Top 10 WHL prospects for 2009

By Glen Erickson

At the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, nine players from the WHL were selected in the first round. The current upcoming class may be hard pressed to match those results. However, there is plenty of talent available this time around.

There are also some quirks and commonalities on our list, notably perhaps is the “family factor.” Three players (Ashton, Barrie and Ferraro) are the sons of former NHL players. One player (Schenn) is watching his older brother evolve into a legitimate Calder Trophy candidate in the NHL this season. Another on our list (Bubnick) has two older brothers who played a combined total of 713 WHL games.

There is also a curious Saskatoon, Saskatchewan connection, as the success of the Saskatoon Contacts midget program in recent years has produced at least a dozen current WHLers. In fact, three of our 2009 Top 10 Eligible players (Schenn, Bubnick and Ashton) skated together on the same line while members of the Contacts.

In alphabetical order, here are the top 10 2009 WHL prospects.

Carter Ashton, RW

6’3, 200
April 1, 1991
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

Ashton was selected by the Lethbridge Hurricanes in the first round of the 2006 WHL Bantam Draft, seventh overall. The son of Brent Ashton, who played 998 NHL games, Carter is quickly establishing himself as a reliable, two-way, power forward.

A broken collarbone suffered early in his rookie season sidelined Ashton for three months last year. Nonetheless, he earned an opportunity to play for Team West at the World U17 Challenge in London, Ontario. Following the Hurricanes lengthy playoff march to the WHL Championship Final against the eventual Memorial Cup champion Spokane Chiefs, Ashton was a member of the gold medal winning Canadian team at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament in August.

Ashton supplies valuable secondary scoring in Lethbridge, behind WHL superstar Zach Boychuk (CAR). The recent trade that saw veteran forward Mitch Fadden (TB) moved to the Tri City Americans has also broadened Ashton’s opportunity to play a more pertinent role in all situations. Through 34 games, he has scored 19 goals and 10 assists while posting a plus-18 ranking.

Tyson Barrie, D
5’9, 175
July 26, 1991
Victoria, British Columbia

Barrie established himself as an offensive contributor last season With the Kelowna Rockets as a 16-year-old when he picked up 43 points in 64 games. While he is not a physically dominant rearguard, he is a shifty skater with great balance and vision. Barrie possesses an accurate, deceptively powerful shot.

Barrie benefited from playing with Luke Schenn (TOR) last season and this year he has been paired with both Tyler Myers (BUF) and Tysen Dowzak (NYR). He quarterbacks the potent power play in Kelowna that features a combination of Myers, Colin Long (PHX), Jamie Benn (DAL), Cody Almond (MIN) and Brandon McMillan (ANA).

Through 31 games, Barrie has collected seven goals and 24 assists with a plus-8 ranking. He was injured in a collision with a teammate during the Rockets’ Dec. 12 game against the Swift Current Broncos and is being watched for concussion-like symptoms. He is the son of Tampa Bay Lightning co-owner and former NHL player, Len Barrie.

Jimmy Bubnick, C
6’2, 190
January 19, 1991
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

Bubnick comes from a well-known Saskatchewan hockey family. His brothers Michael (367 games with Calgary and Saskatoon) and Jonathan (346 games with Kamloops, Regina and Portland) have graduated from the WHL.

During his rookie season last year, Bubnick picked up 27 points in 64 games with a group that endured the challenges of an organization in turmoil. The Kamloops Blazers underwent an ownership change and the subsequent appointment of an interim coaching staff. During the off-season, some stability was restored to the hockey operations and the Blazers are watching a much more confident Jimmy Bubnick contribute to a more unified and consistent effort.

Bubnick is a gritty, rangy forward who battles willingly in the corners to create loose pucks. He was a member of Canada’s gold-medal winning U18 team at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament last August. Bubnick is a top-six forward in Kamloops, playing in all situations. He has tallied 15 goals and 12 assists in 36 games this season while posting an even rating.

Jared Cowen, D
6’5, 225
January 25, 1991
Allan, Saskatchewan

Possessing the kind of size NHL teams covet among rearguards, Cowen will get a long look this season from professional scouts. For a big player, Cowen is mobile, but will have to continue to work on increasing his foot speed. His long reach can force oncoming forwards wide to the boards and Cowen plays well with an active stick.

Cowen played on the blueline in both games in the ADT Canada/Russia Challenge with teammate Jared Spurgeon (NYI). Cowen is not considered a particularly offensive-minded defenseman, but he has a heavy shot and should develop this aspect of his game further in future seasons. He was a member of Canada’s gold-medal winning U18 team at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament last August.

Cowen has collected four goals and eight assists in 31 games, along with a plus-10 ranking. During his rookie year, highlighted by a Memorial Cup title, Cowen appeared in 68 games, picking up 18 points and a plus-27 ranking.

Stefan Elliott, D

6’1, 185
January 30, 1991
North Vancouver, British Columbia

Elliott is playing is second full season in a Saskatoon Blades uniform after being acquired a couples of seasons ago in the blockbuster deal with the Prince George that saw the Cougars obtain Devon Setoguchi. Originally drafted by the Cougars in the 2006 WHL Bantam Draft, 12th overall, Elliott was said to be less than enamored with the prospect of playing in Prince George.

In 67 games last season, Elliott collected 40 points in Saskatoon for a team that did not make the playoffs. It was a learning opportunity for Elliott and his mates as the crew have evolved into one of the WHL’s top teams this season. Among the solid group of rearguards in Saskatoon are drafted prospects Teigan Zahn (CHI) and Jyri Niemi (NYI). He was a member of Canada’s gold-medal winning U18 team at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament last August.

