With 43 players selected in the 2005 National Hockey League Entry Draft, the Western Hockey League had its strongest showing at the event in several years, which was shortened to seven rounds this season.
With 44 players drafted in the nine rounds of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, and 41 in 2003, the NHL’s interest in, and in particular defensemen, from the Western Hockey League has grown substantially. This season, 19 percent (43 of 230 players), were drafted from the WHL, including three in the first round.
Despite the shortened draft, the Western League was able to keep with tradition, making the 2005 NHL Entry Draft the 15th consecutive in which the league has produced at least 40 drafted players.
Carey Price, G, Tri City Americans
5th Overall – Montreal Canadiens
Ranked 2nd in the WHL by Hockey’s Future
Although he was projected to be the first goaltender selected, it came as some surprise when Tri City Americans goaltender Carey Price was selected fifth overall by the Montreal Canadiens. The lanky native of Vancouver, British Columbia boasted an impressive 2.34 goals against average and a .920 save percentage this season despite playing on a poor Tri-City team, a club that finished with a 26-35-8-3 record. Price also aided Canada’s Under-18 club to a silver medal at the 2005 Under-18 World Championships in the Czech Republic.
Price, a hybrid-style goaltender, relies primarily on lightning quick reflexes to guard the upper portion of the net and a 6’2 frame that tends to cover much of the lower half of the goal. While he is superb at delivering rebounds to the corners, he is prone to occasionally throwing them back into the slot. Price will need to improve his mental composition as well, as he is as guilty as any goaltender in the league in regards to lapses in concentration.
Gilbert Brule, C, Vancouver Giants
6th Overall – Columbus Blue Jackets
Ranked 1st in WHL by Hockey’s Future
Columbus Blue Jackets General Manager Doug MacLean was all smiles as he approached the stage at the draft in Ottawa. Brule, a native of North Vancouver, British Columbia, was seen early in the 2004-05 season as a consensus second overall selection behind only Sidney Crosby. When questions arose about Brule’s discipline and selfish play, he slowly slid down in the draft. Third in scoring in the Western League to only Brandon Wheat King duo Eric Fehr and Ryan Stone, Brule finished the season with 87 points in 70 games.
Despite his small stature, Brule plays a big game. With an aggressive streak and a feisty temper, he packs energy into a 5’10, 175lb frame. On top of that, Brule possesses excellent hockey smarts, a smooth set of hands and a heavy wrist-shot that is certain to keep the smile on MacLean’s face.
Devin Setoguchi, RW, Saskatoon Blades
8th Overall – San Jose Sharks
Ranked 4th in WHL by Hockey’s Future
Quite possibly the biggest surprise at the 2005 NHL Entry Draft came with the selection of Devin Setoguchi by the San Jose Sharks eighth overall. Thought to be a reach so early in the draft, the selection of Setoguchi may have caught more off guard than the selection made by the Montreal Canadiens three picks earlier. Setoguchi, who finished fourth on the powerhouse Saskatoon Blades in points with 64, finished in the top ten in the entire Western League in goals with 33. The highlight of the season for Setoguchi came not with the Blades, but with Canada’s Under-18 team, where he lead the team in scoring en route to a silver medal.
A superb blend of finesse and talent, Setoguchi is able to play both a skilled game and a bruising, punishing game, depending on his mood. His shot is second to none among his peers, and was even clocked at 96 mph at the Top Prospect skills competition. While he can be a force at both ends of the ice, it wasn’t rare for Setoguchi to be invisible as well, as he struggled to consistently bring his best game to the ice each and every night. If he’s able to overcome his inconsistency, Setoguchi could develop into one of the top scorers in the draft class.
Kenndal McArdle, LW, Moose Jaw Warriors
20th Overall – Florida Panthers
Ranked 3rd in WHL by Hockey’s Future
One of very few bright spots on a horrendous Moose Jaw Warriors club that won just 14 of 72 games in 2004-05, forward Kenndal McArdle was exactly what General Manager Mike Keenan and the Florida Panthers were searching for with their first round selection. After more than quadrupling his point totals from his 2003-04 season, McArdle finished amongst the league’s top ten goal scorers with 37 goals and points with 74. Only Colton Yellow Horn of the Lethbridge Hurricanes had more points than McArdle among draft eligible skaters from the Western League.
True to Keenan’s preferences, McArdle’s biggest asset may be his heart and his head. Always one to finish a check and put in an honest effort, the Burnaby, British Columbia native is also an excellent leader, shouldering the blame for the firing of Warriors coach Parry Shockey in December, and turning his Moose Jaw squad around in time to secure the final playoff spot in the league’s Eastern Conference. In terms of skill, McArdle possesses good wheels with powerful legs that will certainly help him control the play down in the offensive zone. His hockey sense is certainly above average, and with over 100 minutes in penalties this season, his toughness will not be second guessed.
Brendan Mikkelson, D, Portland Winter Hawks
31st Overall – Anaheim Mighty Ducks
Ranked 9th in WHL by Hockey’s Future
St Albert, Alberta native Brendan Mikkelson was the first defenseman selected from the Western League in the 2005 draft and immediately bolstered the depth chart of the Anaheim Mighty Ducks when they selected him 31st overall. Mikkelson, son of Bill Mikkelson who has the distinction of being the NHL’s record holder for worst plus/minus in one season with -81, skated alongside former first round selection and Atlanta Thrashers prospect Braydon Coburn this season. Absorbing everything he could from Coburn, Mikkelson will inherit the Winter Hawks defense and look to build upon his 2004-05 season which saw him record 15 points in 70 games.
