WHL 2010 draft review

By Glen Erickson

A total of 43 players from the Western Hockey League were selected at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.

To nobody’s surprise, Brett Connolly of the Prince George Cougars was chosen early on, sixth overall by the Tampa Bay Lightning. What did surprise many observers was the fact Connolly was the third WHL player chosen.

When the Columbus Blue Jackets approached the podium to announce the fourth overall selection, prognosticators suggested one of the top end defensemen available would likely hear his named called. Instead, Columbus general manager Scott Howson introduced Portland Winterhawks’ forward Ryan Johansen as the Blue Jackets pick.

Johansen completed his rookie campaign in the WHL after a season in the BCHL with the Penticton Vees. In Portland, under the watchful, guiding eye of head coach and general manager Mike Johnston, Johansen improved steadily last season. Ranked 10th overall by Central Scouting prior to the NHL Entry Draft, the 17-year-old became the first WHLer selected. During the regular season, Johansen scored 25 goals and added 44 assists in 71 games, before adding 18 points in 13 playoff games. For most of the season, he played between Nino Niederreiter and Brad Ross, a trio that is likely to return to Portland next season.

And speaking of Niederreiter, the New York Islanders made him the fifth overall selection. Ranked 12th overall among skaters by Central Scouting, Niederreiter brings plenty of energy and enthusiasm to the mix. The Isles have drafted a physical forward in the Swiss-born Niederreiter, a winger also capable of producing offensively. He starred for Switzerland at the WJC, playing his best hockey in the big games during the playoff round. In 65 WHL regular season games, Niederreiter collected 36 goals and 24 assists. He added 16 points in 13 playoff games as well.

His talent level has never been in question, yet the hip flexor injuries that limited Connolly to only 16 games this past season may have played a role in the two Winterhawks leap-frogging past the 2008-2009 CHL Rookie of the Year. In any event, the Bolts new general manager, Steve Yzerman, was adamant that Tampa Bay was not prepared to bypass Connolly’s skill set. In fact, it appeared Tampa Bay may not have expected Connolly to available after the first five selections were made. If Connolly can demonstrate the injury concerns are now history, Tampa Bay will have added another high-octane forward to a stable that already includes proven producers in Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier.

With the 10th overall pick, the New York Rangers also surprised many by opting for burly defenseman Dylan McIlrath of the Moose Jaw Warriors. Known for his physical presence and nasty disposition, McIlrath is not viewed as a player who will contribute offensively from the back end. However, if he continues to improve his mobility, he most certainly will provide opponents with a reason to exercise caution in and around the Rangers goal crease. McIlrath was chosen ahead of more polished WHL rearguards, Mark Pysyk and Alexander Petrovic.

Pysyk, who suffered a broken foot last season, was a member of the woeful Edmonton Oil Kings. The Buffalo Sabres chose Pysyk with the 23rd pick, adding a WHL defenseman in two of the past three drafts. Rookie phenom Tyler Myers, winner of the NHL’s Calder Trophy, was the Sabres first choice in 2008.

In Pysyk, Buffalo has a smooth skating defenseman with the ability to provide support offensively. His development will certainly be enhanced if the Oil Kings can mount a playoff run, although Hockey Canada will give Pysyk a long look this season with an eye on the 2001 WJC.

Petrovic, a member of the Red Deer Rebels, was the first WHLer selected in the second round. He is not as gifted offensively as Pysyk, but plays a more physical game. The Rebels are on the way up these days, having qualified for the playoffs last season after missing the post-season during the previous three years. Both Pysyk and Petrovic are Edmonton-area natives, players who grew up facing each other throughout minor and junior hockey.

With the 25th pick, the Florida Panthers selected Quinton Howden of the Moose Jaw Warriors. Howden, who suffered a serious shoulder injury near the end of the regular season, is a versatile forward and perhaps the best skater among WHL forwards eligible for the 2010 draft. A crafty face-off man, Howden follows another former Warrior to the Panthers system as a first round pick, that being forward Kenndal McArdle (2005).

When Emerson Etem of the Medicine Hat Tigers was selected 29th overall by the Anaheim Ducks, it confirmed that California-based teams are comfortable drafting their own. Given Etem calls Long Beach, California his home, the Ducks have not only acquired a talented offensive player, but a local product that may soon become a valuable marketing component for the franchise. If Etem can continue to improve on his already dynamic skating ability and also equal or improve on his 65 point season with the Tigers, he may find himself sporting a Ducks jersey in the very near future.

The second round produced a pair of eyebrow-raisers when Brett Bulmer of the Kelowna Rockets was chosen 39th overall by the Minnesota Wild. The power forward turned in a steady second half of the regular season and showed some signs that he can also finish around the goal. At 6’3 and 175 pounds, he will continue to grow and could become a force in Kelowna. During his rookie campaign, he collected 40 points in 65 games. He joins former Rockets forward Cody Almond in the Wild’s system.

Goaltender Calvin Pickard went 49th overall to the Colorado Avalanche, after Jack Campbell (11th overall to Dallas) and Mark Visentin (27th overall to Phoenix) were chosen in the first round. The highly-touted Pickard was often an island of sorts in the Seattle Thunderbirds goal last season, producing excellent numbers on a team that failed to earn a post-season berth. Hockey Canada has Pickard squarely in its crosshairs for the 2011 WJC.

