WHL 2008 draft review

By Glen Erickson

Prior to the entry draft in Ottawa, it was a forgone conclusion that the strength of the current WHL graduating class included a host of potentially high-end defensemen. Indeed, when the NHL came calling, the rearguards were front and center. And, so too was the city of Kelowna, B.C.

Cliff Fletcher of the Toronto Maple Leafs orchestrated the drama associated with the fifth pick, which was owned by the New York Islanders. With designs on Luke Schenn of the Kelowna Rockets as a major piece of the rebuilding puzzle, the Leafs traded up from the seventh spot to select the 6’3, 209-pound blueliner.

The last time Toronto looked to a Saskatchewan native as an impact-type player in the first round, the organization selected Wendel Clark of the Saskatoon Blades. Clark, a native of Kelvington, Saskatchewan, played defense for the Blades, but became a power forward with the Leafs.

Schenn has distinguished himself during his three-year junior career as a prototypical shutdown defenseman. It’s a role he has accepted and thrived in with both the Rockets and his recent Hockey Canada forays. Underrated offensively, it remains to be seen whether Schenn will return to the WHL this season as the Leafs may attempt to fast track his arrival on to the parent club’s roster.

Six picks later, the Chicago Blackhawks selected Kyle Beach. Maligned in some quarters for supposed off-ice transgressions and questionable on-ice displays, Beach in fact brings a “real deal” quality with him that should be a solid fit for Chicago.

Physically, Beach is NHL ready at 6’3 and 202 pounds. He has admitted he will be working hard to improve his skating, but this is a given for any player in a developmental stage. Born and raised in Kelowna, Beach has played his entire junior career with the Everett Silvertips. Beach can truly add scoring depth and grit to a lineup of skilled young forwards in Chicago.

The Buffalo Sabres, who chose 12th, stuck with the Kelowna-factor, selecting defenseman Tyler Myers of the Rockets. In Ottawa, Rockets assistant coach Kim Gellert was seen standing proudly beside Myers along with the rest of the Sabres’ brass. Gellert handles scouting chores for the Sabres across portions of western Canada and the western United States.

Myers is potential personified, standing at between 6’6 and 6’8, depending on who holds the measuring tape. An outstanding skater for a big man, Myers has yet to distinguish himself as a dominant rearguard in the WHL, yet many scouts have pretty much labeled him a ‘can’t miss’ proposition.

Much to the delight of the Kelowna Rockets, Myers is certain to return to junior for the upcoming season. Expectations will be very high for Myers, as the time has come for his potential to translate into tangible results. Myers has shown fleeting signs of offensive flair in Kelowna, a component the Rockets have perhaps lacked from the blueline corps for some time. Myers’ role will expand greatly this coming season, even more so should Schenn not return. A 40- to 50-point campaign from Myers would confirm offensive development and consistency.

With the 13th pick, the Los Angeles Kings chose Colten Teubert of the Regina Pats. In comparison to Schenn and Myers, Teubert brings a slightly healthier dose of nastiness to the rink. At 6’4, there is room on his frame for another 20 pounds, a figure that would nudge Teubert beyond the 200-pound mark.

Teubert will get a long look this year from Hockey Canada for the WJC, after a successful U18 tournament. He rated highly during testing at the 2008 Top Prospects Game in Edmonton. The selection of Teubert also marks the second year in a row the organization came calling to the WHL for a defenseman in the first round. Last year, the Kings chose Thomas Hickey of the Seattle Thunderbirds with the fourth overall pick.

The Carolina Hurricanes made it four consecutive WHLers when they selected Zach Boychuk of the Lethbridge Hurricanes. The selection of Boychuk, at 14th overall, confirms that NHL teams have warmed to the reality that diminutive, high-scoring forwards truly can play an important role in today’s NHL.

Boychuk has been a top-three forward in Lethbridge since his rookie season and has consistently been a top offensive producer. He played an integral role in the ‘Canes road to the WHL Championship final series and looks to be a Hockey Canada fixture for the 2009 WJC.

The remaining first round picks from the WHL were goaltender Chet Pickard (18th; NAS), defenseman Luca Sbisa (19th; PHI), forward Jordan Eberle (22nd; EDM) and Tyler Ennis (26th; BUF).

The Numbers Game

For the second year in a row, a total of 37 players were selected from the WHL, including nine in the first round.

Of the 15 Western Conference players chosen, seven played in the U.S. Division while eight skated for B.C. Division clubs.

A total of four players were selected from both the Kelowna Rockets and Swift Current Broncos. Three players were chosen from the Memorial Cup champion Spokane Chiefs, as well as the Saskatoon Blades, Regina Pats, Moose Jaw Warriors and Vancouver Giants.

The Seattle Thunderbirds, Tri City Americans, Lethbridge Hurricanes, Brandon Wheat Kings, Medicine Hat Tigers and Calgary Hitmen had two players selected, while the Everett Silvertips and Red Deer Rebels had one player chosen.

The Kamloops Blazers, Prince George Cougars, Prince Albert Raiders, Edmonton Oil Kings, Chilliwack Bruins, Kootenay Ice and Portland Winter Hawks were shut out of the draft.

