WHL Top 40 prospects for the 2005 draft

By HF Staff

While the date for the 2005 NHL Entry Draft has not yet been set due to the absence of a CBA, it won’t be too far off on the horizon. With that in mind, Hockey’s Future offers this in-depth examination of the 2005 eligible crop of prospects from the Western Hockey League.

This project was done in conjunction with our friends at International Scouting Services, but by no means should this be considered a ranking endorsed by ISS. The scouting agency was involved in this project in two ways: (1) ISS consented the listing of their final overall rankings of the players as they appear in their official and unreleased 2005 Draft Preview/Guide. (2) ISS was also kind enough to offer brief scouting reports on several of the players in order to provide HF readers with an independent view. Again, the list was constructed by writers from Hockey’s Future that simply includes comments provided by various WHL-based NHL team scouts, including International Scouting’s Head WHL scout. Readers who wish to purchase a copy of the official ISS 2005 Draft Preview/Guide can do so here.

1.Gilbert Brule

Position: Center
Team: Vancouver Giants
Height: 5’10
Weight: 180lbs
Shoots: Right
ISS Rank: 3rd Overall

Projected as one of the top selections in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, Gilbert Brule lived up to expectations for the Vancouver Giants this season, after being named the Western League’s Rookie of the Year in 2003-04. In fact, as a 17-year-old, Brule dominated the league, finishing behind only Eric Fehr and Ryan Stone of the Brandon Wheat Kings in scoring.

Although scoring at a rapid pace, with 87 points in 70 games this season, the 5’10, 180lb Brule was also respected for having an edge to his game. Brule lead all top 20 scorers in penalty minutes with 169. The statistic was as much an indication that he was willing to play a physical brand of hockey as for using his otherwise dazzling stick for selfish penalties.

Brule showcased his skills en route to winning MVP at the 2005 CHL Top Prospects game. The center was named to the 44-man invite list to the Canadian Junior Development Camp being held in Whistler, British Columbia in August.

With few eligible draftees as talented as him, teams interested in selecting the North Vancouver, British Columbia native may have to overlook his lack of discipline and seeming refusal to utilize his teammates on the ice.

Scout #1: I think the biggest thing with him is that he might be a bit of an individualist. He showed a lot of desire and handled a tremendous amount of pressure in the Top Prospect game because it was built so much to be him against Crosby and then Crosby didn’t show and his team’s owner made such a big fuss about it. You’re going to have to decide if Brule is going to be able to play that same physical game in the NHL to the extent he does in the WHL now. Whoever selects him has to feel confident that he’ll be able to produce at the next level.

Scout #2: I was a bit disappointed in the way he played in the games I watched because he was different each night. The first game I saw he didn’t do anything and got the heck beat out of him in a fight but then the next night he ran the whole game and showed me that he could still do it. Even though he plays a bit like an individual, you can break that, and I’m sure they will when that happens because you get belted a few times when try to control the puck too much and sooner or later he’ll realize he has to make more plays.

2.Carey Price

Position: Goaltender
Team: Tri-City Americans
Height: 6’2
Weight: 175lbs
Catches: Left
ISS Ranking: 1st Overall (Goaltenders)

With former Americans starting goalie Tyler Weiman turning pro, 2004-05 became Price’s opportunity to assume full-time starter duties for Tri-City. Price played 63 games last year, second only to Devan Dubnyk (EDM) and Aaron Sorochan’s 65 appearances, and ranked second in the WHL in minutes played (3712). His 2.34 goals against average, .920 save percentage, 24 wins and eight shutouts all landed Price within the top 10 of all goalie categories for the 2004-05 season. The native of Williams Lake, B.C. earned CHL Player of the Week and CHL Goalie of the Week honors for the week ending December 19, 2004.

The honors would not stop there for Price, who participated in the 2005 CHL Top Prospects game in Vancouver. At the conclusion of the Americans 2005 playoff drive, Price again played at the U-18 World Junior Championships in the Czech Republic where his brilliant play backstopped Canada to a silver medal. Price will join Dubnyk as the two WHL representatives in net at the upcoming Canadian Junior Development Camp.

It is Price’s agility and quick reflexes that have many teams looking for a potential franchise goaltender interested. Not only is Price able to read and react quickly, but he is also able to steer rebounds into the corners with relative ease. Playing a butterfly style, Price is excellent at taking away the lower portion of the net, and relies on his quick hands to cover the upper portion.

Scout #1: Carey Price is an outstanding talent. He’s a very good goalie. Moves well, good size, competes hard, plays well under pressure. He carried his team as a 17-year-old and that’s a lot to say about a young goalie. I think he’s going to be a tremendous goaltender in the NHL.

Scout #2: I was a bit disappointed with his play at the U-18 but to me he’s technically really sound, he’s big and he stands up more than most goaltenders do. It seems the nights he has trouble are when he’s down on his knees. He really understands the game.

3.Kenndal McArdle

Position: Left Wing
Team: Moose Jaw Warriors
Height: 5’11
Weight: 195lbs
Shoots: Left
ISS Ranking: 28th Overall

The hardworking Vancouver native has quickly gotten accustomed to life in small town Saskatchewan and his comfort has translated to on-ice success. The 5’11 winger quickly became a fan favorite this year for the Warriors as his on-ice effort and off-ice character was embraced by the locals in Moose Jaw. Of course being the team’s leading scorer with 74 points certainly helped.

McArdle assumed a leadership role inside the Warriors dressing room, especially after the club made a head coaching change after their monumentally horrid start to the season. Accepting some of the blame for the firing of his coach, McArdle spurred on the troops and led them out of the cellar at Christmas and into a playoff spot by the end of the year.

McArdle’s 74 points represented a sharp increase in his production over the previous year when he totaled just 16 points in 54 games. The CHL’s Top Prospect game was a notable highlight for McArdle and he quickly noticed an increase in attention from pro scouts after his performance. The extremely likeable forward earned the respect of his coach and his peers. McArdle impressed so much this season that he was one of 44 players invited to the Canadian Junior Development Camp.

Scout #1: He’s a classy kid. I admired the way he played last year, I thought he played hard all the time he was on the ice. I didn’t realize the level of skill he has, but he’s a good skater and he showed he could score. By the end of the year I had gotten to really like him. He has good toughness to him too.

Scout #2: If he were on a really good hockey club you wouldn’t have any doubts talking about him in the top 15 in the draft. He’s a great skater and has great hockey sense and shows up to play every night. You might consider him a bit small for a winger but he’s got powerful legs and he makes things happen whenever he’s on the ice.

4.Devin Setoguchi

Position: Right Wing
Team: Saskatoon Blades
Height: 6’0
Weight: 185lbs
Shoots: Right
ISS Ranking: 18th Overall

Devin Setoguchi was able to showcase a wide variety of skills while filling a scoring role on one of the WHL’s top teams, the Saskatoon Blades. Among these skills were his impressive shot, which was clocked at 96 mph at the 2005 CHL Top Prospects Skills Showcase, tops among his peers. His shot was in part the reason for such a strong statistical year for Setoguchi as he set new career-high totals in the Western League.

Finishing third among WHL draft eligible skaters in goals scored this past season, the Taber, Alberta native has become a fan favorite of both Blades fans and scouts alike. With 64 points in 69 games this season, Setoguchi’s goal total alone surpassed his point total from last season, which saw him register 31 points in 66 games. Despite such impressive numbers, though, Setoguchi struggled with consistency in the latter part of the season, including a stretch of 15 games when the winger scored just once and added two points. That streak, though, was followed by a four-game stretch that saw Setoguchi record four goals and eight points.

