Rattie tops a mostly unheralded group of WHL wingers

By Glen Erickson

Matej Stransky - Saskatoon Blades

Photo: Dallas Stars' prospect Matej Stransky and his Saskatoon Blades teammates did not fare well in the WHL playoffs, but they will nevertheless get another shot at winning the Memorial Cup as the host team for that event (courtesy of Marissa Baecker/Getty Images)

Many of the WHL’s top players achieve success due in part to their versatility, as most forwards will take a spin from time to time at the center position. The following ranking includes wingers that are currently property of a National Hockey League team.

Of the ten players ranked, seven remain the property of the NHL team that drafted them. One player was signed as a free agent, while one went unsigned by the team that called his name at the NHL Draft. Another player in our ranking also went unsigned, but has since inked a contract with a different NHL team. All told, five of the players ranked are signed by a NHL team.

Ty Rattie (STL)
This season, Rattie surpassed the 100-point mark for the second year in a row,  tallying 48 goals and 62 assists. He missed much of the December schedule while toiling in Russia with Team Canada at the 2013 WJC. Rattie, from Airdrie, Alberta, has played over 320 games in the WHL, all with the Portland Winterhawks.

Rattie played alongside Brendan Leipsic (NAS) and Nic Petan (2013), the pair that tied for the WHL scoring title with 120 points each.

Selected by the St. Louis Blues in the second round, 32nd overall, at the 2011 NHL Draft, Rattie was signed to an entry-level contract last June. Rattie is a top prospect in the Blues system, along with young talented forwards like Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko, two players who share Rattie’s WJC pedigree.

Michael Ferland (CGY)
Ferland split the early going of the current campaign between the ECHL’s Utah Grizzlies and the Abbottsford Heat of the AHL. He was eventually returned to the Brandon Wheat Kings near mid-season. At the WHL trade deadline, after only four games with Brandon, the Wheaties sent the 20-year-old forward to the Memorial Cup-bound Saskatoon Blades. The 2013 edition of the national junior hockey championship will mark the second time Ferland has been a member of the Memorial Cup host team, having skated with the Wheat Kings when the 2010 tournament was played in Brandon, Manitoba.

Selected by the Calgary Flames in the fifth round, 133rd overall, at the 2010 NHL Draft, Ferland is a physical, tenacious power forward. This season in the WHL, he tallied nine times and added 21 assists in 30 games, compiling an impressive plus-25 rating, as well. Ferland is from Swan River, Manitoba.

Adam Lowry (WPG)
This season in Swift Current, Lowry appeared in all 72 regular season games and led the Broncos in scoring with 45 goals and 43 assists. Selected by the Winnipeg Jets in the third round, 67th overall, at the 2011 NHL Draft, Lowry has yet to sign with the Jets. At 6’4” and 200 pounds, it would seem the dynamic, offensive-minded forward would be a great fit in Winnipeg.

Lowry is the son of former NHL forward and current Victoria Royals (WHL) head coach, Dave Lowry, who played over 1,000 games in the NHL. Adam was born in St. Louis and grew up playing minor hockey in Calgary, Alberta.

Chandler Stephenson (WAS)
This year, Stephenson sat out much of the early going, missing 26 games with a foot injury. Upon his return to the Regina Pats lineup, the veteran forward scored 14 times and added 31 assists in 44 games.

Selected in the third round by the Washington Capitals, 77th overall, at the 2012 NHL Draft, Stephenson is one of the top skaters in the WHL. He is a native of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. While the Pats did not qualify for the post-season, Stephenson will continue to play this season as he has been summoned by the Capitals AHL affiliate, the Hershey Bears.

Turner Elson (CGY)
Elson went undrafted, but eventually the Flames came calling. Signed on September 22, 2011 by Calgary, the same day they also signed Kootenay Ice defenseman James Martin (CGY), Elson has emerged as a veteran leader in Red Deer while winding down his WHL career.

This season, Elson scored 26 goals and 31 assists, both career highs. In 64 games as a 20-year-old, Elson also compiled a plus-26 rating. He checks in at 6’ and 185 pounds. The versatile forward hails from St. Albert, Alberta.

Elson and the Rebels have rebounded from a tough start to the regular season and have already advanced to the second round of the WHL playoffs after a four-game sweep of the Prince Albert Raiders.