Described as a smooth-skating defenseman, Mikkelson makes an easy transition when it comes from playing on the defensive to moving forward for offensive opportunities. His tremendous skating ability allows him to both jump into the play and recover. While Mikkelson possesses good hands and accurate passing ability, his downfall lies in his defensive play. Mikkelson struggles defending one-on-one, and despite being 6’2, has a tendency to shy away from physical confrontations. Should he bulk up his frame, Mikkelson could feel much more comfortable in his own end, and establish himself as a strong two-way defender.
Tyler Plante, G, Brandon Wheat Kings
32nd Overall – Florida Panthers
Ranked 10th in WHL by Hockey’s Future
Brandon Wheat Kings goaltender Tyler Plante became the second goalie selected from the Western League in the draft after being called to the podium by Florida at the 32nd overall selection. Plante, the third goaltender overall taken in the draft, replaced Minnesota Wild prospect Josh Harding quite admirably in the 2004-05 season for Brandon, registering a staggering 34-11-2 record with a 2.58 goals against average and a .907 save percentage while playing in 48 games. Plante was even more instrumental in the 2005 WHL playoffs, where he helped the Wheat Kings avenge a 3-1 deficit from the Calgary Hitmen to advance to the WHL Championships, where they fell to the Kelowna Rockets.
Although not as flashy as fellow draftee Carey Price, Plante is still an intriguing package with good size for a goaltender. Standing at 6’2, Plante easily covers the lower portions of the net when he’s down on his pads, somewhere he’s been criticized for spending too much time. He is prone to surrender rebounds forward, as opposed to directing them to low traffic areas. Despite that, though, Plante plays his angles very well and as a result is rarely caught out of position. Although he is technically sound, Plante also needs to work on his composure on the ice, often guilty of mental lapses during the game.
Scott Jackson, D, Seattle Thunderbirds
37th Overall – St Louis Blues
Ranked 5th in WHL by Hockey’s Future
Scott Jackson underwent a remarkable improvement in this game in 2004-05, which says a lot considering that in his rookie year, he earned Seattle’s defenseman of the year honors. After an impressive season at both ends of the rink that saw the primarily defensive defenseman register 22 points in 72 games and a share of the top 20 finish among plus/minus in the entire league, the Blues selected Jackson 37th overall.
Perhaps the greatest asset possessed by Jackson is his willingness to get dirty. Whether it be working down low in the defensive zone, battling in front of the net or throwing a loud open ice hit, he does not shy away from the physical aspects of the sport. With only 46 minutes in penalties last year, Jackson also plays a very smart, physical game, relying on discipline to agitate his opposition further. What will require improvement, however, is his overall footspeed. By increasing his first step and overall skating ability, Jackson will certainly be able to not only improve his defensive responsibilities, but could also aid in the offensive side of his game, should he develop his near non-existent offensive instincts.
Michael Sauer, D, Portland Winter Hawks
40th Overall – New York Rangers
Ranked 6th in WHL by Hockey’s Future
Despite missing the majority of the 2004-05 Western League season, the New York Rangers did not hesitate to select Portland Winter Hawks defenseman Michael Sauer. He suffered a torn hip muscle that would require surgery. Still, though, Sauer managed 32 games, recording 13 points. A native of Sartell, Minnesota, he was the first non-Canadian WHL player selected when the Rangers opted to select him with their 40th overall pick.
It came as a surprise when Michael, brother of NHL defenseman Kurt Sauer, opted into the draft, said to be very deep in defensemen, despite his injury-shortened season. Sauer, a blend of athleticism and smarts, has above average offensive abilities, including a shot to be respected and a good first pass. His offensive upside remains a question. Defensively, Sauer is also strong, possessing good size and strength.
Dustin Kohn, D, Calgary Hitmen
46th Overall – New York Islanders
Ranked 12th in WHL by Hockey’s Future
6’1 182 lbs
Selected 46th overall by the New York Islanders, Calgary Hitmen defender Dustin Kohn became the fourth defenseman selected from the Western League in the 2005 draft. Kohn, who finished the season with a career-high 43 points in 71 games, finished among the top 15 defensemen in the league in scoring, en route to being named the Hitmen’s top defenseman, over the likes of Jeff Schultz, a former first round selection of the Washington Capitals. Kohn, who lead the Hitmen blue line in assists and points, finished second to only Anaheim Mighty Ducks prospect Ryan Getzlaf on the club in plus/minus, with a +18 ranking.
Possessing excellent acceleration and playmaking ability, Kohn blends good vision with creativity to provide an offensive spark from the blue line. Never one to hesitate joining the rush, he has enough natural foot speed to recover. Although he possesses an average shot, Kohn ensures it is always on target. Defensively, he is solid, and better than advertised. Although he isn’t the most physical defenseman, he plays well positionally and keeps his body between the opposing forward and his own net well.
Chris Durand, C, Seattle Thunderbirds
52nd Overall – Colorado Avalanche
Ranked 8th in WHL by Hockey’s Future
Chris Durand became the second of two Seattle Thunderbird players selected in the second round of the 2005 draft when the Colorado Avalanche made the Saskatoon, Saskatchewan native the 52nd overall selection. Durand, Seattle’s second leading scorer during the 2004-05 season, posted 34 assists and 52 points and finished the season amongst the top ten in league leaders in plus/minus. Although the right-handed centerman had an excellent regular season, he all but disappeared during Seattle’s playoff run, registering just one point in 12 games for Seattle, raising questions about his ability to perform under pressure.
Aside from showing a lack of consistency, Durand has no glaring weaknesses in his game. Offensively, he has a hard, accurate shot which needs to be utilized on a more regular basis. His passing skills are exceptional, as is the way he sees the ice. Equally impressive is Durand’s willingness to get physical, and with more size could be considered a budding power forward in the Western League, and will look to build that reputation in Seattle next season.