Here are a few more WHL numbers for your digestion:

Past WHL – NHL Draft Results

2009 NHL Entry Draft: 31. (1st Round: 5)
2008 NHL Entry Draft: 37. (1st Round: 9)
2007 NHL Entry Draft: 37. (1st Round: 9)
2006 NHL Entry Draft: 24. (1st Round: 4)
2005 NHL Entry Draft: 43. (1st Round: 4)

WHL Players Drafted, in Order, with HF Rankings:

1st Round
4.  Ryan Johansen (CBJ) Portland Winterhawks: HF Rank #4. HF Mock Draft #12.
5.  Nino Niederreiter (NYI) Portland Winterhawks: HF Rank #2. HF Mock Draft #7.
6.  Brett Connolly (TB) Prince George Cougars: HF RANK #1. HF Mock Draft #6.
10.  Dylan McIlrath (NYR) Moose Jaw Warriors: HF Rank #7. HF Mock Draft #21.
23.  Mark Pysyk (BUF) Edmonton Oil Kings: HF Rank #5. HF Mock Draft #15.
25.  Quinton Howden (FLA) Moose Jaw Warriors: HF Rank #6. HF Mock Draft #23.
29.  Emerson Etem (ANA) Medicine Hat Tigers: HF Rank #8. HF Mock Draft #16.

2nd Round
36.  Alex Petrovic (FLA) Red Deer Rebels: HF Rank #9. HF Mock Draft #27.
39.  Brett Bulmer (MIN) Kelowna Rockets
43.  Brad Ross (TOR) Portland Winterhawks: HF Rank #11
48.  Curtis Hamilton (EDM) Saskatoon Blades: HF Rank #13
49.  Calvin Pickard (COL) Seattle Thunderbirds: HF Rank #3. HF Mock Draft #30.
58.  Kent Simpson (CHI) Everett Silvertips: HF Rank #12

3rd Round
64.  Max Reinhart (CGY) Kootenay Ice
66.  Radko Gudas (TB) Everett Silvertips
70.  Jordan Weal (LA) Regina Pats: HF Rank #10
73.  Joey Leach (CGY) Kootenay Ice
75.  Kevin Sundher (BUF) Chilliwack Bruins
78.  Taylor Aronson (NAS) Portland Winterhawks
83.  Matt MacKenzie (BUF) Calgary Hitmen

4th Round

97.  Craig Cunningham (BOS) Vancouver Giants
109. Alex Theriau (DAL) Everett Silvertips

5th Round
121. Tyler Bunz (EDM) Medicine Hat Tigers
124. Austin Madaisky (CBJ) Kamloops Blazers: HF Rank #15
133. Michael Ferland (CGY) Brandon Wheat Kings
134. Cody Beach (STL) Calgary Hitmen
137. Troy Rutkowski (COL) Portland Winterhawks: HF Rank #14
139. Luke Walker (COL) Portland Winterhawks
147. Brendan Gallagher (MTL) Vancouver Giants

6th Round
155. Kendall McFaull (ATL) Moose Jaw Warriors
162. Brandon Davidson (EDM) Regina Pats
166. Drew Czerwonka (EDM) Kootenay Ice
167. Tyler Stahl (CAR) Chilliwack Bruins
171. Brooks Macek (DET) Tri-City Americans
178. Mark Stone (OTT) Brandon Wheat Kings

7th Round
182. Josh Nicholls (TOR) Saskatoon Blades
186. Teigan Zahn (TB) Saskatoon Blades
189. Dylan McKinlay (MIN) Chilliwack Bruins
190. Randy McNaught (NYR) Saskatoon Blades
191. MacMillian Carruth (CHI) Portland Winterhawks
193. Patrick Holland (CGY) Tri-City Americans
208. Riley Boychuk (BUF) Portland Winterhawks
209. Brendan Ranford (PHI) Kamloops Blazers

Number of Players Selected – By NHL Team:

4 – Buffalo Sabres, Calgary Flames
3 – Tampa Bay Lightning, Edmonton Oilers, Colorado Avalanche
2 – Columbus Blue Jackets, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Florida Panthers, Minnesota Wild, Chicago Blackhawks, Toronto Maple Leafs
1 – Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings, Nashville Predators, Boston Bruins, Dallas Stars, St. Louis Blues, Montreal Canadiens, Atlanta Thrashers, Carolina Hurricanes, Detroit Red Wings, Ottawa Senators, Philadelphia Flyers
0 – Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins, San Jose Sharks, Vancouver Canucks, Phoenix Coyotes, New Jersey Devils

Number of Players Selected – By WHL Team:

8 – Portland Winterhawks
4 – Saskatoon Blades
3 – Moose Jaw Warriors, Everett Silvertips, Kootenay Ice, Chilliwack Bruins,
2 – Kamloops Blazers, Medicine Hat Tigers, Regina Pats, Vancouver Giants, Tri City Americans, Brandon Wheat Kings
1 – Edmonton Oil Kings, Red Deer Rebels, Kelowna Rockets, Seattle Thunderbirds, Calgary Hitmen, Prince George Cougars
0 – Prince Albert Raiders, Swift Current Broncos, Lethbridge Hurricanes, Spokane Chiefs