the CHL.
8. Dustin Tokarski, G
Spokane Chiefs (WHL)
5’11, 185 lbs
Tokarski split regular season goaltending duties with veteran Kevin Armstrong, playing in 45 games and posting 30 wins. During the Chiefs WHL playoff run, he posted a 1.38 GAA and .944 save percentage.
Championships seem to follow Tokarski, who backstopped the Prince Albert Mintos to a Telus Cup, emblematic of Canadian Midget Hockey supremacy. His play at the Memorial Cup in Kitchener was outstanding as he led the Chiefs to an undefeated run to the national championship.
Tokarski has moved up the ISS rankings throughout the season. Well known across the WHL for his calm demeanor, Tokarski has established himself as a reliable goaltender in pressure situations.
9. Jordan Eberle, F
May 15, 1990
5’11, 170 lbs
Eberle scored 42 goals and 33 assists in 70 games. He scored 27 goals and 28 assists in 66 games last season as a rookie.
Eberle does not dominate physically, but understands his role and is very confident with the puck. Eberle sees plenty of ice time, which will hasten his development as a complete player. He will continue to benefit as the Regina Pats lean on him for consistent offensive production.
At the CHL Top Prospects Game in Edmonton, Eberle distinguished himself with his speed and puck-handling ability. A top producer at the IIHF World U18 Championship, Eberle is a refreshingly offensive-minded, which contrasts the atypical notion that Canadian-born players are all about grit, toughness and physical play. Eberle will have to continue to produce consistently in Regina and become a leader for an organization in need of a deep playoff run next season.
10. Tyler Ennis, F
Oct. 6, 1989
5’9, 160 lbs
Ennis scored 43 goals and 48 assists in 70 games, while posting a plus-11 ranking. Last season, he tallied 26 goals and 24 assists in 71 games. He played in 43 WHL games as a 16-year-old.
The Medicine Hat Tigers simply continue to develop NHL prospects. The diminutive Ennis has skated on one of the top lines in the WHL with Brennan Bosch and Daine Todd. He has a quick release and creates puck velocity that is no longer a surprise to opposition goaltenders. A durable forward, Ennis looks to be a lock to become a 300-game man in the WHL. Ennis was twice been named the WHL’s Player of the Week this season.
Ennis possesses first-rounder skills, but his size may deter NHL clubs who believe he might still be available during the middle rounds of the Entry Draft.
11. Colby Robak, D
April 24, 1990
6’3, 202 pounds Gilbert Plains, Manitoba
Robak scored six goals and 24 assists in 71 games last season, his second with the Brandon Wheat Kings.
Another in the long line of big, physical WHL prospects, the durable Robak saw a huge increase in ice time as the regular season wound down due to injuries along the Wheaties blueline. Robak plays disciplined hockey, especially in the defensive zone, evidenced by a paltry total of 25 penalty minutes last year. As he matures in the WHL, expect his offensive prowess to surface.
Robak caught the attention of scouts this season, earning an opportunity to showcase his skills at the CHL Top Prospects Game in Edmonton.
12. Luca Sbisa, D
Jan. 30, 1990
6’1, 176 pounds
Sbisa scored six goals and 27 assists in 62 games during his rookie season, posting a plus-19 ranking and collecting 63 penalty minutes. He was a significant contributor to the Lethbridge Hurricanes playoff run, with 15 points in 19 games.
Sbisa made huge strides in his physical play during the second half of the campaign, which carried through the playoffs. A confident puck-carrying defenseman, Sbisa has room to grow on his 6’1 frame. During an interview with HF at the CHL Top Prospects Game in Edmonton, Sbisa exuded confidence while speaking to his desire to further develop his offensive skills.
13. Geordie Wudrick, F
April 9, 1990
6’2, 196 pounds
Wudrick scored 20 goals and 24 assists in 66 games during his second full season with the Swift Current Broncos. He posted a plus-10 ranking and collected 72 penalty minutes.
Wudrick was an important part of a Broncos group that upset the Regina Pats in the first round of the WHL playoffs, before bowing out to the heavily favored Calgary Hitmen in seven games. Wudrick played with veteran Levi Nelson (BOS) at times during the past season.
At the CHL Top Prospects Game on Edmonton, Wudrick excelled during the three-on-three game, establishing himself as a confident handler of the puck. He continues to develop a nose for the net, showing little hesitation to aggressively drive through traffic to create scoring opportunities.
14. Kruise Reddick, F
July 6, 1990
5’9, 165 pounds
Reddick scored 23 goals and 51 assists in 72 games for the Tri City Americans, posting a plus-22 ranking and 60 penalty minutes.
Reddick was a very pleasant surprise for the Americans, contributing valuable secondary scoring for the regular-season champions during his second full campaign in the WHL. Another of the league’s diminutive, pesky, offensively-gifted forwards, Reddick has high-end skills and proved his durability by playing in all 72 games.
Long on skills but short in stature, Reddick may find himself responding to an early call at the Entry Draft, or may be relegated to the mid to late rounds.
15. Matthew Calvert, F
Dec. 24, 1989
5’9, 175 pounds
Calvert scored 24 goals and 40 assists while playing in all 72 regular season games for the Brandon Wheat Kings. During is rookie season, Calvert posted a plus-26 ranking.
Playing alongside WHL Rookie of the Year, Brayden Schenn (2009), Calvert was an integral component throughout the season for a club that was able to rely on its young forwards to produce offensively. The youth movement was proficient enough to make life difficult for the Lethbridge Hurricanes, extending their first-round playoff series to six games.
Calvert was consistently a force in the offensive zone last season and maintained his prominence throughout the second half of the regular season. He garnered WHL Player of the Week honors in March during a fierce run by five Eastern Division teams jockeying for playoff positioning.
Other Notables: Jason Bast (Moose Jaw), Lance Bouma (Vancouver), Joel Broda (Tri City/Moose Jaw), Matthew Calvert (Brandon), Morgan Clark (Red Deer), Matt Delahey (Regina), Jacob Deserres (Seattle), Travis Hamonic (Moose Jaw), Braden Holtby (Saskatoon), Colin Long (Kelowna), Brandon McMillan (Kelowna), Eric Mestery (tri City), Jyri Niemi (Saskatoon), Brent Raedeke (Edmonton), Ian Schultz (Calgary), Steven Stanford (Prince Albert), Michael Stone (Calgary), Greg Scott (Seattle), Jared Spurgeon (Spokane)
Holly Gunning contributed to this article.