Matt Kassian, LW, Kamloops Blazers
57th Overall – Minnesota Wild
Ranked 30th in WHL by Hockey’s Future
A combination of intimidation, toughness and grit, the Minnesota Wild selected Kamloops Blazers forward Matt Kassian late in the second round. Kassian, known around the Western League as an elite enforcer, skated in 69 games for the Blazers and the Vancouver Giants. Acquired midway through the 2004-05 season, Kassian totaled just three points in 28 games in Kamloops, but provided plenty of punch, registering 83 minutes in penalties in that time.
Simply put, about the only thing that the 6’6, 225lb native of Sherwood Park, Alberta will not do is take your lunch money after roughing you up. With 19 major penalties for fighting in 2004-05, Kassian has had plenty of opportunities to hone his craft, and not many other skills.
Joe Barnes, C, Saskatoon Blades
64th Overall – Carolina Hurricanes
Ranked 22nd in WHL by Hockey’s Future
Joe Barnes was not only the most improved player for the Saskatoon Blades, but also the most dedicated. A native of Winnipeg Manitoba, he has good size at 6’3, 212 lbs. He finished in the top 20 in goals scored in the Western League with 30 and had over 60 points. Barnes, in his fourth season with the Saskatoon Blades, opted out of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft after suffering a serious neck injury at the 2004 World Under-18’s. After an impressive season which he helped turn around one of the weakest teams in the Western League, Barnes proved he was ready to play.
Finding a 6’3 forward with the overall natural talent possessed by Barnes is rare, and something teams would find it hard to pass on in the third round. While he’s been criticized for over-thinking the game, Barnes really came into his own in 2004-05, answering critics who questioned his inconsistent development. With no glaring holes in his game, he was an attractive choice to an organization which lacks quality forward prospects.
Kristofer Westblom, G, Kelowna Rockets
65th Overall – Minnesota Wild
Not Ranked by Hockey’s Future
When Kelowna Rockets starting goaltender Derek Yeomans went down due to a leg injury in the Western Hockey League Championships, backup Kristofer Westblom was thrust into the spotlight. Despite only playing in just over 1000 minutes all season while going 12-2-4 with a 1.81 goals against average and .919 save percentage in front of the top defense in the league, Westblom was up to the challenge, shutting down the league’s top offensive in the Brandon Wheat Kings, consisting of three of the league’s top five regular season scorers in Eric Fehr, Tim Konsorada and Ryan Stone. Through the series, Westblom allowed only eight goals in four games. With a WHL Championship under his belt, Westblom also earned the right to compete in the Memorial Cup Championship, where Kelowna was unable to repeat as champions.
Although he is small in stature, with only a 155lb frame, Westblom relies on quick reflexes and solid positioning, though it isn’t uncommon for the Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan native to appear overwhelmed by a flurry of activity, probably due to the fact that, behind a suffocating defense in the Rockets, he didn’t have to face it much.
Brodie Dupont, C, Calgary Hitmen
66th Overall – New York Rangers
Ranked 7th in WHL by Hockey’s Future
One of the biggest surprises in the second half of the 2004-05 Western Hockey League season, Brodie Dupont was selected by the New York Rangers 66th overall in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. Dupont, who struggled miserably while trying to identify a role with the Calgary Hitmen, had an exceptional second half to the season, coincidently enough with the return of teammate Andrew Ladd from the 2005 World Junior Championships, where he won a gold medal with Canada. Both Ladd and Dupont played considerably better during the second half, which saw Dupont score 17 points in 34 games, including a stretch where the St Lazzare Manitoba native recorded five points in three games, including three goals. More impressive, though, was Dupont’s playoff contributions, where he had eight assists and 10 points in 12 games for the Hitmen, before bowing out to the Brandon Wheat Kings in seven games.
Playing a similar style to that of the aforementioned Ladd, Dupont is, simply put, an all-out player. While it’s unlikely he’ll be the most talented player on the ice at any given time, he’ll be hard pressed to be outworked and out-hustled. With excellent forechecking ability and defensive awareness, coupled with underrating playmaking and finishing ability, Dupont has the potential to develop into a role much greater than that of a typical checking line forward.
Kris Russell, D, Medicine Hat Tigers
67th Overall – Columbus Blue Jackets
Ranked 13th in WHL by Hockey’s Future
Given the impressive season that Tigers defenseman Kris Russell had in Medicine Hat in 2004-05, it’s no surprise that the Columbus Blue Jackets were lured back towards the Western League for their 67th overall selection in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. Few had more of an impressive season in the league than Russell, who was named the Tigers top defenseman, over the likes of former fourth overall selection Cameron Barker. With 61 points in 72 games, only Mike Green of the Saskatoon Blades and Steven Later of the Brandon Wheat Kings had more points among defensemen. Only the 20-year-old Danny Syvret of the London Knights had more points than Russell amongst draft-eligible defensemen.
Offensively, there may not have been a better defenseman in the 2005 draft than the native of Caroline, Alberta. Russell’s ability to control the tempo of the game from the back end is second to none in the league and his vision and passing is superb. In fact, the only knock you’ll find on Russell is the tag that he’s an undersized defenseman incapable of containing larger, opposing forwards. This, however, is not necessarily the case as the pint-sized defenseman has shown an impressive ability in containing Western League forwards. The question remains whether or not he’ll be able to do it at the next level.
Gord Baldwin, D, Medicine Hat Tigers
69th Overall – Calgary Flames
Ranked 34th in WHL by Hockey’s Future
Despite playing behind some talented names like Cam Barker and Kris Russell, it didn’t take much for Medicine Hat Tigers defenseman Gordie Baldwin to get noticed on the ice. After all, the Winnipeg, Manitoba native has a domineering presence out on the ice, due mostly to the fact that he’s one of the Western League’s largest defenders, standing 6’5. Looking to add to their undersized defensive depth, both physically and numerically, the Calgary Flames made Baldwin the 69th overall selection in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. Known more for his strong physical play than his offense, Baldwin still managed to record 11 points in 66 games, a positive sign for the rookie.
