WHL 2009 NHL Draft review

By Glen Erickson

A total of 31 players from the Western Hockey League were selected at the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. There were a few certainties confirmed and as usual, a few surprises. There were four WHLers chosen in the top ten of round one.

The Atlanta Thrashers surprised no one when they chose Evander Kane. Marcel Comeau, who scouts in the western region, spoke with Kane in October on behalf of Atlanta and since then, it seemed inevitable that the two sides would meet at the Entry Draft.

Kane is not big physically, but he is a chiseled and fit junior who will not likely lose speed with the addition of a few pounds of muscle over the next few years. He possesses great goal-scoring instincts and is focused on cracking the Thrashers roster this fall, much like Patrick Kane was able to do with the Chicago Blackhawks a couple of seasons ago as an 18-year-old. Named after Evander Holyfield, an Atlanta native, Kane finds himself headed to a NHL market with a sizeable African-American population. This is a pick that should result in an instant media-guide cover photo.

The much anticipated family reunion between Brayden Schenn and his older brother Luke did not materialize, as the Toronto Maple Leafs were unable to make the deal to move up from the seven hole. Schenn was chosen by the Los Angeles Kings, an organization that has made a habit of looking to the ‘Dub in recent years. Schenn will join former WHLers Thomas Hickey, Colten Teubert, Oscar Moller and Brandon Kozun (6th round) at training camp this summer. He’ll also be busy with the Hockey Canada program and will likely return to Brandon as the Wheaties prepare to host the 2010 Memorial Cup.

Scott Glennie moved up slightly in comparison to pre-draft rankings, likely due to his offensive potential. Glennie, who suffered a broken elbow during the second half of the past season, is a responsible teammate and a complete player already. He is now part of a stable of prospects at forward positions in Dallas that includes Jamie Benn, who dominated the WHL playoffs this past season with the league champion Kelowna Rockets. The Stars also looked to WHL for Tomas Vincour an import forward whose best hockey lies ahead.

Jared Cowen was the first WHLer to be selected by a Canadian-based team, the Ottawa Senators. Cowen, whose season-ending knee injury has been well-documented since late January, would undoubtedly have been chosen earlier if not for apprehension associated with the injury. The Sens have picked up a defender with pro size and underrated offensive skills. Cowen takes care of his own end well and will only have to prove that he has been able to retain his mobility after the lengthy rehabilitation of h is knee.

When Carter Ashton was selected by the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Bolts picked up a committed power forward who has the potential to develop into a top-six forward. Another season of junior will help as Ashton will assume a critical leadership role with the Lethbridge Hurricanes. There is also a WJC opportunity that could serve to speed up his skill development.

Among the surprises are defenseman Brett Ponich of the Portland Winterhawks. Pegged as a longshot by HF but recognized for his size and reach, Ponich obviously caught the attention of the St. Louis Blues scouting department. His selection in the second round caught many observers off guard, but the performances in the NHL by big men like Chris Pronger, Zdeno Chara and in junior by up-and-comer Tyler Myers (BUF) make Ponich a worthy consideration. With size that cannot be taught, Ponich will spend the upcoming season with Portland where he may become an important piece with a puzzling organization. He has yet to play a WHL playoff game, something he will be looked upon to help change immediately with the Winterhawks. If he develops a mean streak this season and improves his mobility, the Blues will be rewarded for their risk.

The fall of Kamloops Blazers’ forward Jimmy Bubnick to the 155th pick is strange, although his overall performance after a quick start last season was considered mediocre by many. A big-bodied forward with good puck skills, Bubnick most certainly has done some soul-searching in recent days. With three of his friends from midget hockey in Saskatoon (Ashton, Schenn and Cowen) going in the first round, perhaps Bubnick will take the initiative to become a more consistent junior this season. If he is so motivated, Atlanta will have scored a coup of sorts, potentially solidifying for the future their needs down the middle with Kane and Bubnick at the 2009 edition of the Entry Draft.

Among the players selected that did not appear in HF’s list of Top 25 WHL Prospects were four players who appeared in the league final between the Kelowna Rockets and Calgary Hitmen. Rockets’ Evan Bloodoff is a speedy left winger who elevated his game during the final series when playoff scoring leader Jamie Benn sat out three games with a concussion. The 5’11, 190-pound Bloodoff is feisty and has become a reliable depth player in Kelowna. The durable winger played 71 regular season games and 22 playoff games. He joins Rockets captain Colin Long (PHX) in the Coyotes system.

Mitchell Callahan enjoyed a lengthy rookie season in Kelowna, appearing in a total of 92 games for the Rockets. He is a right winger who is a willing and effective pugilist. He contributes high energy and does not hesitate to through his 5’11, 180-pond frame at opponents. Callahan is from Whittier, California and was one of seven U.S.-born players on the Kelowna roster. He creates space for his teammates and began to show some offensive flair during the second half of the season. He is the type of player who exudes Kirk Maltby/Kris Draper characteristics, something the Detroit Red Wings are well aware of. Both Callahan and Bloodoff will play bigger roles in Kelowna next season.

Brandon Kozun and Kris Foucault of the Calgary Hitmen had distinctly different seasons. Kozun was among the league scoring leaders for much of the campaign, finishing with 108 points. Eligible in 2008, Kozun was overlooked by NHL teams, due in part to his size. However, any questions about durability were answered this past season as the 5’8, 160 pound winger played in all 72 regular season games and all 18 playoff games. Kozun possesses great anticipation, a trait that keeps the diminutive forward out of harm’s way, yet dangerously near scoring areas in the attacking zone. He delivered consistent offensive production, even during the WJC absence of line mate Brett Sonne (STL).