Defenseman Jordan Bendfeld of the Medicine Hat Tigers, the last WHLer selected at 193rd overall by the Edmonton Oilers, was previously drafted in 2006 by the Phoenix Coyotes.

Among NHL teams, Calgary, Washington and the New York Islanders chose three WHLers. A total of nine teams chose two players from the WHL, including Phoenix, Columbus, Buffalo, Chicago, Los Angeles, Edmonton, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay and Vancouver.

Dallas, New Jersey, St. Louis, New York Rangers, Anaheim, Ottawa, Florida, Nashville, Carolina, and Toronto chose one WHLer.

Not choosing a player from the WHL were the Minnesota Wild, San Jose Sharks, Atlanta Thrashers, Montreal Canadiens, Colorado Avalanche, Pittsburgh Penguins, Detroit Red Wings and Boston Bruins.

WHL Drafted Players by Round (HF Top 15 Rank in parenthesis)

1st Round
#5.  Toronto – Luke Schenn; Saskatoon, SK; Kelowna Rockets (HF #1)
#11.  Chicago – Kyle Beach; Kelowna, BC; Everett Silvertips (HF #2)
#12.  Buffalo – Tyler Myers; DeWinton, AB; Kelowna Rockets (HF #3)
#13.  Los Angeles – Colten Teubert; White Rock, B.C.; Regina Pats (HF #4)
#14.  Carolina – Zach Boychuk; Airdrie, AB; Lethbridge Hurricanes (HF #5)
#18.  Nashville – Chet Pickard; Winnipeg, MB; Tri-City Americans (HF #7)
#19.  Philadelphia – Luca Sbisa; Oberageri, Switzerland; Lethbridge Hurricanes (HF #12)
#22.  Edmonton – Jordan Eberle; Regina, SK; Regina Pats (HF #9)
#26.  Buffalo – Tyler Ennis; Edmonton, AB; Medicine Hat Tigers (HF #10)

2nd Round
#46. Florida – Colby Robak, Gilbert Plains, MB; Brandon Wheat Kings (HF #11)
#48. Calgary – Mitch Wahl; Seal Beach, CA; Spokane Chiefs (HF #6)
#53. New York IslandersTravis Hamonic; Winnipeg, MB; Moose Jaw Warriors (NR)
#57. Washington – Eric Mestery; Winnipeg, MB; Tri-City Americans (NR)

3rd Round
#69. Phoenix – Michael Stone; Winnipeg, MB; Calgary Hitmen (NR)
#72. New York Islanders – Jyri Niemi; Hameenkyro, FIN; Saskatoon Blades (NR)
#78. Calgary – Lance Bouma; Provost, AB; Vancouver Giants (NR)
#79. Ottawa – Zach Smith; Maple Creek, SK; Swift Current Broncos (NR)
#84. Philadelphia – Jacob Deserres; Calgary, AB; Seattle Thunderbirds (NR)
#85. Anaheim – Brandon McMillan; Delta, B.C.; Kelowna Rockets (NR)
#87. St. Louis – Ian Schultz; Calgary, AB; Calgary Hitmen (NR)
#88. Los Angeles – Geordie Wudrick; Abbotsford, B.C.; Swift Current Broncos (HR #13)

4th Round
#93. Washington – Braden Holtby; Marshall, SK; Saskatoon Blades (NR)
#99. Phoenix – Colin Long; Santa Ana, CA; Kelowna Rockets (NR)
#111. New York RangersDale Weise; Winnipeg, MB; Swift Current Broncos (NR)
#112. New Jersey – Matt Delahey; Moose Jaw, SK; Regina Pats (NR)
#117. Tampa Bay – James Wright; Saskatoon, SK; Vancouver Giants (NR)

5th Round
#122. Tampa Bay – Dustin Tokarski; Watson, SK; Spokane Chiefs (HF #8)
#127. Columbus – Matt Calvert; Brandon, MB; Brandon Wheat Kings (HF #15)
#131. Vancouver – Prab Rai; Surrey, B.C.; Seattle Thunderbirds (NR)
#132. Chicago – Teigan Zahn; Bethune, SK; Saskatoon Blades (NR
#137. Columbus – Brent Regner; Newbrook, AB; Vancouver Giants (NR)
#144. Washington – Joel Broda; Prince Albert, SK; Moose Jaw Warriors (NR)

6th Round
#156. New York Islanders – Jared Spurgeon; Edmonton, AB; Spokane Chiefs (NR)
#168. Calgary – Ryley Grantham; Hanna, AB; Moose Jaw Warriors (NR)
#176. Dallas – Matt Tassone; St. Albert, AB; Swift Current Broncos (NR)

7th Round
#191. Vancouver – Morgan Clark; Highland Village, TX; Red Deer Rebels (NR)
#193. Edmonton – Jordan Bendfeld; Leduc, AB; Medicine Hat Tigers (NR)

Hockey’s Future Top 15 Ranked Players Not Drafted
Kruise Reddick, F, Tri City Americans (HF WHL Rank 14)