Certainly the most impressive asset for Baldwin is his size. Although he started off the season a little timid, being his first in the league, Baldwin’s comfort level grew as the season wore on, as he began to play with more of an edge in the closing months and earned more ice time. Although his footspeed is not impressive, Baldwin positions himself well in the defensive zone, and while he has a good, hard slapshot, he’ll never be mistaken for a regular offensive contributor.
Dayln Flatt, D, Saskatoon Blades
77th Overall – New York Rangers
Ranked 24th Overall by Hockey’s Future
Already having taken Mike Sauer and Brodie Dupont, the New York Rangers continued their trend of plucking players from the Western Hockey League with their selection of Dayln Flatt of the Saskatoon Blades. The 2004-05 season was one of milestones for Flatt, who in his second full season with the Blades, finished among the top five players in the Western League in both plus/minus, with a +36 rating, as well as the top three in minutes in penalties with 237.
A brutally punishing defensemen, there isn’t too much on the ice that Flatt, a native of Teulon, Manitoba, shies away from. Willing to drop the gloves at a moment’s notice, Flatt managed 15 fighting majors in 2004-05. At 6’3, 215lbs, Flatt’s able to use his size to his advantage in the defensive zone, keeping the front of the net clear with relative ease. While he’s great in his own end, though, Flatt is at times lost in the offensive end, lacking any sort of awareness that would make him a threat to produce offensively.
Cody Franson, D, Vancouver Giants
79th Overall – Nashville Predators
Not Ranked by Hockey’s Future
After selecting Finnish defenseman Teemu Laakso with the 78th overall selection in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, the Nashville Predators used their second of two consecutive picks in choosing Vancouver Giants blueliner Cody Franson 79th overall. In his first full year with the Giants, Franson was named the team’s most improved player at the conclusion of the 2004-05 season. A native of Salmon Arm, British Columbia, Franson recorded 13 points while skating in 64 games for the Giants, who boasted two other draftees in 2005.
Already possessing incredible size, the 6’4, 205lb Franson will need to develop an edge to his game in order to fully take advantage of his imposing size. Although one can argue that his 44 minutes in penalties shows a strong disciplined game, it’s no secret around the Western League that Franson isn’t the most physically aggressive 6’4 defenseman around. With adequate skating and passing ability, Franson could develop into a potential bottom pairing defenseman should he find a sense of passion in his game.
Blair Jones, C, Moose Jaw Warriors
102nd Overall – Tampa Bay Lightning
Ranked 11th in WHL by Hockey’s Future
Although he had respectable numbers in Red Deer, it wasn’t until forward Blair Jones was dealt to the Moose Jaw Warriors that he started taking off. After scoring 25 points in 39 games with the Rebels, Jones flourished on a struggling Moose Jaw team, adding another 25 points in as many games to finish third on the club in scoring. Not only did Jones benefit from a change in scenery, but the Warriors also improved immensely with Jones’ arrival, turning a club that was winless in the first two months of the season into one that made a playoff appearance in the 2005 Western Hockey League playoffs.
A smart offensive player, Jones has a noticeable talent in the opposition’s end. With good hockey sense and above average offensive characteristics, such as a respectable shot and an ability to find the open man, the Tampa Bay Lightning snatched up Jones with the 102nd overall selection in the 2005 draft. The Lightning will undoubtedly hope that Jones improves his mediocre skating, and develops a bit of a nasty streak to him. With good size at 6’2, Jones needs to learn to better utilize his size and strength, especially along the boards.
Kyle Bailey, C, Portland Winter Hawks
110th Overall – Minnesota Wild
Not Ranked by Hockey’s Future
After being named the team’s rookie of the year after an impressing debut in the 2003-04 season, expectations were high this season for Portland Winter Hawks center Kyle Bailey. Bailey, who raised his career highs to 33 points in 2004-05, didn’t quite provide as much offense as expected, especially from a skater who once finished among the Alberta Midget Hockey League’s top 15 in scoring. Evolving into a primarily defensive role with Portland, the Ponoka, Alberta native finished with another 116 minutes in penalties, showing his willingness to get down and dirty with the opposition.
Coupling a feisty edge with a 6’2, 182lb frame, Bailey was effective in an agitator role with the Winter Hawks this past season, a role that he should be able to translate to a higher level of hockey. With strong defensive awareness and positioning, all the forward needs to improve is his skating in order to translate his game into a bottom line role. Despite showing some offensive potential in midgets, Bailey has yet to show great flashes in the Western League, which has him pigeonholed into a defensive role thus far. While not spectacular at any facet in the offensive zone, it would be far-fetched to say that he gets lost when he crosses the far blue line.
J.D. Watt, RW, Vancouver Giants
111th Overall – Calgary Flames
Not Ranked by Hockey’s Future
There will certainly be no surprises for the Calgary Flames in regards to their 111th overall selection. With J.D. Watt, what you see is what you get. The type of player that is invaluable to a team, Watt didn’t contribute offensively to the Vancouver Giants, adding just 13 points in 66 games played, but he did add an element to the club with a strong physical presence, amassing 213 minutes in penalties, leading the club in that regard, and finishing among the league’s top ten in the category.
Though he did accumulate a lot of penalty minutes, Watt didn’t get many minor penalties for obstruction like hooking or tripping. The majority of his minutes served came as a result of his aggressive demeanor. A super-pest to say the least, Watt is the perfect definition of ‘antagonist’. With adequate wheels and an excellent checker, Watt’s upside is simply what he’s already displayed for the Vancouver Giants – an agitator.