Already possessing solid size, Setoguchi is quickly learning how to use all of his 6’0, 185lb frame. Whether it’s by laying a punishing hit, digging in the corners, or being responsible both in his own end and showing talent in the offensive zone, Setoguchi is a subtle blend of skill, hard work, and desire. This was very evident at the 2005 Under-18 World Championships, where he lead the team with six points in six games, further increasing his draft stock.

Scout #1: He’s a player that has been inconsistent in his play but has very good scoring skills, is an offensive type player with a tremendous amount of potential. He’s a pretty good skater that has a good touch around the net. I would think that he’s probably going to go in the first round.

Scout #2: He was another guy that took nights off but the nights that he played he was great. I had seen him at the U18 camps and stuff but I was surprised at his toughness that he displayed some nights this year. But there were times he didn’t play well. Sometimes when you think he’s not playing to the level he should be, he brings you out of your seat with something he does.

5.Scott Jackson

Position: Defense
Team: Seattle Thunderbirds
Height: 6’4
Weight: 198lbs
Shoots: Left
ISS Ranking: 33rd Overall

During his rookie season with the Thunderbirds, Scott Jackson earned defensemen of the year honors. In his second season with Seattle, Jackson has continued to take great strides in his development. He was named to the 2005 Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects game in Vancouver, B.C. where he played for Team Davidson along with Seattle teammate Chris Durand.

Among eligible Western Leaguers for the draft, Johnson ranked sixth in plus/minus with a +26 rating, also good enough to earn a top 20 position league-wide. Known primarily as a defensive defenseman, Jackson also provided a bit of offense from the back end, registering 22 points while playing in all 72 games for the Thunderbirds.

Jackson is a big defenseman who likes to play with an extreme physical edge. He makes open-ice hits, and uses his positioning and strength to effectively disrupt the opposition’s flow. He likes to keep things simple and his plus/minus shows how competent of a defender he can be. It is many of these qualities that earned him a position on Team Pacific for the 2004 U-17 World Championships in St. John’s, Newfoundland, where he earned a silver medal. That previous international experience may come in handy as Canada begins evaluating players this summer for their 2006 World Junior team. The tough rearguard was one of the 44 players invited to take part.

Scout #1: He’s a character guy who plays extremely hard, a very good defending player, plays physical and hard, needs to become more mobile and a better skater. (He’s a) big physical gritty guy that makes a good first pass but has to work on his mobility.

Scout #2: At the U-18 I was a little concerned at his toughness but I thought he was better in that area when I saw him play. He really improved his play from the previous year.

6.Michael Sauer

Position: Defense
Team: Portland Winter Hawks
Height: 6’2
Weight: 198lbs
Shoots: Right
ISS Ranking: 47th Overall

Michael Sauer, a native of Sartell, Minnesota, spent his rookie season with the Portland Winter Hawks for 2004-05. It was supposed to be a promising year for him, but his season was cut short when he suffered a torn muscle in his hip. He would go on to miss half the season when he decided to go under the knife rather than attempting a comeback. Still, Sauer managed to skate in 32 games for the Winter Hawks, displaying good offensive awareness en route to recording 13 points over that span.

The promising defenseman elected to have an additional surgery this offseason to on the side of his hip to insure he will be back and healthy for the Winter Hawks come 2005-06. After spending last season paired with Braydon Coburn before he went down, it is obvious that he’ll be back on the top pairing come next fall.

Sauer is very athletic and able defenseman. The brother of Kurt Sauer, it is easy to say that Michael comes from excellent hockey bloodlines as well. Sauer is very poised, sticks to his assignments and is very consistent rearguard. It’s these qualities that have most NHL clubs interested in his services despite only being able to see him in limited showings.

Scout #1: Big strong physical defenseman that skates well. He’s a young man that’s just developing into his size. I don’t think he’s going to opt in because he had surgery on his hip and they told us that they don’t believe that he’ll opt in.

7.Brodie Dupont

Position: Center
Team: Calgary Hitmen
Height: 6’2
Weight: 190lbs
Shoots: Left
ISS Ranking: 40th Overall

Based on the 2004-05 season, Calgary Hitmen center Brodie Dupont might very well be the most confusing prospect for the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. After a forgettable first half of the season, Dupont emerged as one of the most dangerous weapons on an explosive Hitmen offense.

After scoring just eight points in 36 games, Dupont caught fire in 2005, raising his totals on the season to 25 points in 70 games. His contributions to the club were much more than just offensive, though, as he emerged as a true second-line forward for the club. Playing both on the power play and penalty kill did wonders for Dupont, who began to emerge as a player in many respects similar to that of Hitmen teammate Andrew Ladd.

With the same pit bull attitude as that of Ladd, Dupont emerged not only as a fan favorite on the ice, but also garnered attention from scouts in the crowd as well. With a fearless physical attitude and continued improvement in offensive skills, the St Lazare, Manitoba native should be an attractive choice come draft day.

Scout #1: He’s very strong around the net, physically very strong, has great balance, not a really fast skater but powerful. He’s not dynamic offensively but when he’s in front of the net and he’s in position with the puck he can put it in. When he checks, he’s got so much power in his lower body that he goes right through you. I wouldn’t argue with him being a second round pick.

Scout #2: Some nights he doesn’t score that often but he still plays very well during the games. We really expected him to improve over the season and in a lot of ways he really did and I still think he can go a long ways yet. He’s a big strong kid that plays with a lot of enthusiasm.

8.Chris Durand

Position: Center
Team: Seattle Thunderbirds
Height: 6’1
Weight: 185lbs
Shoots: Right
ISS Ranking: 20th Overall

Growing up and moving through the youth hockey ranks in Saskatchewan, Chris Durand always seemed to be ahead of the curve. He joined the T-Birds for the 2003-04 season, where he was named the team’s Rookie of the Year. Durand also participated in the 2004 Under-17 World Hockey Challenge in St. John’s, Newfoundland where he played for Team West.

Durand completed his second season with the Thunderbirds in 2004-05 and was second in team scoring with 53 points. Durand was also selected to the 2005 Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects game in Vancouver, B.C. He played on Team Davidson with Seattle teammate Scott Jackson.

Durand is a great two-way player who works very hard and doesn’t take shifts off. He doesn’t have blazing speed, but has a good amount of endurance. Able to work through checks, he is effective on the forecheck. He is gifted with above average vision, instinct and playmaking abilities. He is a top line forward who can be used in all situations. While humble, Durand has the qualities to be a leader both on the ice and the locker room. He was one the key players in Seattle’s turnaround season.

Scout #1: For some reason Chris has a lot of potential but really has a problem with his consistency and when things don’t work well he sometimes doesn’t appear to push himself beyond where he should be. He’s a big strong powerful forward with a cannon for a shot and he has very good passing skills.

Scout #2: I really liked Chris from the U18 camp but from what I understand this year he didn’t play up to his potential. He still could be a good hockey player. He’s good with the puck, he’s a bit of a physical presence, he’s a pretty well-rounded player but I’m told he wasn’t consistent this year.

9.Brendan Mikkelson

Position: Defense
Team: Portland Winter Hawks
Height: 6’2
Weight: 177lbs
Shoots: Left
ISS Ranking: 21st Overall

Brendan Mikkelson came to the Portland Winter Hawks as a 16-year-old in the summer of 2003. He advanced early on by gaining trust from his teammates and coach while working himself onto the Winter Hawks top defensive units. At the 2003 U-17 Hockey Challenge he played for Team Pacific. Mikkelson also represented Team Canada at the 2004 U-18 World Junior Championship in Slovakia, where he did his part to help his squad win gold.

