Top 25 WHL prospects for 2009

By HF Staff

1. Jared Cowen, D
6’5, 218 pounds
Spokane Chiefs

Cowen has been a workhorse on the blueline and covers the ice well with his long reach and mobility. A right-handed shot, Cowen’s offensive skills are still developing. Like many young rearguards, he is focused on his defensive play. He has played much of the past two seasons alongside Jared Spurgeon (NYI). Cowen’s season came to an end on Jan. 30 when he suffered a serious knee injury. The surgery to repair torn MCL and ACL ligaments was performed in mid-February. Despite the injury, Cowen has already won a Memorial Cup, played in the Canada/Russia Challenge for Team WHL, and was recently invited to attend Hockey Canada’s summer camp for WJC hopefuls.

2. Brayden Schenn, C
6’, 192 pounds
Brandon Wheat Kings

The reigning WHL Rookie of the Year has undertaken an important leadership role in Brandon, on a team that will play host to the 2010 Memorial Cup. At 17, Schenn is capable of playing aggressively with the most physical of WHLers. Schenn and his Wheat Kings linemates Scott Glennie (2009) and Matt Calvert (CBJ) were perhaps the WHL’s most consistently potent offensive threat last season. A product of the successful Saskatoon Contacts midget hockey organization in central Saskatchewan, he will be joined on draft day by former midget linemates Jimmy Bubnick of the Kamloops Blazers and Carter Ashton of the Lethbridge Hurricanes. Schenn is the younger brother of Toronto Maple Leafs rookie sensation Luke Schenn. He will be at Hockey Canada’s summer camp for the WJC.

Schenn had 40 goals and 66 assists in 82 games, and was +32.

3. Evander Kane, C

5’11, 165 pounds
Vancouver Giants

Kane was a huge part of the success of the Vancouver Giants. The third-year forward established his presence offensively with a 21-game scoring streak to start the season. He tweaked a knee in late November, but was ready to play a supporting role for Team Canada at the WJC. A smooth and agile skater, Kane has goal-scoring instincts that have pro scouts paying special attention. Played alongside WHL scoring champion Casey Pierro-Zabotel (PIT) for much of the season. He will attend Hockey Canada’s summer camp for the 2010 WJC.

Kane had 55 goals, 56 assists and 134 penalty minutes in 78 games, and was +54.

4. Carter Ashton, RW

6’3, 200 pounds
Lethbridge Hurricanes

Ashton is a sought-after power forward who could be an early surprise at the draft. He has developed into a consistent two-way performer with the Hurricanes and has quietly impressed professional scouts who are eminently familiar with the skills and work ethic of his father Brent. The elder Ashton played 998 regular season games in the NHL. Carter Ashton possesses pro size and has demonstrated that he understands and accepts his role. Next season, his third in the WHL, should provide an opportunity to flourish offensively. To date, he has learned well the defensive nuances of the game.

Ashton had 31 goals and 22 assists in 81 games, and was -13.

5. Scott Glennie, RW

6’1, 182 pounds
Brandon Wheat Kings

Glennie is a pure goal scorer who can shoot the puck well off either foot. He is a confident, mature player who knows his responsibilities and tends to them with focus and efficiency. Playing with Brayden Schenn and Matt Calvert (CBJ), Glennie is part of what could be the most explosive line in the WHL next season, provided Calvert returns for another year. Glennie missed a portion of the second half of last season with a broken elbow. He will fit in very well with a team willing to allow him to focus on offense.

Glennie had 31 goals, 57 assists and was +32 in 67 games.

6. Landon Ferraro, C
6’, 170 pounds
Red Deer Rebels

The only thing average about Ferraro is his size. The Vancouver native has world class speed and a sniper’s quick release to go along with strong hockey sense and a mature demeanor. He has been a top player on weak teams in Red Deer where he has yet to appear in a playoff game the past two seasons. He’s already got a pro mentality about him thanks to growing up the son of NHL player Ray Ferraro.