Raymond Macias, D, Kamloops Blazers
124th Overall – Colorado Avalanche
Ranked 19th in WHL by Hockey’s Future
After an impressive rookie season with Kamloops in the Western Hockey League one season ago, one that saw him earn all-CHL honors, the luster dulled somewhat on the Blazers’ Raymond Macias. While expectations were high on both Macias and the Blazers, the Kamloops squad struggled offensively, and Macias lead the organization in scoring with just 47 points in 69 games.
But with both offensive potential and versatility, Macias was hard to pass up for the Avalanche. Playing both defense and forward for the Blazers this season, Macias displayed excellent offensive potential from both positions, but struggled in his own end when it came to playing defense. It was also hard for Macias, who also possesses good size, to play consistent hockey, especially considering the fact that he was playing two positions, often in the same game.
Darren Helm, C/LW, Medicine Hat Tigers
132nd Overall – Detroit Red Wings
Ranked 35th in WHL by Hockey’s Future
Playing behind the likes of Stefan Meyer and Clarke MacArthur, Medicine Hat Tigers forward Darren Helm often found himself not in a scoring role, but used as a shut-down center, asked to contain the opposition’s top offensive threats. It’s hard to dispute that Helm, who played both left wing and center over the course of the season, was successful in doing so. While playing in each and every Tigers game this season, Helm managed to record 24 points, but more impressively, a +6 rating, while seeing the majority of his ice time in a defensive role. Perhaps seeing shades of current Detroit skater Kris Draper, the Red Wings selected Helm 132nd overall in the 2005 draft.
What made Helm so effective in his checking role can be attributed to two characteristics: his strong, defensive awareness and his blazing speed, something that will only improve under Medicine Hat Tigers Head Coach Willie Desjardins. Another aspect that Helm will be looking to improve upon is his strength. While he possesses average height, Helm is slender to say the least, and will need to add some muscle to his lean frame. If he’s able to do this, he’s more than certain to see his offensive numbers increase, as he does possess enough offensive flair to be a top-line forward in the Western League.
Taylor Dakers, G, Kootenay Ice
140th Overall – San Jose Sharks
Not Ranked by Hockey’s Future
On a team behind World Junior Championship gold medal winning goaltender Jeff Glass in Kootenay, there wasn’t much of an opportunity to see backup goaltender Taylor Dakers play. Getting in just over 1300 minutes, it was when Glass was gone that Dakers was allowed to shine. Registering a 2.03 goals against average coupled with a .916 save percentage, Dakers was able to earn a respectable 13-7-2 record. More impressively, though, was that Dakers was able to record four shutouts in a backup role this season, finishing in the top 15 among goaltenders league-wide.
Much like Glass, Dakers is a positionally sound goaltender. Dakers plays an efficient game, not requiring himself to make spectacular saves after putting himself out of position with an initial save. With good size, Dakers also gives the opposition little to shoot at. Not quite as mentally mature as Glass, Dakers will need to improve his ability to rebound after a soft goal.
Masi Marjamaki, RW, Moose Jaw Warriors
144th Overall – New York Islanders
Not Ranked by Hockey’s Future
The first European skater selected out of the Western Hockey League in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, Moose Jaw Warriors forward Masi Marjamaki was selected by the New York Islanders 144th overall. Marjamaki was a re-entry, allowed to return to the draft pool by the Boston Bruins, who opted not to sign the Finnish player after selected him 66th overall two seasons ago. With Moose Jaw this season, Marjamaki posted career highs in assists with 32 and points with 46 while playing in only 51 games, missing time early in the season due to injury, while his club went winless in the first two months of the 2004-05 season.
Shortly after being selected by New York, Marjamaki and the Islanders came to terms on a contract, and it’s expected that the former Warriors captain will start play in Bridgeport, where he’ll bring all the attributes that made him successful in his final year of junior. Much like the new generation of Finnish players, Marjamaki possesses a strong, gritty game complimented by a strong work ethic. Combine those characteristics in the Pori Statkunta native with the fact that he’s got deceivingly quick hands and a respectable shot and the overager could potentially develop into a late bloomer.
Jeff May, D, Prince Albert Raiders
151st Overall – Detroit Red Wings
Ranked 14th in WHL by Hockey’s Future
Despite scoring 22 points in 67 games for the Prince Albert Raiders this season, defenseman Jeff May wasn’t very noticeable during the 2004-05 Western Hockey League season. That, though, may not have been a disadvantage for the rearguard, though. Playing safe, mistake-free hockey for the majority of the season earned him the privilege of being drafted by one of the most storied hockey franchises in the history of the game, the Detroit Red Wings. Selected 151st overall, May was the first of three Raider teammates to be selected in the 2005 draft.
Steady, sturdy and unspectacular describe the game of May, a native of Richmond, British Columbia. With no real flaws and a solid fundamental game, it’s also hard to find any exceptional qualities about the 6’1, 186-pounder. Playing on both the power play and penalty kill for the Raiders this season, May displayed both adequate offensive skills as well as competent defensive zone coverage. Already possessing good skating ability, May has the ability to develop into a sound player at the professional level.
Wacey Rabbit, C, Saskatoon Blades
154th Overall – Boston Bruins
Ranked 15th in WHL by Hockey’s Future
With arguably the most unique name in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, Wacey Rabbit was earning a glimpse from National Hockey League clubs for more than just his moniker. With 67 points in 70 games for the Saskatoon Blades, Rabbit was one of the league’s deadliest weapons, finishing among the league’s top 20 in scoring. His 45 assists also placed him just one shy of a top ten finish.