Mikkelson returned to the Winter Hawks this past season and started to show how much he had really progressed from his freshman campaign. Once again he was one of the team’s top defenders on a very young, strong and balanced squad. Like many of the WHL’s top prospects, Mikkelson was invited to Vancouver, British Columbia, to participate in the CHL’s 2005 Top Prospects game. Mikkelson is also among the players invited to Canada’s 2006 evaluation camp this summer.

The young defender’s skating ability is his most valued asset and is said to be near NHL-caliber. Mikkelson is a very confident defenseman who is poised and skilled with the stick. He has great hands, works well with the puck and can really thread a pass. He has good positioning and though he is still raw, has all the tools. Mikkelson continues to learn and adapt to his strengths, improve on his weaknesses and continue to progress rather well overall. He has tons of potential and lots of room to fill out that 6’2 frame.

Scout #1: He’s a tremendous skater with some offensive skill but he’s not a defending player. He only has average defending skills.

Scout #2: At the U-18 I thought he played excellent but earlier this year I was disappointed with him. I worry about his physical presence because he backs away a bit from tough situations. I did like the way he handles the puck and moves it and he can go end to end.

10.Tyler Plante

Position: Goaltender
Team: Brandon Wheat Kings
Height: 6’2
Weight: 185lbs
Catches: Right
ISS Ranking: 5th Overall (Goaltenders)

Tyler Plante had an exceptional rookie season for the Brandon Wheat Kings in 2004-05. The local product had a regular season record of 34-11-2 with a 2.58 goals against average and .907 save percentage. His 34 victories were third highest in the league, just two wins short of the top spot claimed by Seattle’s Bryan Bridges.

Along the way the 6’2.5 ‘keeper recorded six shutouts, setting a new team record edging out Josh Harding’s five perfect games from last year. Notably for Plante, half of those shutouts came while the Wheat Kings were on the road, a sign that he can rise to the challenge in the tough games.

Plante struggled a bit in the playoffs but still had a better than .500 record going 13-11 with a 2.94 GAA and .911 save percentage. His stats really took a pounding after being lit up for six goals on 20 shots by the Calgary Hitmen in the first game of their second round series. The Wheat Kings lost to Kelowna in the WHL finals, which included an 8-3 pasting in the last game where Plante was in net for each goal.

Scout #1: His game really came a long ways this year. I think he’s a very good talent, has good size he maybe stays a little too deep at times in his net but he battles and works hard. He probably isn’t quite as mature as Price is but with the opportunity he’ll be a good goalie.

Scout #2: I think he’s a guy that is technically sound and the nights he’s having trouble it’s because he refuses to get off the ice after he’s gone down. The nights he’s playing well he doesn’t go down until it’s necessary. The only thing I don’t like about him is that he really has trouble on rebounds. First of all he gives them and secondly he has trouble covering them. I like his size and the way he plays.

11.Blair Jones

Position: Center
Team: Moose Jaw Warriors
Height: 6’0
Weight: 175lbs
Shoots: Left
ISS Ranking: 75th Overall

Blair Jones was involved in an early season trade from Red Deer to Moose Jaw but while he was with the Rebels, the Craik, Saskatchewan native was an important part of the team’s offense. During the stretch of the year when Dion Phaneuf was sidelined by injury, it was Jones that anchored the power play chiefly because of the powerful shot he possesses. Jones played alongside Colin Fraser and Roman Wick while in Red Deer, getting a lot of experience playing a role on the top forward unit.

Jones recorded 25 points in 39 games with Red Deer and then another 25 more in 25 contests for the Warriors, ending the year with 50 points. It was not by coincidence that Moose Jaw began experiencing a lot more success after their deal to acquire Jones. In the playoffs it was he who led the team in scoring during their first round battle with Brandon. In five postseason games Jones amassed seven points, more than double the offensive contribution of anyone else on his team.

Jones ended the year with a +10 rating, one of the few Warriors on the positive side of the ledger and ahead of notable names like Dustin Boyd (-28) Troy Brouwer (-26) and Danny Ehrman (-27).

Scout #1: He’s got really good offensive talent. He’s an average skater with good size, probably needs to dig in a little harder which is probably why he had a falling out with (Brent) Sutter. He’s a talented offensive player and smart. He did well in Moose Jaw; he’s a good player.

Scout #2: I think he’s got great ability. The only thing that scares me is that if (Brent) Sutter doesn’t like him then there’s got to be something there. If Sutter’s trading him then you’ve got to know that there’s a problem. The more investigating I did I discovered that he doesn’t always work very hard in practices but at times this year he really did, especially after going to Moose Jaw. I’m a bit disappointed in his point total because he’s got lots of potential to be an offensive player.

12.Dustin Kohn

Position: Defense
Team: Calgary Hitmen
Height: 6’1
Weight: 180lbs
Shoots: Left
ISS Ranking: 55th Overall

After playing a supporting role with the Calgary Hitmen in 2003-04, a season where he played both forward and defense, Dustin Kohn made a big impact from the blueline this season. On a defense that boasted a pair of first round selections from the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, Kohn quickly solidified his position on the club’s top pairing en route to tops amongst defensemen in scoring with 43 points in 71 games.

The improvement in Kohn’s game came at both ends of the ice. While the 6’1 defenseman saw his offensive output rise from just nine points one season ago, defensively Kohn became much more reliable as well. Involved in all special teams activity, Kohn saw a spike in confidence as the Hitmen coaching staff increased his ice time. Although the Edmonton, AB native finished just two points shy of finishing amongst the top ten defensemen in the league for total points, it was his top 50 finish in plus/minus that Kohn took even greater pride in.

It was both of these statistics that helped earn Kohn a position on Team Cherry in the CHL Top Prospects game, opening the eyes of many scouts. At the conclusion of the 2004-05 regular season, the Calgary Hitmen named Kohn the club’s top defenseman. His improvements didn’t go unnoticed by those outside of the organization either, as Kohn will get an opportunity to impress onlookers at the Canadian Junior Development Camp.

Scout #1: Kohn’s a really skilled offensive player, skates well. I think there are some holes in him. I don’t see him in the second round. I just don’t see a huge battle level in this guy.

Scout #2: He’s a hard guy to put a value on. He has great skills but he doesn’t play as tough as I’d like him to. He’s not that big but he’s a great skater and he’s an offensive threat. He’ll probably go fairly high in the draft I would think.

13.Kris Russell

Position: Defense
Team: Medicine Hat Tigers
Height: 5’9
Weight: 148lbs
Shoots: Left
ISS Ranking: 104th Overall

An early odds-on favorite to be a great sleeper pick in the coming draft, 5’9 160 lb. Kris Russell of the Medicine Hat Tigers is just too talented for NHL teams to ignore. At times this year, the Tigers were short on the blueline when Cam Barker was out with mononucleosis and Steve Marr was sidelined by injury, but the pint-sized Russell was able to shoulder the weight and carried the team offensively.

His 61 points this year were enough to place Russell third in the league for defensive scoring just five points back of the top spot held by Mike Green. Aside from his offensive upside, what Medicine Hat coach Willie Desjardins likes the most about his diminutive blueliner is his fearless ability to battle players much larger than himself. Russell was matched against the opposing top lines for much of the year and had to defend players like Ryan Getzlaf and Andrew Ladd, and did so extremely well.

In the WHL playoffs, a head injury suffered against the Red Deer Rebels limited his effectiveness but any who saw Russell during the regular season came away knowing they saw someone special. Russell represented Canada at the U18 Junior World Cup in August of 2004 and may get to do so again next winter as he was one of 44 players selected to take part in Canada’s U-20 summer workouts.

Scout #1: If there’s a little guy that’s ever going to play, he’s the one. The nights he’s playing he can control a game, it goes at whatever speed he wants to play it. I see him blocking shots and coming back and doing a great job of taking on guys in front of the net that are twice his size and he does it along the boards, in the corners and he’ll fight too. If he was 25 pounds heavier you’d be fighting to get him and still I think he’s going to go pretty high.