Matej Stransky (DAL)
This season, Stransky scored 40 times and added 45 goals in 72 regular season games. During his three seasons in Saskatoon, the durable native of Ostrava in the Czech Republic has missed only three starts as a member of the Blades. Selected in the sixth round by the Dallas Stars, 165th overall, at the 2011 NHL Draft, Stransky signed an entry-level contract in April of 2012.

Stransky is a big winger, capable of using his reach to keep defenders at bay. Unfortunately, he has yet to perform at a high level in the post-season on a Blades team that has dropped 12 consecutive playoff games over the past three seasons. Stransky will appear in his first Memorial Cup later this spring when the city of Saskatoon plays host to the event.

Tim Bozon (MTL)
This season, Bozon scored 36 goals and added 55 assists in 69 games while skating primarily with Colin Smith (COL) and JC Lipon. Last season as a WHL rookie, Bozon scored 36 times and added 35 assists in 71 games. At a generous 6’1” and 195 pounds, Bozon arrived in the WHL as a slight-framed import. He has proven to be a durable performer, playing in all but four regular season games over two years.

Selected by the Montreal Canadiens in the third round, 64th overall, at the 2012 NHL Draft, Bozon hails from Switzerland. A confident, thoughtful speaker, he may in fact be the league leader in “languages spoken” with four. 

Josh Nicholls (NYR)
Nicholls is in the midst of his best offensive season with the Saskatoon Blades, a campaign that saw the veteran forward lead the team with 47 goals. From Tsawwassen, British Columbia, Nicholls has appeared in over 360 WHL games, all with the Blades.

Selected by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the seventh round, 182nd overall, Nicholls went unsigned by the Leafs. In early March, with the current WHL regular season coming to an end, Nicholls signed an entry-level contract with the New York Rangers.

Coda Gordon (CGY)
In 70 games this season, Gordon scored 17 goals and added 42 assists in 69 games while playing much of the campaign alongside Adam Lowry. What he may lack in size and skating ability is more than made up for by his tenacity and touch around the opposition's goal.

Selected in the sixth round by the Calgary Flames, 165th overall, at the 2012 NHL Draft, Gordon spent his formative minor hockey days at the Edge Academy in Calgary. Flames fans in Cow Town have also been treated to Gordon’s exploits in the WHL during a closely played first round playoff series between the Swift Current Broncos and Calgary Hitmen.

Brooks Macek (FA)
This season, Macek produced his finest offensive performance, collecting 80 points in 70 games while compiling a +32 rating with the Calgary Hitmen. Selected in the sixth round by the Detroit Red Wings, 171st overall, at the 2010 NHL Draft, Macek has always been recognized as a tremendous skater.

Unsigned to date, the 20-year-old from Winnipeg, Manitoba began his WHL career with the Tri-City Americans, and was traded to the Hitmen just 38 games into the 2010-11 season. Like many veteran juniors, Macek is looking to earn a free agent deal with a NHL organization. If that does not materialize, he can count on a number of opportunities in Canadian University hockey.

Veteran WHL Presence

Justin Feser (FA)
A versatile forward who has played all forward positions, Justin Feser has curiously been ignored by NHL teams for some time. Durability should not be a concern as the veteran of 414 WHL regular season and playoff games has not missed a game since the 2008-2009 season.

A consummate leader, Feser has worn the “C” for the Americans during the past two seasons. Offensively, Feser has collected 403 career points, including 102 points this season. The Red Deer, Alberta native checks in at a thick 5’9” and 190 pounds.

Brendan Ranford (FA)
In 371 career games, Ranford has collected 384 points while playing his entire career as a member of the Kamloops Blazers. This season, Ranford scored 22 goals and added 65 assists in 70 games for Kamloops, a team that appears to be taking care of business during the current post-season. Ranford has become feistier during the past couple of seasons and has established himself as a reliable offensive threat.

Originally selected by the Philadelphia Flyers in the seventh round, 209th overall, at the 2010 NHL Draft, Ranford went unsigned by the Flyers. The native of Edmonton, Alberta and nephew of former NHL goaltender Bill Ranford will await free agency opportunities as the WHL playoffs progress. He checks in at 5’11” and 185 pounds.  

Other notables
Mitchell Moroz (EDM), Edmonton Oil Kings
Kale Kessy (EDM), Kamloops Blazers
Taylor Leier (PHI) Portland Winterhawks
Taylor Peters (DAL) Portland Winterhawks

Follow Glen Erickson at Twitter via @ericksonextra