Blessed with lethal vision and an imagination that rivals the best the Western League has to offer, Rabbit is an offensive juggernaut in a 5’9, 169lb frame. Not only does he create scoring chances with impeccable speed, playmaking and passing skills, the native of Calgary, Alberta is also able to finish scoring chances that come his way. Perhaps Rabbit’s only knock in the offensive end is the fact that he does tend to over-handle the puck, which can be seen as selfish at times.
Ryan Reaves, RW, Brandon Wheat Kings
156th Overall – St Louis Blues
Ranked 32nd in WHL by Hockey’s Future
While playing in Brandon for the Wheat Kings would have been a thrill for Winnipeg Manitoba native Ryan Reaves, it certainly wasn’t the best place to get noticed. Buried behind two of the top scoring right wingers in the league in Eric Fehr, who lead the league with 111 points, and Lance Monych, who finished among the league’s top 20 with 66 points, Reaves wasn’t left with much of an opportunity to flourish offensively. Still, though, the 6’1, 193lb forward did his best to make an impact when he played.
A physical force on the ice, Reaves has impressive strength, especially when moving up and down the boards. It certainly was his physical play and stature that had the St Louis Blues interested enough in him to select him 156th overall. He does need to improve his skating in order to take his game to the next level. Offensively, Reaves does have potential, and he’s certain to be given an opportunity in more situations with the departure of several key players for the Wheat Kings.
Matt Keetley, G, Medicine Hat Tigers
158th Overall – Calgary Flames
Ranked 21st in WHL by Hockey’s Future
In the shadow of fellow netminder Kevin Nastiuk for the majority of the first half of the season, Medicine Hat, Alberta native Matt Keetley had a chance to showcase his talents for NHL clubs when the starting position became available after Nastiuk suffered an injury to his hand, amongst other distractions. It was an opportunity that Keetley did not hesitate in using to the fullest. Playing in part of 32 games for the Tigers this season, Keetley was the closest thing in the league to a brick wall, with a 21-5-3 record with a 1.66 goals against average and a .933 save percentage, with the latter two statistics leading the league. It was a healthy Nastiuk, however, that saw the majority of the playoff action, with Medicine Hat opting to go with the more experienced netminder, who lead the club to a league championship one year ago.
Still, though, the Calgary Flames saw enough in Keetley’s 32 regular season games to make him the 158th selection in the 2005 draft. Described as a small goaltender trapped in a large netminder’s body, Keetley is very agile, especially considering he stands at 6’2 and weighs well over 200lbs. Sound positionally, the left-hander rarely gives up soft goals, but is guilty, however of scrambling after stopping the initial shot, allowing the rebounds to dangerous areas.
Jason Lynch, D, Spokane Chiefs
166th Overall – Colorado Avalanche
Not Ranked by Hockey’s Future
Coming from one of the most famous families in Western Hockey League history, Jason Lynch, along with brothers Doug (drafted by the Edmonton Oilers), Scott and Jeff, set hockey history two seasons ago when they became the first four brothers to play on one team at the same time in Canadian Hockey League history. Still, though, Jason is trying to carve a name for himself based on his own play, and not the name on the back of his jersey. Lynch did just that when he was selected 166th overall by the Colorado Avalanche, after a solid season with the Spokane Chiefs.
With impressive size and strength, Lynch becomes the prototypical Western League defenseman. With solid positioning in the defensive end and a keen ability to win battles in the corner, Lynch adds little more than a strong defensive presence on the ice. With inadequate playmaking and passing skills from the blue line, Lynch simply doesn’t have the potential to be a point-producing defenseman, and could even stand to improve his first pass. It’s hard to teach size and an aggressive nature, though, which makes Lynch an attractive package to the Colorado Avalanche, who lack any real defensive depth.
Mike Gauthier, D, Prince Albert Raiders
169th Overall – St. Louis Blues
Ranked 31st in WHL by Hockey’s Future
Finding big, strong and aggressive defensemen isn’t hard to do in the Western Hockey League and Prince Albert Raiders defenseman Mike Gauthier certainly isn’t an exception. Gauthier, the second Raider defenseman to be taken in the draft, was selected by the St Louis Blues 169th overall. Had Gauthier, a native of North Vancouver, British Columbia, managed to stay healthy for the entire season, he may not have been available at No. 169. Breaking his leg early in the new year, Gauthier opted to have what was thought to be season-ending surgery. Gauthier returned in time to join the Raiders in their playoff quest.
Gauthier, who had but three points in 40 games this season, will not be mistaken for an offensive defenseman. While he’s great with the physical aspects of the game and positioning in his own end, Gauthier has little offensive upside and needs to develop his decision-making abilities, which are slow even at the junior level. His first pass will also need to be addressed, as his ability to find his forwards with the puck is inconsistent at best. That said, Gauthier does have the size to be effective, and will need to increase his aptitude in other areas in order to be successful.
Sean Zimmerman, D, Spokane Chiefs
170th Overall – New Jersey Devils
Ranked 38th in WHL by Hockey’s Future
One season removed from being named the Chiefs’ rookie of the year, Sean Zimmerman returned to Spokane for the 2004-05 season both physically and mentally prepared to be relied upon as an important building block for a struggling franchise. It is safe to say that Zimmerman accomplished that. Able to double his point production from a season ago, Zimmerman finished the season with 16 points while playing in all but one game for the Chiefs. More impressive though, was the fact that Zimmerman, who often drew one of the opposition’s top two lines on a nightly basis, finished the season with a +4 ranking, one of only six players on the team to do so.
As is the anthem for most Western League defensemen selected in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, Zimmerman, the New Jersey Devils sixth selection, possesses a plethora of size and strength. Able to use both to his advantage, Zimmerman is an effective defender, who is strong in shorthanded situations. The penalty kill is the only special team that you’re likely to see him on though. With mediocre offensive ability coupled with average skating, Zimmerman will never be mistaken for a potent point-producing defenseman.