Scout #2: He’s only 160 pounds but he plays like he’s 200 lbs. He thinks the game, he’s aggressive and he has great hockey sense. It’s tough to guess where he’s going to go in the draft because of his size but if he were 6’0 tall he’d be a definite first rounder. He certainly has the ability to be a good player and from the skill and heart standpoint he has all the attributes to be an NHL player but it’s tough to project where he’s going to fit in at the NHL level.

14.Jeff May

Position: Defense
Team: Prince Albert Raiders
Height: 6’1
Weight: 183lbs
Shoots: Left
ISS Ranking: 40th Overall

If it’s a safe pick a team wants when it comes to selecting a defenseman, then Jeff May is someone who might fit the bill. The Richmond, British Columbia native was a steady and reliable component of the blueline for the Prince Albert Raiders, and gave head coach Peter Anholt enough confidence to play him at crucial times.

The 6’1, 183lb rearguard is anything but flashy but managed to account for 22 points during the regular season and added five more in the playoffs. Through Prince Albert’s 17 postseason games May held a +5 rating and was only on the negative side of that stat on two nights.

The recently turned 18-year-old will be a stalwart for the Raiders for the next couple of years and with the graduations of veterans from the Prince Albert roster, next season will offer May plenty more opportunities and responsibilities. Already a member of both specialty teams, May will see his ice time on both units increase.

Scout #1: He had good success this year in a quiet sort of way. He wasn’t outstanding in any sort of way yet played on the power play, killed penalties, and played well in the playoffs. He plays a nice sound game and is the kind of guy the coach really likes and respects when he’s out there for him.

Scout #2: He has the tools to be a good pro prospect. He skates well, plays the body and is capable of making plays on a consistent basis.

15.Wacey Rabbit

Position: Center
Team: Saskatoon Blades
Height: 5’9
Weight: 170lbs
Shoots: Left
ISS Ranking: 144th Overall

The 2004-05 season for Calgary, Alberta native Wacey Rabbit was a return to the spotlight. After scoring 45 points in 62 games two seasons ago, Rabbit struggled through the 2003-04 season, scoring just 17 points in 60 games. The step back was definitely cause for concern among scouts, but after finishing in the top 20 in scoring this season, Rabbit’s stock is back up.

Second on the Saskatoon Blades squad in scoring to only Ryan Keller, Rabbit scored 67 points in 70 games this season. His 45 assists lead the Blades and ranked him third among draft eligible forwards from the Western Hockey League.

Often criticized for being selfish with the puck, Rabbit possesses great offensive abilities and is capable of leading the attack based on his vision alone. A threat to create or finish an offensive chance every time he steps over the boards, perhaps the only thing holding back the 5’9, 170lb forward is his size.

Scout #1: The name says it all. He’s a great skater, good power play guy and penalty killer because he uses his speed very effectively. He’s a small center and he might run out of gas a bit by the end of the year but he certainly came a long ways in the last season. Really small but he’s got extreme offensive talent.

Scout #2: We’ve been watching this kid for a long time and he hasn’t changed much. The one thing I like is that he bounced back from a terrible season last year. He’s another one that can be an individual at times and doesn’t use his linemates. He’s capable of going end to end and making a spectacular play. There are obvious concerns with his size but he’s a very good skater.

16.Colton Yellow Horn

Position: Left Wing
Team: Lethbridge Hurricanes
Height: 5’7
Weight: 175lbs
Shoots: Left
ISS Ranking: 226th Overall

Although undersized at 5’7, Lethbridge Hurricanes forward Colton Yellow Horn had the majority of the Western Hockey League looking up at him all season long. Not only did the Brocket, AB native lead his team in points as a 17-year-old, but also finished fifth overall in league scoring with 86 points, second behind only Gilbert Brule among those eligible for the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. Yellow Horn also finished tops among draft eligible skaters in assists.

Without being overly flashy, Yellow Horn regularly displayed his dynamic skills and great hockey sense. On pure talent alone the ‘Brocket Rocket’ is considered to be one of the best players available from the Western Hockey League this season.

Although Yellow Horn wasn’t invited to the 2005 CHL Top Prospects game, he was more than honored to be a part of Team Canada’s silver medal winning Under-18 squad. Yellow Horn finished the tournament with two points, both goals, in six games.

Scout #1: He’s a gutty little guy, plays hard and the kind of guy that if I was a hockey player I’d like to be on the wing with him because I know I would be getting the puck. It’s just unfortunate about his size and I don’t know if he skates well enough. When you’re that size you need to be exceptional with the puck. I do like him but I don’t think he’s going to play in the NHL.

Scout #2: We keep dismissing these guys but the worst scenario for a kid like that would be one hell of an AHL player. Very strong legs, he’s in and out but boy, wherever the puck is, he’s around it. He anticipates the play really well and it seems like he finds openings and the puck just comes to him. He’s been a huge kid on the club this year and he’s been consistent all year.

17.Nicholas Drazenovic

Position: Center
Team: Prince George Cougars
Height: 6’0
Weight: 159lbs
Shoots: Left
ISS Ranking: 194th Overall

Nicholas Drazenovic is a local boy who enjoyed a lot of success for the disappointing Prince George Cougars in 2004-05. It was the second full season for the center.

Dressing for all 72 games for the Cougars, Drazenovic totaled 56 points, good enough for second best on the team. It was a tough season for Prince George, having to play much of the year without a key part of their offensive arsenal in the line-up as Eric Hunter’s absence put extra pressure on the rest of the team to produce. Drazenovic didn’t disappoint and on most nights he was one of the most effective and dangerous forwards for Prince George.

Drazenovic’s slight build prevents him from getting too involved in much physical play but the center has an offensive side worth noting. With solid hands, speed and puckhandling ability, Drazenovic isn’t flashy but is capable in the offensive end, which compliments his equally impressive defensive play.

Scout #1: He’s not a physical player but he’s a dynamic offensive player. Their best player was the Hunter boy that [Chicago] drafted last year, but he was hurt so a lot of nights the offensive duties fell to him and he was their best player.

ISS (June): Drazenovic is a highly skilled, smooth skating center. He reads the ice well and has quietly developed into a player who opposing teams will undoubtedly key on each time he gets the puck. He is creative in generating scoring opportunities whenever he has time in the offensive zone. His quick release and ability to handle the puck in close quarters makes him a desirable commodity for the upcoming draft. To be successful at the pro level he will need to become stronger and be willing to battle in the corners.

18.Paul Kurceba

Position: Defense
Team: Red Deer Rebels
Height: 6’2
Weight: 175lbs
Shoots: Left
ISS Ranking: 61st Overall

Calgary-born Paul Kurceba had a solid season for the Red Deer Rebels but is not an eye-catching prospect. Not spectacular in any way, the 6’2 rearguard is a fairly safe low-risk pick. After scoring just three points, all goals, in 53 games during the 2003-04 campaign the two-way player bumped his numbers to 18 points this past year.

At the conclusion of Red Deer’s playoff loss to Medicine Hat, Kurceba played for Canada at the 2005 U-18 Junior World Championships and picked up a single point in six games winning a silver medal.

Playing mistake-free hockey is the key for Kurceba, a stay-at-home defenseman who isn’t often noticed unless it’s in a negative light. Kurceba, who saw an increased role with the club over the course of the season due mainly to the absence of teammate Dion Phaneuf, also finished the year -8, second worst on the club amongst defensemen.