Ferraro had 37 goals, 18 assists and was -23 in 68 games.

7. Stefan Elliott, D
6’1, 175 pounds
Saskatoon Blades

The CHL’s Scholastic Player of the Year, Elliott has emerged as a well-rounded defenseman in Saskatoon. His offensive skills are evident whenever he touches the puck and this aspect of his game will be extremely valuable next season on a Saskatoon team that should challenge for a WHL title. Elliott also speaks fluent French, which makes him an interesting consideration for the Montreal Canadiens in the early rounds.

Elliott had 17 goals, 42 assists and was +22 in 78 games.

8. Brayden McNabb, D

6’4, 200 pounds
Kootenay Ice

NHL-sized already, the two-way blueliner got better and better for Kootenay as the year went on. The Ice used McNabb in all situations and at all times of the game because of his ability at both ends of the rink. Penalty minutes are potentially misleading as critics would like to see him play tougher. With maturity and increased confidence, that should come naturally in the near future.

McNabb had 10 goals, 31 assists, 142 penalty minutes and was -11 in 71 games.

9. Tyson Barrie, D
5’10, 185 pounds
Kelowna Rockets

A defenseman who has had the luxury of playing beside Luke Schenn (TOR) and Tyler Myers (BUF) in his first two seasons with the Kelowna Rockets, Barrie has been able to focus on the offensive side of the game. In fact, he has quarterbacked the Rockets’ power play since his arrival in the WHL as a 16-year-old. Barrie must get stronger to fend off checks. He has yet to develop an explosive first stride, but sees the ice well enough to avoid poor positioning. His next season of junior will bring an increased leadership role and higher expectations in Kelowna.

Barrie had 16 goals, 54 assists and was +27 in 90 games.

10. Cody Eakin, C

5’11, 175 pounds
Swift Current Broncos

Eakin played well at the showcase Top Prospects game, scoring twice. He missed some time earlier on in the year with a concussion, but bounced back for a strong finish helping Swift Current to a solid finish in the WHL standings. He’s got terrific speed and a scorer’s mentality. His feet and hands are quick but so is his decision making so he’s as good a playmaker as he is a scorer.

Eakin had 27 goals, 24 assists and was +16 in 61 games.

11. Jimmy Bubnick, C
6’2, 190 pounds
Kamloops Blazers

Another from the Saskatoon Contacts midget program connection, Bubnick watched his stock among scouting services drop throughout the past season. He started the season by leading the Blazers in scoring through 20 games, but was unable to sustain it. He is, however, a big body down the middle with a skill set and physical presence that will earn him an opportunity in pro hockey. With two years of WHL experience to date, Bubnick’s best hockey is ahead of him.

Bubnick had 25 goals, 33 assists, and was -5 in 76 games.

12. Ryan Howse, LW
5’11, 185 pounds
Chilliwack Bruins

The pesky winger has been an integral part of the Bruins offensive scheme since his arrival two seasons ago. He is antagonistic, but makes good decisions and does not put his team in vulnerable positions. He benefited greatly from a season with Oscar Moller (LA) and Mark Santorellli (NAS) in the fold, but last season was an easy mark for opponents looking to neutralize the Bruins thin scoring prowess. On a team that lacked scoring depth this past season, Howse was very good in collecting 32 goals.

Howse had 32 goals, 14 assists and was -22 in 65 games.

13. Ryan Button, D
6’1, 185 pounds
Prince Albert Raiders

There is a lot of talk that Button might be one of the most underrated players in the first few rounds of the draft this year. The mobile defender was one of the few standouts on Prince Albert’s backend and added another dimension to the Raiders’ power play. His skating enables him to jump into the play and get back in time if needed. He has yet to play a playoff game in his WHL career.

Button had five goals, 32 assists and was -15 in 71 games.