Nicholas Drazenovic, C, Prince George Cougars
171st Overall – St. Louis Blues
Ranked 17th in WHL by Hockey’s Future
Hometown product Nicholas Drazenovic inherited top line duties for the Prince George Cougars at the beginning of the 2004-05 season when injuries hit the club. Drazenovic, the 171st overall selection in the 2005 draft, finished tops among all Cougars forwards with 56 points while dressing in all 72 games for Prince George. More impressively, though is the fact that, while seeing top line minutes, Drazenovic’s plus/minus was second best on the club, registering a -1 rating on a club that was outscored 223 to 158 during the regular season, a difference of -65.
Possessing an abundance of offensive aptitude, Drazenovic has the ability to develop into a dynamic threat. Although not yet flashy in the offensive end, he has a respectable shot and quick first step that could lead to a few jaw-dropping goals, especially considering his ability to handle the puck in a crowd. Not one to get himself involved in the game physically, though, the 6’0, 172lb forward needs to bulk up his frame in order to adapt to a more physical brand of hockey.
John Flatters, D, Red Deer Rebels
174th Overall – Philadelphia Flyers
Ranked 37th in WHL by Hockey’s Future
With the head start in development that Red Deer Rebels Head Coach Brent Sutter has given to players in the Philadelphia Flyers organization, he should be collecting a paycheck. The Flyers, who in the past have selected blueliners the likes of Jeff Woywitka and Jim Vandermeer from the Red Deer Rebels, opted to use their 174th overall selection to select John Flatters. Flatters, who will never be mistaken Woywitka, or Vandermeer for that matter, finished the season with just two points in 53 games.
Lacking anything that resembles offensive upside, the Philadelphia Flyers did not select Flatters in hopes that he becomes their next Kim Johnsson. An aggressive, defensive minded blueliner, he concentrates mainly on making the opposition’s forwards miserable. With good size, Flatters simply punishes forwards with strong checks, and, should the mood strike him, with his fists as well. With a willingness to put the team first, Flatters certainly gives his all each and every shift.
Derek Reinhart, D, Regina Pats
177th Overall – Columbus Blue Jackets
Not Ranked by Hockey’s Future
Selected 177th overall, Derek Reinhart became the third player and second defenseman to be selected by the Columbus Blue Jackets from the Western Hockey League in the 2005 draft. Playing for the offensively inept Regina Pats, Reinhart finished among the team’s top ten scorers, yet only registered 11 points, accumulated in 67 games played. His 198 minutes in penalties not only lead the team in that category, but also placed him in the top ten for time served. Though he finished -22 on the season, Reinhart’s plus/minus was far from the worst on the team, with some teammates in the mid -30’s.
Bred to play a physical brand of hockey, Reinhart certainly knows how to play an aggressive defense-first style of hockey, with a knack at punishing opposing forwards attempting to enter the offensive zone. Impressive in both the corners and in front of the net, Reinhart has the size to dictate the pace of the opposition in search of scoring opportunities. Offensively, there isn’t a lot of potential for the hulking 6’3, 205-pounder. An improvement in skating is also required from the native of Camrose, Alberta, if he has aspirations of taking his game to the next level.
Brett Sutter, C/LW, Kootenay Ice
179th Overall – Calgary Flames
Ranked 39th in WHL by Hockey’s Future
The most sentimental selection in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft came when Calgary Flames General Manager selected son and Kootenay Ice forward Brett Sutter 179th overall, ironically the same position that Darryl himself was selected 27 years ago. After spending the season on Kootenay’s third line, the Ice forward accumulated 19 points while skating in a career-high 70 games under Head Coach Cory Clouston.
Certainly the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. From the typical Sutter mold, Brett possesses a strong work ethic. His work along the boards and in the corner is impeccable, and his willingness to compete is definitely Sutter-esque. Although he doesn’t possess a lot of offensive upside, it’d be no surprise to see Brett get in on the offense from time to time. It’s not a facet of his game that’ll have people worried, but his worth ethic and desire more than makes up for any lack of talent.
Riley Emmerson, D, Tri-City Americans
199th Overall – Minnesota Wild
Not Ranked by Hockey’s Future
Despite only playing in 35 games this season, in which he didn’t record a single point, the Minnesota Wild selected monstrous defenseman Riley Emmerson from the Tri-City Americans 199th overall. Emmerson, who averaged nearly a penalty per game with the Americans during the 2004-05 season, was certainly a standout.
Size is Riley Emmerson’s greatest asset, and arguably his only one. Slow on his skates and lacking physical coordination, Emmerson’s ability to adapt to his rapidly growing body will inevitably decide whether or not the Minnesota Wild were successful in a strong gamble. The slow footed Emmerson also possesses a heavy shot, but lacks a quick release. Other than his shot, there isn’t much in the way of offensive potential from the Abbotsford, British Columbia native.
Adam Hobson, C, Spokane Chiefs
203rd Overall – Chicago Blackhawks
Ranked 20th in WHL by Hockey’s Future
After struggling to find a role with the Spokane Chiefs in his rookie season in the Western Hockey League, Adam Hobson forced himself into a favorable position this season by simply playing too well to be ignored. In fact, when the time came for the Chicago Blackhawks to select in the seventh round of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, they too couldn’t ignore the Mission, British Columbia native. With 37 points while playing in all 72 games for Spokane, Hobson showed flashes of being an emerging star.
An excellent combination of size and talent, Hobson excelled in a two-way second/third line center role. Occasionally playing the wing as well, Hobson displayed an impressive combination of soft hands and good speed. Even more importantly, though, a very coachable Hobson showed a strong desire to win, something that didn’t happen on a regular basis in Spokane. With strong tenacity, it’s expected that Hobson’s role with the organization will increase greatly, as they look to improve upon a disappointing season last year.