Scout #1: He’s probably a middle rounder. He isn’t blessed with great ability but he’s a decent skater. The advantage there is that he’s going back to play for a great coach who will turn him into a very good player if he has any of the abilities you think he has. He went over and played well at the U-18, he struggled early in the tournament but he got better as it went on. Brent Sutter played him a lot this year so I think he’s only going to get better as time goes on. He’s very stay at home, nothing fancy to his game at all.

ISS (June): He was partnered with Phaneuf, which might have something to do with it but he played with more confidence and poise than before. He showed some speed and can get back to his own end. His skating is his big thing, his shot is a little weak and his physical game in front of the net is lacking because he doesn’t moves guys out from the front of the net well enough.

19.Ray Macias

Position: Right Wing/Defense
Team: Kamloops Blazers
Height: 6’2
Weight: 180lbs
Shoots: Right
ISS Ranking: 83rd Overall

Ray Macias has spent the last two seasons playing with the Kamloops Blazers and has seen success in consecutive seasons. In 2003-04, he finished seventh overall in scoring, but his 12 goals and offensive ability as rookie helped earn a spot on the CHL All-Rookie Team, a list that also included the likes of Sidney Crosby and Gilbert Brule. In the summer proceeding the 2004-05 season, the Long Beach, California native was invited to the Los Angeles Kings 2004 Developmental Camp in neighboring El Segundo.

Even though the Blazers didn’t turn in a picture perfect season in 2004-05, Macias lead Kamloops in overall scoring with 47 points in 69 games, seeing action both guarding the blueline and on the right wing. He also participated in the 2005 Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game in Vancouver, B.C. During the skills competition, he was clocked as the third fastest skater.

Macias is a savvy offensive-minded defenseman who has a nose for the back of the net. Not only did he see time in all situations last season, his offensive ability and skating led him to see time on both defense and as a right winger for the Blazers. He is a very good and conditioned skater, who possesses great acceleration and overall skill on his feet. He has good hands and is effective moving the puck up ice in most situations. Macias’ overall offensive ability and skating are his big upside, which every team will be able to use.

Scout #1: Very talented player. He has no physical edge, skates well, very good offensive talent but not a very good defender. He’s very inconsistent.

ISS (June): Raymond was playing right wing and defense on the power play at times. He could be a real power forward and should dominate with his skill level and his size but I’m not sure if right wing is his position or not.

20.Adam Hobson

Position: Center
Team: Spokane Chiefs
Height: 6’0
Weight: 195lbs
Shoots: Left
ISS Ranking: 72nd Overall

In his second full season with the Spokane Chiefs, center Adam Hobson made considerable strides towards developing his offensive game, earning more ice time in the process. After recording just nine points in 63 games last season, Hobson skated in all 72 contests this year, recording a career-high 37 points.

Many feel that 2005-06 is Hobson’s year to shine. Barely scratching the tape at six-feet, he is a good skater with decent speed. He has good hands and can be very tenacious, which makes him a very effective two-way centerman. He is a team first player who is extremely coachable. He has a great overall work ethic and is a superb role model on and off the ice. He has a decent shot but is a monster on loose pucks. He doesn’t try to overdo it and is very competent at both ends of the ice.

Scout #1: He’s a very good two-way player; he has a good sense for the game and he’s a very good faceoff guy. He’s going to battle to play in the NHL but I’m not sure that he will play in the NHL.

ISS (June): Opening some eyes with his combination of size, skills and skating, Hobson quickly earned his way into increased ice time and a key role. He has good speed, soft hands and tenacity. He might be limited to a third-line or checking-line center role in the NHL but he’s a team-first guy with a great work ethic.

21.Matt Keetley

Position: Goaltender
Team: Medicine Hat Tigers
Height: 6’2
Weight: 215lbs
Catches: Right
ISS Ranking: 20th Goalie Overall

With Kevin Nastiuk entrenched as the team’s starter, Medicine Hat product Matt Keetley was satisfied living out his dream and playing for the local powerhouse junior club. However, Nastiuk’s play dropped off the map following an incredibly hot start to the year and so Keetley was given an opportunity that he gladly ran away with.

Keetley put together a 6-2 January where he held a 1.88 GAA and a .932 save percentage and took over the starting job while Nastiuk nursed a sore hand for an abnormally long period of time amidst rumblings of off-ice problems. At the end of the season, Keetley had posted an incredible 21-5-3 record, 1.66 GAA and .933 save percentage as well as six shutouts. There was much made of Nastiuk setting a new Tigers benchmark for shutouts with seven but Keetley’s total also beat the old team record in just 32 games. Statistically, Keetley had the best regular season goals against average and save percentage in the entire WHL and his .656 winning percentage was bested only by Tyler Plante (.708) and Jeff Glass (.667).

Keetley started in net for the Tigers in their opening playoff series against Red Deer but after winning game one, he surrendered three goals in just over a period in the second game and lost his spot to Nastiuk for the remainder of the postseason.

Scout #1: He takes up a lot of room in the net like a big goalie should but like a small goalie he’s very agile. I’d like to see him as a starter and play 50 or 60 games but he took over from Nastiuk when the divisional race was too close to call and wasn’t affected by the pressure down the stretch. At the end of February he played three games in three nights and gave up a total of three goals, plus he had three shutouts in the last five games of the year.

ISS (June): He’s a fair sized goalie and he stood his ground but there was something that made me not like him; he was rough around the edges. He played his position pretty good and he used his size well. Keetley looks a bit awkward to me but being a southpaw makes it look that way at time. In his defense, in the playoffs he had to play shutout hockey the whole way to not have Nastiuk come in. I still think he has potential because of his size and you can’t knock his stats, I don’t think you can argue his record of 21-5 so he must have been doing something right.

22.Joe Barnes

Position: Center
Team: Saskatoon Blades
Height: 6’3
Weight: 210lbs
Shoots: Left
ISS Ranking: 165th Overall

At first glance, it would appear that Saskatoon Blades center Joe Barnes is the complete package. Not only does he stand at 6’3, 210lbs, but he also put up an impressive 62 points while playing in all 72 games for the Saskatoon franchise, a significant improvement over the 22 points he had the previous season. In fact, Barnes was so successful in his overall development that he was named both the club’s most improved player and most dedicated player.

But as talented as the Winnipeg, Manitoba native is for a player his size, his mental makeup may hold him back. That knock, though, seems to be the only deterrent, who chose not to opt into last year’s draft after suffering a neck injury at the 2004 Under-18 World Championships.

Scout #1: I have a hard time liking Joe Barnes. I know he’s loaded with abilities but I think he has a problem thinking too much about the game and how he’s playing, what’s happening with the other players who are compared to him. I think he’s lost it and that he won’t recover from it.

Scout #2: I think a lot of people have his draft year in their mind and have trouble getting rid of it; everybody expected a lot more of him than he gave. He’s a big kid that played well and playing for Lorne Molleken brought out the best in him. He’ll probably go in the middle rounds of this draft.

23.Dave Schlemko

Position: Defense
Team: Medicine Hat Tigers
Height: 6’1
Weight: 171lbs
Shoots: Left
ISS Ranking: 95thth Overall

Very few first-year players had the impact that rookie defenseman Dave Schlemko did during the 2004-05 Western Hockey League season. Schlemko, a graduate of the Knights of Columbus Midget AAA program, solidified a position on the Tigers roster by recording his first point in his first WHL game, en route to finishing among the top 15 in the league in freshmen scoring. With 29 points in 65 games, Schlemko sat behind only Cam Barker and fellow draft eligible defenseman Kris Russell among Tiger defensemen in scoring.

A former winner of the Alberta Midget Hockey League’s top defenseman award, Schlemko made a silky-smooth transition to major junior hockey. With the potential absence of Chicago Blackhawks first round selection Cam Barker, Schlemko will be asked to step up into a much more important role, both offensively and defensively.