Foucault began the season with the Kootenay Ice, languished through a mediocre first half, and wound up in the Alberta Junior Hockey League for a brief spell before being acquired neat the trade deadline by the Hitmen. The 6’, 190-pounder then proceeded to tally nine times in 22 regular season games and added another 11 goals in 16 playoff games. An average skater with a nose for the net, he will likely return to Calgary next season, where he will be expected to continue producing points as the Hitmen will graduate Sonne, Joel Broda (WAS) and high scoring defenseman Paul Postma (ATL). Both Kozun and Foucault were born in Calgary.

Import forward Marek Viedensky was a first line forward in Prince George last season on a team that limped into the post-season. The 6’3, 190-pound native of Handlova, Slovakia, he provided valuable scoring in the absence of veteran Dana Tyrell (TB), who suffered a season ending knee injury during an exhibition game against Sweden at the WJC. Viedensky played at the WJC for Team Slovakia, returning to the Cougars afterward with heightened grit and confidence. He collected 40 points in 59 games. Viedensky is expected back in the WHL next season, where he will likely line up alongside WHL and CHL Rookie of the Year, Brett Connolly (2010).

Tyler Shattock of the Kamloops Blazers was not selected at the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, but could not be ignored after posting a point-per-game season in the WHL. St. Louis likes the size of the 6’3, 190-pound native of Salmon Arm, British Columbia. Shattock has played three complete seasons in the WHL and is likely to return to junior next season where he can play an even more prominent role with the Blazers. He does not hesitate to get his nose dirty, is a good puckhandler, possesses very good acceleration and plays on special teams.

Overall Draft Order / HF Rankings:
1st Round
4. Evander Kane, C (ATL): Vancouver Giants – HF WHL Rank #3; HF Mock Draft #4
5. Brayden Schenn, C (LA): Brandon Wheat Kings – HF WHL Rank #2; HF Mock Draft #7
8. Scott Glennie, RW (DAL): Brandon Wheat Kings – HF Rank #5; HF Mock Draft #10
9. Jared Cowen, D (OTT): Spokane Chiefs – HF WHL Rank #1; HF Mock Draft #5
29. Carter Ashton, LW (TB): Lethbridge Hurricanes – HF WHL Rank #4; HF Mock Draft #24

2nd Round
32. Landon Ferraro, C (DET): Red Deer Rebels – HF Rank #6 ; HF Mock Draft #20
48. Brett Ponich, D (STL): Portland Winterhawks – HF Rank: NR
49. Stefan Elliott, D (COL): Saskatoon Blades – HF Rank #7

3rd Round
64. Tyson Barrie, D (COL): Kelowna Rockets – HF Rank #9
66. Brayden McNabb, D (BUF): Kootenay Ice – HF Rank #8
74. Ryan Howse, LW (CGY): Chilliwack Bruins – HF Rank #12
81. Adam Morrison, G (PHI): Saskatoon Blades – HF Rank #24
82. Cameron Abney, RW (EDM): Everett Silvertips – HF Rank: NR
85. Cody Eakin, C (WAS): Swift Current Broncos – HF Rank #10
86. Ryan Button, D (BOS): Prince Albert Raiders – HF Rank #13

4th Round
96. Linden Vey, RW (LA): Medicine Hat Tigers – HF Rank #23
103. Kris Foucault. LW (MIN): Calgary Hitmen – HF Rank: NR
105. Justin Weller, D (PHX): Red Deer Rebels – HF Rank: NR
108. Tyler Shattock, RW (STL): Kamloops Blazers – HF Rank: NR
119. Byron Froese, C (CHI): Everett Silvertips – HF Rank #21

5th Round
129. Tomas Vincour, C (DAL): Edmonton Oil Kings – HF Rank #14

6th Round
155. Jimmy Bubnick, C (ATL): Kamloops Blazers – HF Rank #11
157. Evan Bloodoff, LW (PHX): Kelowna Rockets – HF Rank: NR
161. Darcy Kuemper, G (MIN): Red Deer Rebels – HF Rank #17
175. Garrett Mitchell,  RW (WAS): Regina Pats – HF Rank: NR
179. Brandon Kozun, RW (LA): Calgary Hitmen – HF Rank: NR
180. Mitchell Callahan, RW (DET): Kelowna Rockets – HF Rank: NR

7th Round
185. Levko Koper, LW (ATL): Spokane Chiefs – HF Rank #19
189. Marek Viedensky, C (SJ): Prince George Cougars – HF Rank: NR
201. Gaelen Patterson, C (CGY): Saskatoon Blades – HF Rank: NR
208. Tommi Kivisto, D (CAR): Red Deer Rebels – HF Rank #22

Players Selected – By Position:
2 – Goaltenders
8 – Defensemen
9 – Centers
6 – Left Wingers
6 – Right Wingers

Players Selected – By NHL Team:
3 – Atlanta, Los Angeles
2 – Dallas, Detroit, St. Louis, Colorado, Calgary, Washington, Minnesota, Phoenix
1 – Ottawa, Tampa Bay, Buffalo, Philadelphia, Edmonton, Boston, Chicago, San Jose, Carolina

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

HF ranked players not selected
#15 – Collin Bowman, D
#16 – Burke Gallimore, F
#18 – Nathan Lieuwen, G
#20 – Brody Melynchuk, D
#25 – John Groenheyde, G