14. Tomas Vincour, C
6’2, 205 pounds
Edmonton Oil Kings

Plagued by injuries, the Czech product only appeared in 50 games and did not dress during the Oil Kings’ first round playoff series against the Calgary Hitmen. He wasn’t a factor at the WJC but when he was on his game he was a big part of Edmonton’s regular-season success. Consistency is definitely an issue and at his size he’s not aggressive enough in front of or when driving to the net. He has a great shot, quick release, good skater but could play hungrier.

Vincour had 17 goals, 20 assists and was +2 in 50 games.

15. Collin Bowman, D
6’2, 192 pounds
Kelowna Rockets

Ranked 147th in the final by Central Scouting, Bowman’s stock rose significantly with his consistent and gutsy playoff performance. Bowman, the younger brother of Drayson Bowman (CAR), is a steady defenseman who makes smart, safe plays with the puck. Bowman played much of the WHL Championship Final against the Calgary Hitmen and the Memorial Cup tournament with a seriously injured shoulder. He mustered up inspiring play as the Rockets often played only five defensemen during the deep playoff run. His underrated offensive skills should evolve next season in the WHL as the Rockets graduate at least two veteran rearguards in Tyler Myers (BUF) and Tysen Dowzak (NYR).

16. Burke Gallimore, RW
6’, 200 pounds
Saskatoon Blades

The winger from Edmonton was one of the reasons that Saskatoon surprised teams in the WHL this past year. No one predicted the offensive contribution he delivered on thanks to his tenacious playing style. A very disciplined forward, Gallimore plays tougher than you might expect at his average size but he is strong on his skates, hard to knock off the puck and has pretty good offensive instincts. He plays on the power play for the Blades.

Gallimore had 27 goals, 29 assists, and was +27 in 78 games.

17. Darcy Kuemper, G
6’4, 195 pounds
Red Deer Rebels

Kuemper is a big goalie that checks in a hair under 6’4, but is athletic and moves well for his size. He got better as the year went on despite playing on a fairly weak team. A bit of a project but with improved positioning and rebound control, he could be a late bloomer who really pans out.

Kuemper had a .898 save percentage and 2.96 GAA along with a 21-25-1-3 record.

18. Nathan Lieuwen, G
6’5, 180 pounds
Kootenay Ice

At 6’5, Lieuwen is a goalie who covers a lot of the net without trying. He failed to live up to the billing he received going into the year but showed signs that he’s a quality netminder who is still improving. Injuries limited Lieuwen to just 37 appearances. He played the previous season in the BCHL with the Westside Warriors, an organization that produced defenseman Justin Schultz (ANA).

Liewen had a .885 save percentage, 2.95 GAA along with a 14-12-0-2 record.

19. Levko Koper, LW

6’, 190 pounds
Spokane Chiefs

A versatile forward with very good speed, Koper has developed into a reliable and complete player. His offensive contributions have increased each year. The Edmonton, Alberta native was a member of the 2008 Memorial Cup champions and will continue to bring leadership to the Chiefs as his junior career winds down.

Koper had 26 goals, 43 assists and was +33 in 83 games.

20. Brody Melnychuk, D

6’3, 195 pounds
Brandon Wheat Kings

Melnychuk has had the benefit of playing among veteran defensemen over the past two seasons. The presence of Keith Aulie (CGY), Colby Robak (FLA) and Chad Erb has enabled the native of Balgonie, Saskatchewan to develop gradually. However, injuries along the Wheaties’ blueline contributed to increased ice time for Melnychuk. Primarily a stay-at-home rearguard, Melnychuk is focused more on keeping pucks out of the Brandon goal. He is a big player who will benefit from weight gain during the current off-season. He skates well enough at this juncture of his career to be considered a mobile defenseman, but he will have to be mindful that increasing his foot speed next season will be very important. Developing a mean streak will also help.

21. Byron Froese, C

6’, 175 pounds
Everett Silvertips

One of few bright lights this past season in Everett, Froese actually enhanced his profile among professional scouts as a consistent contributor on an inconsistent hockey club. Froese is a hard-working defensive forward.  He’s not big, nor does he have great puck skills, but he does his job well. Along with exciting rookie Kellen Tochkin (2010), the ‘Tips will lean on the durable Froese next season as the group battles through growing pains and adjusts to the coaching change. The native of Winkler, Manitoba played in all 72 regular-season games for Everett. Froese was part of Team Canada at the U18 world championships.