Scout #1: He had a great season. He’s not really big but he’s got some of Russell’s characteristics. Not big, surprisingly physical for his size and he can skate well too.

ISS (June): He’s very good one on one. Forwards have a very difficult time getting around him and they rarely do. He moves the puck really well; he makes great outlet pass by finding the man and making crisp pass on the tape. He has very quick feet and he’s good at jumping up into the rush. His physical game could improve as he puts more weight on his 6’0 frame.

24.Dalyn Flatt

Position: Defense
Team: Saskatoon Blades
Height: 6’3
Weight: 215lbs
Shoots: Left
ISS Ranking: 113th Overall

Possibly the only thing more impressive than Dalyn Flatt’s 237 minutes in penalties during the 2004-05 season, third in the league, was the fact that the 6’3, 215lb defenseman finished in a tie for fourth with Saskatoon teammate Mike Green for the league lead in plus/minus, sharing a +36 mark. Not only that, the native of Teulon, Manitoba also managed to add 19 points, contributing as a top four defenseman on the Blades, who finished second in the East Division. Flatt’s season is even more impressive considering that the punishing defenseman had only two points, both assists, in his entire Western Hockey League career.

Known as a punishing defenseman, Flatt is best utilized as a stay-at-home guy with a nasty edge. With above average defensive zone coverage and an attitude that allows him to be physical, Flatt is an excellent example of the invaluable defensive defenseman.

Scout #1: I wasn’t all that impressed with him. I know he’s a big tough guy but to me he didn’t do much more than that. He didn’t show me any playmaking ability, he didn’t make good passes out of his own end and he’s not much of an offensive threat.

Scout #2: It would be fair to assess Flatt’s game as ‘you get what you see’. His strength is his ability to take care of his own end and physically move forwards from the front of the net. Flatt is a safe bet in the draft ranks because he can be counted on to play hard and is willing to drop the gloves.

25.Shaun Vey

Position: Center
Team: Tri-City Americans
Height: 6’3
Weight: 205lbs
Shoots: Right
ISS Ranking: 186th Overall

For a kid who tore it up offensively in Midget AAA, Shaun Vey failed to find his touch during his rookie season. Starting with the Vancouver Giants, Vey was overshadowed by veteran players and was more often than not unable to get quality minutes. At the midway point of the 2004-05 season, and what was explained as a move to get “bigger and younger,” Vey was dealt to the Tri-City Americans. He would go on to play the remainder of the season with the team but still was not that effective. After joining the Americans, Vey recorded just 14 points in 36 games, giving him a total of 23 points in 74 games, two games more than a full WHL schedule.

There is no question that Vey has the ability and touch to light the lamp. He has a good set of legs under him and uses his size well on the forecheck. He has some positional and strength work to do. Obviously because of his lack of output, he will go in a late round.

Scout #1: Very skilled but he doesn’t play hard, outstanding skills. I just don’t think it’s in him.

Scout #2: There is no question that this kid can play, it’s just a matter of whether or not he wants to do it every night. Some nights he’s the best player on the ice and other times you’d swear that he wasn’t even in the line-up. He’s got great size that will help him, and he uses it, but needs to be more efficient in how he utilizes it. He consumes a lot more energy than he really needs to.

26.Michal Gulasi

Position: Defense
Team: Lethbridge Hurricanes
Height: 6’1
Weight: 195lbs
Shoots: Left
ISS Ranking: 140th Overall

Eligible for the 2004 National Hockey League Entry Draft, Michal Gulasi finds himself opting into the 2005 edition of the same draft. Putting on nearly two inches and ten pounds since last season, any questions of the Ostrava, Czech Republic native’s ability to compete physically have all but been put to rest. Combine a now expanded 6’1, 195lb frame with an adequate physical and defensive game, and Gulasi is sure to be selected.

The import’s game isn’t all defense though. Through 64 games this season, Gulasi recorded 21 points. His +28 ranking placed him not only second on the Hurricanes, behind only fellow 2005 draft eligible Colton Yellow Horn, who was +29, but also 12th in the entire Western Hockey League. The defenseman also suited up for the Czech Republic for the 2005 World Junior Championships, where he recorded a pair of assists through six games en route to a bronze medal finish.

ISS (June): He is not scared; he’s a Czech player in a North American body. He will battle and fight, he’ll block shots with his face, and he will put his body on the line for his teammates and his team. But in the playoffs, I don’t know if it was just fatigue but he just didn’t have it. He’s got a lot of heart but he needs to get a little bigger and a little quicker if he’s going to play at the next level at his size.

ISS (June): Mike is a punishing checker who plays the man very well in open ice. He delivers hard hits along the wall when he catches a player trying to take him wide. He plays one on one very well. He doesn’t panic with the puck under pressure and can make a good pass out of his own zone or he can skate it out when needed. His skating is average but he has a hard shot.

27.Bretton Stamler

Position: Defense
Team: Seattle Thunderbirds
Height: 6’1
Weight: 199lbs
Shoots: Right
ISS Ranking: 158th Overall

Bretton Stamler played his first full season with the Seattle Thunderbirds in 2003-04 and has progressed rather quickly. Stamler used the past few offseasons to improve his overall range and ability, while working with fellow T-Birds teammate and Columbus Blue Jackets prospect, Steve Goertzen. To his credit, he became one of the stronger defensemen on the Thunderbirds 2004-05 squad. Although he didn’t develop into much of an offensive threat, Stamler still managed 13 points in 72 games.

Stamler is a defensemen that uses his excellent skating and understanding of the game to make him very effective. He does a good job working in his own end, but needs to pick up the offensive side of the game. He is a very strong, dedicated worker that leads by example. He always is looking for room to improve. However, he keeps things simple and takes the appropriate time to adjust. He is a very intelligent person and is very coachable because of his will succeed. Stamler’s determination and work ethic are two of his stronger traits.

Scout #1: He’s a good player but he’s a late round selection.

28.Riley Merkley

Position: Center
Team: Calgary Hitmen
Height: 6’3
Weight: 175lbs
Shoots: Right
ISS Ranking: 157th Overall

Heading into the season, expectations from the Calgary Hitmen were high for Riley Merkley, and in retrospect, possibly too high. Essentially inheriting the second line center position for the Hitmen, Merkley struggled early to produce offensively early, and wasn’t able to showcase his underrated playmaking skills.

Always competent in his own end, though, Merkley advanced his defensive game, eventually evolving into a strong third-line center for the Hitmen. Drawing the opposition’s top lines on a nightly basis, not only did the Blackie, Alberta native end his season with a respectable -1 rating, but he also contributed 27 points in 71 games with the Hitmen this season. The expectations didn’t go unwarranted for Merkley, though, and went so far as to play in the CHL Top Prospects game, held in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Scout #1: Merkley has a great frame to be a pro but his foot speed and stride are poor. As a result his upside is very limited and we are at a loss to determine his role at the next level. He needs to put on a great deal of weight and he may have topped out his abilities at an early age despite the fact that we like his work ethic.

Scout #2: Merkley stepped into an opportunity this year and didn’t fulfill expectations. He was expected to contribute offensively and failed to do so, opening questions about his offensive potential. He was moderately effective in a checking line role, but he’ll really need to put on some weight and gain a bit of an edge if he hopes to continue that niche further down the road.

29.Mike Kaye

Position: Right Wing
Team: Lethbridge Hurricanes
Height: 6’1
Weight: 205lbs
Shoots: Right
ISS Ranking: 178th Overall

Though he possesses a lot of raw talent and an abundance of speed, Lethbridge Hurricanes winger Mike Kaye wasn’t able to translate his skills into offensive success at the Western Hockey League level. With just six points in 52 games played, Kaye’s third season with the Hurricanes has to be considered a disappointment.