Elliott has yet to appear in a WHL playoff game, however that will change this season. He is also certain to exceed last year’s offensive output. Through 35 games, Elliot has collected 12 goals and 19 assists with a plus-6 ranking. He covers the ice very well and is prepared to battle in front of his own goal. The right-handed shooter plays in all situations for Blades head coach, Lorne Molleken.

Scott Glennie, RW
6’1, 182
February 22, 1991
Winnipeg, Manitoba

Glennie played one year of midget hockey before his rookie season in the WHL last year with the Brandon Wheat Kings. He collected 26 goals and 32 assists in 61 regular season games as a freshman while playing with fellow rookies Brayden Schenn and Matt Calvert. His production included eight power play goals and three game winners.

Glennie was a member of the bronze-medal winning Team West at the 2008 World U17 Championship in London, Ontario with Schenn and fellow Wheat King, Brody Melnychuk. In August, Glennie was a member of Team Canada at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament in Czechoslavakia, where he chipped in with two goals and an assist in four games, en route to a gold medal. Schenn was also on the championship team.

Glennie is recognized as an offensive forward with pure goal-scoring instincts. He is a self-assured player who wants the puck and is willing to battle for it. Through 34 games this season, Glennie has scored 19 goals and 23 assists and has a plus-16 ranking.

Evander Kane, C

6’0, 170
August 2, 1991
Vancouver, British Columbia

Kane has had a huge impact on a Vancouver Giants team that burst out of the gate this season with 27-2-0-3 record through 32 games. Kane began the season with a 21-game point-scoring streak that netted 15 goals, 22 assists and a plus-17 ranking before the streak was stopped by the Tri City Americans.

Kane was selected to Team WHL for the ADT Canada/Russia Challenge, although a foot injury prevented him from participating. He was one of three 1991-born WHL players named to the team, which is generally a mix of older Hockey Canada prospects vying for the annual WJC. Kane was also invited to Team Canada’s National Junior Team camp, but was among not among the 12 WHLers named to the team.

He was a member of Canada’s gold-medal winning U18 team at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament last August. Kane possesses a compete level that scouts continue to marvel at. He has returned to the Giants lineup from the injury and sits in third place in league scoring with 22 goals and 25 assists in 27 games. He also has a plus-24 ranking.

Brayden Schenn, C

6’, 192
August 22, 1991
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

Schenn is the reigning WHL Rookie of The Year and this season he is continuing to lead offensively for the Brandon Wheat Kings. Playing alongside Glennie and Matt Calvert (CBJ) last season, the trio was a dynamic offensive group on a young Wheat Kings team. Early this season, the three were separated briefly to help distribute scoring throughout the lineup, but have been playing together for the past dozen games.

Schenn is the most physical of the three, seldom shying away from the rough going. A left-handed shot, Schenn shoots well off either foot. Schenn played in the first game of the ADT Canada/Russia Challenge and was invited to Team Canada’s National Junior Team camp. He was not among the 12 WHLers named to the team.

He was a member of Canada’s gold-medal winning U18 team at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament last August. Schenn has collected 15 goals and 25 assists in 32 games with a plus-10 ranking. He is the younger brother of Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Luke Schenn.

Landon Ferraro, C

6’, 170
August 8, 1991
Burnaby, British Columbia

Ferraro was drafted by the Red Deer Rebels in the first round, second overall at the 2006 WHL Bantam Draft. And prior to donning a Rebels jersey, the Red Deer faithful were treated to a sneak preview of his skill set when the city hosted the 2007 Telus Cup, Canada’s national midget championship. Ferraro was then a member of the Vancouver North West Giants.

Ferraro skates very well and is considered a heady hockey player who has distinguished himself in Red Deer as a committed, hard-working forward. Expectations are also very high, given the success of his father Ray Ferraro, who played 16 years in the NHL and scored 108 goals for the Brandon Wheat Kings during the 1983-84 season.

Last season, the Rebels missed the playoffs. In his rookie campaign, Ferraro played in 54 games and collected 13 goals and 11 assists with a minus-24 ranking. In 35 games this season, Ferraro has scored 20 goals and 14 assists with a minus-14 ranking on another edition of a less-than-stellar Rebels squad.

Tomas Vincour, RW
6’2, 205
November 19, 1990
Brno, Czech Republic

Vincour is playing in his second full season with the Edmonton Oil Kings. During his rookie season, the Oil Kings were a WHL expansion team. Vincour and forward Robin Figren (NYI) from Sweden were the first two import players in the current team’s history.

Vincour has impressed with is skating ability, which has enabled him to quickly adjust to the rigors of the WHL. He has a quick release and is used by the Oil Kings on the power play. Vincour has also made the commitment and progressed well in learning to speak English. He is one of nine WHL players vying for a position on the Czech Republic’s entry at the 2009 WJC.

During his rookie year, Vincour scored 16 goals and 23 assists in 65 games. This season, he has collected 13 goals and 14 assists in 34 games.

Other Notables

Tommi Kivisto, D (Red Deer Rebels), Ryan Howse, F (Chilliwack Bruins), Brody Melnychuk, D (Brandon Wheat Kings), Justin Maylan, F (Prince George Cougars), Colin Bowman, D (Kelowna Rockets), Kellan Tochkin, F (Everett Silvertips), Cody Eakin, F (Swift Current Broncos), Nathan Lieuwen, G (Kootenay Ice), Chase Shaber, F (Calgary Hitmen), Byron Froese, F (Everett), Jon Groenheyde, G (Kamloops Blazers), Mitch Callahan, F (Kelowna), Brayden McNabb, D (Kootenay), Cam Braes, F (Lethbridge Hurricanes), Linden Vey, F (Medicine Hat Tigers), Burke Gallimore, F (Saskatoon Blades), Jamie Tucker, G (Vancouver Giants)