22. Tommi Kivisto, D

6’1, 195 pounds
Red Deer Rebels

Kivisto started off strong and the hype machine took over. The likeable Finn couldn’t sustain his early-season performances and really struggled as the year went on. Good skater and decent puckmover, he has a booming shot but only scored once all year. Kivisto didn’t get great reviews at the WJC or the U18s and has decided not to return to the WHL next year, which might be a red flag to the NHL teams at the draft.

Kivisto had one goal and 21 assists and was -9 in 65 games.

23. Linden Vey, RW
5’11, 180 pounds
Medicine Hat Tigers

Quietly scored at a point-per-game pace this past season. The Wakaw, Saskatchewan native is of average size and weight, but delivers above average results in most facets of the game. He’s a leader and a grit player who inspires with a solid work ethic. Probably a go-to guy with the Tigers before his WHL days are done.

24. Adam Morrison, G
6’3, 170 pounds
Saskatoon Blades

He didn’t get to play very much because of his second seeding behind starter Braden Holtby (WAS). Limited viewings may hurt his draft stock but Saskatoon coach Lorne Molleken is a big believer and Holtby also speaks very highly of Morrison. He will assume the lead role next season for the Blades.

Morrison had a .907 save percentage and 2.49 GAA along with a 9-1-1 record.

25. Jon Groenheyde, G
6’3, 175 pounds
Kamloops Blazers

Had Groenheyde managed to unseat veteran goaler Justin Leclerc in Kamloops last season, his stock would likely have risen significantly. While both goaltenders played behind an inconsistent Blazers’ squad last year, Groenheyde will be better for his experience with Leclerc, learning preparation nuances and observing veteran commitment. His size is his strength, as he covers plenty of the net. He will have to improve his puckhandling as well next season. A late-round pick at best later this month, Groenheyde has played well enough in Kamloops to capture the attention of pro scouts, but has yet to establish himself as a go-to-guy in the WHL. A good fit for a NHL team that can afford to be patient.

Groenheyde had a .873 save percentage, 2.66 GAA and a 4-11-0 record.

Longshot:

Brett Ponich, D
6’7, 205 pounds
Portland Winterhawks

Just his sheer size will be enough for the young Alberta-born rearguard to garner attention from NHL teams. There simply are not many 6’7 defensemen around and that kind of size can be valuable to teams wanting to establish a physical presence in their own end of the rink. Mired in Portland during turbulent times for the organization, Ponich has played in all but six games over the past two seasons. He will not light it up offensively and has to become a more efficient, mobile skater. Has yet to appear in a WHL playoff game. A late-round pick at best, the adage that you cannot teach size should earn him a look.

Ponich had a goal and 17 assist and was -19 in 72 games.

Other 2009 Notables: Brandon Kozun, RW, Calgary Hitmen; Kris Foucault, LW,
Calgary; Cassidy Mappin, LW, Red Deer Rebels; Chase Schaber, LW, Calgary;
Evan Bloodoff, LW, Kelowna Rockets; Stefan Ulmer, D, Spokane Chiefs; Jeremy
Boyer, C, Seattle Thunderbirds; Matt Honan, D, Medicine Hat Tigers; Willie
Coetzee, RW, Red Deer; Kellen Tochkin, RW, Everett Silvertips; Garrett
Mitchell, RW, Regina Pats; Brenden Dillon, D, Seattle; Justin Dowling, C,
Swift Current Broncos; Stepan Novotny, RW, Kelowna; Hayden Rintoul, D,
Kootenay Ice; Andrej Kudrna, LW, Vancouver Giants; Brennan Yadlowski, D,
Lethbridge Hurricanes.

Glen Erickson and Guy Flaming contributed to this article.