Kaye, who participated in Team Canada’s National Under-18 Development Camp in 2004, had previously played 42 games over the course of two seasons with the Hurricanes, before earning a full-time role on the club in 2004-05. Alarms are ringing with the development of Kaye, who will now be projected to fill a niche no higher than a checking winger for the Lethbridge Hurricanes next season. Certainly he’ll have to step up in order to answer any questions pertaining to his potential offensively, as well as how he’ll be able to develop his defensive game, arguably his best asset.

Scout #1: To me you can train any guy to play the way he plays. He’s a good checker and a very good skater and he’s strong but other than that, I always expect more out of him, and he never comes through.

ISS (June): He’s a really good skater and he can give defensemen fits with his speed. He can turn on a dime with control of the puck; he’s very nifty and shows a lot of promise. His physical game lacks a bit for a guy of his size. His play away from the puck was good.

30.Matt Kassian

Position: Right Wing
Team: Kamloops Blazers
Height: 6’6
Weight: 225lbs
Shoots: Left
ISS Ranking: 195th Overall

At 6’6 and 225 lbs, 19-year-old Matt Kassian is a man amongst boys at the junior level and the resident tough guy of the Kamloops Blazers isn’t afraid to show it. What the hard-hitting forward lacks in the skating department he more than makes up for when the gloves come flying off. Make no mistake about it, Kassian isn’t in the league to put up points, with just six in 69 games this season.

Kassian also had 172 penalty minutes, the most of any Blazer. Kamloops acquired the power forward at the WHL’s trading deadline from the Vancouver Giants for forward Cam Cunning. The Sherwood Park, Alberta product has NHL size and pro toughness but will definitely have to improve on his mobility before he moves on to a higher level.

Scout #1: He’s a big strong tough kid. I think Kamloops was a lot better after they got him from Vancouver because he gave them more space to move. He’s got things to work on; his skating and his finishing certainly, but he’s probably one of the toughest kids in the WHL. I’m pretty sure he’ll get drafted; he’s a player that we like.

Scout #2: He’s big. What’s more important, is he’s big and mean. Right now, he knows what his role is, and can pretty well guess what’s going to be expected of him at the next level of hockey. That should ease in his development.

31.Mike Gauthier

Position: Defense
Team: Prince Albert Raiders
Height: 6’4
Weight: 185lbs
Shoots: Right
ISS Ranking: 165th Overall

As one of the biggest draft eligible defensemen from the Western Hockey League, scouts paid extra attention to Prince Albert Raider Mike Gauthier. After all, finding 6’4 defensemen with both speed and smarts is a rarity. Unfortunately for Gauthier, questions have risen over whether or not he can be a competent decision maker, something that could hinder his draft status. But Gauthier remains a towering defenseman with an uncanny ability to clear the front of the net and play a strong, steady defensive game.

After playing in only 40 games this season, in which he recorded three points, NHL clubs may be worried about Gauthier’s leg, which required surgery after suffering a break in it January 6th. Still, though, Gauthier was able to return to the Raiders lineup and play in 13 playoff games, recording no points and 18 minutes in penalties.

Scout #1: He certainly has the size to be a good professional, however his puck skills and ability to make quick, efficient plays have not progressed as expected. He will need to better demonstrate his ability to play with the puck.

Scout #2: He plays hard, shows up every night, there’s nothing flashy about his game but over the course of the year he got better and better.

32.Ryan Reaves

Position: Right Wing
Team: Brandon Wheat Kings
Height: 6’1
Weight: 194lbs
Shoots: Right
ISS Ranking: 211th Overall

Overshadowed by the likes of Tim Konsorada, Eric Fehr and Ryan Stone, forward Ryan Reaves fell through the cracks during the 2004-05 season. With a veteran-laden Wheat Kings club, Reaves wasn’t immediately granted an opportunity to showcase his underrated skills. In fact, Reaves had only five points in his first 46 games in the league, it seemed as though Reaves was also burying himself down the depth chart. Subsequently, Reaves saw his play, ice time, and point production improve as the Wheat Kings moved closer to the playoffs, finishing with 16 points in 64 games.

Reaves certainly is an intriguing prospect heading into the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. Just one season removed from leading his St John Ravenscourt Eagles to the Manitoba High School Championship, Reaves has established himself as a lethal physical force on the ice. He hits hard, hits often, and hits with enthusiasm. While Reaves may be a below-average skater, the dedication and hard work he’s shown this season, coupled with strong development towards the latter part of the season, means he could potentially develop into either a power winger or important role player.

Scout #1: The athletic background is there. He’s a big kid and he goes up and down his wing really well. His hands are going to have to get better but I think he’s got the attitude of a player who wants to get better. By getting to the WHL finals he’s learned how hard it is to get to a championship and for him personally it gave him more opportunity to be seen by scouts from around the league. This kid played pretty well on that team and he’s going to get more time next year.

ISS (June): He’s a hard working, honest, up and down the boards kind of guy. He needs to improve his skating to get to the next level but he does have very good strength.

33.Kyle Cumiskey

Position: Defense
Team: Kelowna Rockets
Height: 5’11
Weight: 164lbs
Shoots: Left
ISS Ranking: Not Ranked

After getting minimal minutes with Kelowna in his rookie year during the 2003-04 championship season, Kyle Cumiskey really stepped up this past season into an expanded role for the Rockets. Cumiskey helped anchor a blueline that also boasted the likes of Shea Weber and Mike Card, both of whom helped lead Kelowna to back-to-back WHL Championships and Memorial Cup Finals appearances. Although fate wasn’t on their side this year, Cumiskey shined for the Rockets.

Cumiskey is a tad on the short side, at 5’11. He is a very poised and gifted offensive defenseman, as indicated by his 40 points while playing in all 72 Rockets games this season. He is extremely versatile and can be used in all situations. He is a balanced skater with decent acceleration and overall speed. He has good hands and on-ice vision, which ultimately gives him the upper hand on the rush.

Scout #1: Very skilled offensive defenseman, not really big but is a great two-way defenseman, runs the power play, intelligence and skating ability eliminates any size issues.

Scout #2: He’s a great skater, he can go and get the puck, his first pass is always really good, and he jumps into the play very well. If he’s got a negative, it’s his size.

34.Gordie Baldwin

Position: Defense
Team: Medicine Hat Tigers
Height: 6’5
Weight: 195lbs
Shoots: Left
ISS Ranking: 243rd Overall

Gordie Baldwin registered 11 points during the regular season as a rookie with the Medicine Hat Tigers and finished the year with a +13 rating. Although he dressed for 66 games, his average ice time wasn’t very significant but gradually increased over the course of the schedule. Playing behind Cam Barker, Steve Marr, Cody Blanshan and Kris Russell didn’t offer a lot of extra time for Baldwin but when he got the chance he played well enough to catch the eyes of some area scouts.

The 6’5 195 lb Winnipeg native is a physical specimen for the Tigers, a banger that plays sound hockey in his own end and is clearly at his best battling in the trenches of the corners and in front of the net. There is plenty of room on his frame to add 30 pounds and once he does, Baldwin will be even tougher to play against.

Scout #1: I like Baldwin. He didn’t play a lot until the end of the year but I think there’s an awful lot of potential there.

ISS (June): He plays the body well, uses his size well in front of the net and can really move the opposition forwards. His foot speed needs work; he’s slow at the WHL level. He definitely plays tough, there’s no doubt about that. He got better as the year went on. He’s a big guy that needs to catch up to his size. He started to play tougher as the year went on too. I’d like to see him drop the mittens a bit more though.