Myles Stoesz, D, Spokane Chiefs
207th Overall – Atlanta Thrashers
Not Ranked by Hockey’s Future
When you finish second in the league in minutes served in the penalty box, you’re going to get noticed. You’ll be noticed by your coach, your teammates, your opposition, and the Atlanta Thrashers, apparently. After finishing with 238 minutes in penalties during the 2004-05 season, Don Waddell and the Atlanta Thrashers selected Myles Stoesz 207th overall. A defenseman with solid size, Stoesz has also been used as a forward, although his shifts typically do not last long enough for him to display any offensive skills, unless you find fighting in hockey offensive in its own right.
With the ability to calm down even the most vicious of Western League games, the sheer intimidation factor that Stoesz is able to bring to opponents is uncanny. Able to throw the fists with the best that the Western League has to offer, Stoesz is your typical enforcer, strong on his skates, but unspectacular. He’s got little to no offensive potential, and the same can be said in regards to his ability to cover the opposition. While he’s improved his checking ability, the native of Steinbach, Manitoba currently seems content as a contender for the Western League’s heavyweight championship.
Ryan Russell, C, Kootenay Ice
211th Overall – New York Rangers
Not Ranked by Hockey’s Future
Twin brother of Columbus Blue Jackets prospect and Medicine Hat Tigers defenseman Kris Russell, Ryan Russell joined his kin as a draftee when the New York Rangers selected him 211th overall. The selection may inevitably re-unite Russell with his teammate and captain in Kootenay Nigel Dawes, who has skated his last game with the Ice. An alternative scoring option to Dawes, Russell managed to produce at a nice clip offensively in 2004-05, registering 53 points, in 66 games. Russell’s 32 goals on the season placed him just one shy of Brandon Wheat Kings forward Ryan Stone for a finish among the league’s top ten. Russell also finished third on the team in plus/minus with a +27 rating, also good enough for a top 15 finish among league leaders.
Russell, much like his brother in Medicine Hat, provides an excellent offensive game on the ice. With strong vision and passing, Russell is also an excellent skater and isn’t afraid to shoot the puck, which he does with great accuracy. Russell’s only knock, though, is also one he shares with his brother. Being undersized at 5’9, 165lbs, Ryan is by no means considered a sure offensive threat, even at the next level of play, where physical play intensifies even more than that at the Western League level. Should Russell be able to, in the very least, improve his overall strength, both upper body and lower, he’ll greatly increase his chances of finding success at another level.
Bretton Stamler, D, Seattle Thunderbirds
214th Overall – Detroit Red Wings
Ranked 27th in WHL by Hockey’s Future
One of three Seattle Thunderbirds to be selected in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, Bretton Stamler was chosen 214th overall by the Detroit Red Wings. Stamler, along with Scott Jackson, was one of three Thunderbird blueliners to play in all 72 games for the Thunderbirds. Finishing the season with nine assists and 13 points, Stamler may not have been a regular contributor to the scoresheet in an offensive manner, but frequented it often, finishing fifth on the team in penalty minutes with 106.
A prototypical Western League blueliner, Stamler has size and strength to spare. Being 6’1, 201 lbs, Stamler wasn’t one to shy away from or initiate physical contact with the opposition. With solid positioning and fundamental defensive skills, Stamler still needs to improve his skating and anticipation to be considered an excellent defensive defenseman. Offensively, Stamler leaves a lot to be desired, and with average passing it will be difficult to consider Stamler a threat from center ice in, despite his relatively heavy shot.
Myles Rumsey, D, Swift Current Broncos
221st Overall – Calgary Flames
Ranked 40th in WHL by Hockey’s Future
Calgary Flames GM Daryll Sutter opted to use his final pick in the 2005 draft to select Swift Current Broncos defenseman Myles Rumsey 221st overall. Sutter, who selected five of eight players from the Western League, opted to select arguably Swift Current’s only bright spot during the course of the 2004-05 campaign. Named the club’s top defenseman and the recipient of the Coach’s Award, Rumsey compiled six points over the course of an injury-riddled season, one that saw him play in just 57 games, nine fewer than when he scored six points in his rookie campaign.
A hard-nosed, physical defender, the Winnipeg, Manitoba native played steady but unspectacular hockey for the Broncos during the course of the 2004-05 season. Rumsey typically plays a tough, defensive minded game. While there is room to improve his skating and the fact that he doesn’t hold any hidden offensive upside, there is no reason to believe that Rumsey cannot improve on his current assets and develop into the defenseman that the Broncos sorely lacked last season.
Kyle Cumisky, D, Kelowna Rockets
222nd Overall – Colorado Avalanche
Ranked 33rd in WHL by Hockey’s Future
Looking to take a chance on an offensive defenseman, the Colorado Avalanche selected Kyle Cumisky in the sixth round, 222nd overall. Cumisky, a native of Abbotsford, British Columbia, was the final player selected from the league in the draft. With 40 points while playing in all 72 games for the Kelowna Rockets, Cumisky finished third in points among defensemen, just five points shy of Nashville Predators prospect Shea Weber and Buffalo Sabres prospect Mike Card.
With two Western Hockey League Championships under his belt already, Cumisky has one valuable characteristic; he’s a proven winner. On top of that, Cumisky is one of the most offensively gifted defensemen to come out of the league this draft season. A strong, heads up skater, Cumisky has excellent vision, complimented by solid hands and good passing skill. Where Cumisky falls short is in the size category. Standing just 5’10, and weighing in at less than most goaltenders, Cumisky is in dire need of an increase in strength. Though undersized, Cumisky’s durability has yet to come into question, an encouraging sign given the physical nature of the Western League.
Copyright 2005 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.