35.Darren Helm

Position: Center
Team: Medicine Hat Tigers
Height: 6’0
Weight: 170lbs
Shoots: Left
ISS Ranking: 225th Overall

Checking forward Darren Helm had a successful campaign in Medicine Hat in 2004-05 and played in every game. Helm recorded 24 points and then added eight more points in the Tigers’ 13 playoff appearances. The Manitoba-born Helm often matched up against the top two lines of the opposition but his +6 rating suggests that he won more of those battles than he lost.

With Clarke MacArthur and Stefan Meyer both expected to be moving on to the pro ranks next season, Helm will see a major increase in playing time and responsibility. Although average in height, Helm will have to add muscle and strength to compete at a higher level. Under Head Coach Willie Desjardins, it can be expected that Helm will also improve his skating, something the coach worked on with both MacArthur and Meyer during their time with the Tigers. Helm will need to overcome his poor skating in order to make it to the next level.

Scout #1: He works hard and has pretty reasonable skills. You worry a bit about his size though.

ISS (June): Tireless. Didn’t play much but when he did….He’s a very good skater, but his shot is maybe a little weak. Where he lacks is in his strength, he’s not a big guy. He has pretty good hands and I think his numbers will go up next year.

36.Pierre-Paul Lamoureux

Position: Defense
Team: Red Deer Rebels
Height: 6’1
Weight: 200lbs
Shoots: Left
ISS Ranking: 223rd Overall

A native of Grand Forks, North Dakota, Pierre-Paul Lamoureux is a physical, defensive defenseman for the Red Deer Rebels that is hoping to be another addition to that club’s growing tradition of impressive blueliners. In 67 games the 6’1 200 lbs rearguard recorded a forgettable six points but also had 107 minutes in penalties, most of which were roughing minors and fighting majors.

The aggressive Lamoureux is more than willing to stand up for his teammates and rarely turns a cheek when confronted by an opposing player’s offer to dance. With Dion Phaneuf definitely not returning to the Rebels next year, Lamoureux’s role as a physical intimidator will grow even more and his defensive responsibilities will also increase noticeably.

Scout #1: He plays a physical type of game. He’s more polished than Flatters but he didn’t get to play as much. He plays a tough game along the wall and in front of the net. His foot speed needs work but he’s a guy that shows up to battle.

ISS (June): I think he has a lot of developing to do. To me his potential declined as the year went on, it seemed like his role decreased a lot. Do I think he has a future? Maybe as a CIS player. I really liked him at the beginning of the year but he needs to improve his strength.

37.John Flatters

Position: Defense
Team: Red Deer Rebels
Height: 6’1
Weight: 203lbs
Shoots: Left
ISS Ranking: 238th Overall

Much like his teammate Pierre-Paul Lamoureux, John Flatters makes his presence known with his physical play and with his fists if necessary. The 6’2 203 lbs Calgary product appeared in 53 games with Red Deer and notched just two points but had 117 minutes in penalties to go with them. Flatters played a lot in games where the tone shifted towards the violent and hard hitting end of the spectrum, especially down the stretch as the Rebels jockeyed for playoff seeding.

Flatters is another player who will help fill the hole left when Dion Phaneuf turns pro next year, especially when it comes to the area of toughness and defending his teammates.

Scout #1: He’s tougher (than Lamoureux). He’s more raw but he likes to hit, he goes out of his way to hit sometimes which gets him in trouble with the coach. He plays a physical type of game. He’s mistake prone but I still like him as a late rounder.

Scout #2: Like Lamoureux, always likes to play hard and physical in the corners or in front of his own net. His skating needs to improve too but this is a guy who comes to play every night and will win battles for you.

38.Sean Zimmerman

Position: Defense
Team: Spokane Chiefs
Height: 6’2
Weight: 211lbs
Shoots: Right
ISS Ranking: 247th Overall

Sean Zimmerman came to the WHL in the 2003-04 season virtually unknown in the U.S. Division. In that rookie season with the Spokane Chiefs, Zimmerman earned the team’s rookie of the year honor and has gone to be one of the top defenseman in the Chiefs lineup. A season later and a lot of hard work put in during his spare time, Zimmerman has taken his game to a new level. Offensively, his production increased dramatically, with doubling his eight points last year to 16 this season. Even more remarkable, though, was Zimmerman’s defensive play, which saw him earn a +4 rating, only one of six Chief players to be positive in terms of plus/minus.

He has good size and plays a smart and physical game. He uses his body well and is positionally sound. He is a very coachable player with a good head on his shoulders. His work ethic is unquestionable, and he is a smart player beyond his years.

Scout #1: He’s OK, his skating needs a lot of work, he makes a decent first pass but he’s probably a minor leaguer.

Scout #2: He got caught in a situation when Spokane struggled this year. He works hard and he’s got fair hockey sense. I think he’s a kid that will go in the later rounds of the draft.

39.Brett Sutter

Position: Center
Team: Kootenay Ice
Height: 6’0
Weight: 180lbs
Shoots: Left
ISS Ranking: Not Ranked

With genetics on his side, Brett Sutter might receive a second look on nights when comparable players may not. He’s the son of a NHL GM and his uncles make up the most storied hockey family in hockey history, but 18-year-old Brett says that while he fits the stereotypical Sutter mold, he’s his own player and that he’s not trying to ride on any coat tails.

In 70 games with the Kootenay Ice, Sutter scored 19 points but was one of only two non-goalies on the team to not have a positive plus/minus rating; the checking winger was even. Sutter added three points in the playoffs and was a +2 in Kootenay’s 16 games. It was the second season in Kootenay for Sutter who dressed 44 times for the Ice in 2003-04 and had 12 points. It’s disappointing that his point production actually decreased with an extra year of experience and maturity especially considering his year began at Canada’s U-18 camp in Calgary where he unsuccessfully competed for the opportunity to represent in Slovakia in August.

Scout #1: He’s a real good worker. I don’t think his skills are very good and I don’t think he’s very big. He really does work, though; he’s got a good awareness for the game.

ISS (June): He’s got to improve his skating a little bit but he was a great third liner for Kootenay; in their win over Everett, his line was their top line. He can chip in a little bit offensively but he doesn’t fit into that role. He’s a typical Sutter. He works the boards and the corners and he’s a hard-nosed player.

40.Myles Rumsey

Position: Defense
Team: Swift Current Broncos
Height: 6’1
Weight: 183lbs
Shoots: Right
ISS Ranking: Not Ranked

There were very few bright spots for the 2004-05 edition of the Swift Current Broncos, a club that finished third to last in the entire Western Hockey League. One of them, though, was draft eligible defenseman Myles Rumsey. Rumsey, in his second full season with the Broncos, finished with six points in just 57 games, a result of injury. Despite the low point production, Rumsey was not only given the Broncos Tom Ham Memorial Trophy as the team’s top defenseman, but was also the recipient of the Coach’s Award.

Although a tough, scrappy defenseman, Rumsey was thrust into an enforcer’s role after Matt Trojovsky was dealt from the club. It was a role that Rumsey had trouble filling, but welcomed, as he tried to fulfill a leadership role bestowed on him when given the third alternate captain’s letter.

Scout #1: I don’t think that he holds a lot of potential at the professional level. Quite possibly the only reason he may have looked good in Swift Current was because everyone else just looked so bad.

Scout #2: He plays tough, but doesn’t play any bigger than he already is. The roles he was put into in Swift Current really didn’t help his development much, either. Granted, he was a team leader on the ice, but he just didn’t seem up to the challenge of becoming a go-to guy.

Aaron Vickers, Jeff Dahlia and Guy Flaming contributed to this article. Comment on this story at the Prospects section of the Hockey’s Future Message Boards.
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