WHL 2013 draft review

By Glen Erickson
2013 NHL Draft - Seth Jones, Nashville Predators

Photo: Nashville Predators top pick, Seth Jones, was the first player off the board from the WHL at the 2013 NHL Draft (courtesy of Mike Stobe/Getty Images)


The Colorado Avalanche effectively eliminated any drama surrounding the first overall selection at the 2013 NHL Draft by spreading the word weeks in advance that they were leaning toward selecting a forward. True to their word, the Avalanche bypassed Portland Winterhawks defenseman Seth Jones in favor of the Halifax Mooseheads’ Nathan McKinnon. In fact, Jones dropped to fourth overall where he was picked up by the ecstatic Nashville Predators.

Jones spent the past season in the WHL where he was, well, outstanding. Between September and May, the 18-year-old rearguard played in the All-American Prospects Game, the Subway Series, the CHL Top Prospects Game, the 2013 U20 WJC, and the 2013 Mastercard Memorial Cup Tournament. A trip to the NHL Combine in Toronto, where he did not participate in physical testing, signalled the end of a lengthy junior campaign.

Moving forward to the fall, and barring any unforeseen events, Jones will be wearing either a Predators jersey in the NHL, or a Winterhawks jersey back in Portland. The AHL is not an option due to his age. Will another season in the WHL aid his development, or will a leap directly onto the Nashville roster perhaps be too much too soon? Compelling questions indeed. Jones has been signed to a three-year entry level contract with the Predators.

The Winnipeg Jets chose 13th and opted for defenseman Josh Morrissey of the Prince Albert Raiders. An effective transition player with very good puck skills, much was also made of Morrissey’s physical play, in addition to being recognized as the CHL’s Scholastic Player of the Year. Not to be ignored in all of this are the ties to the WHL among Jets General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff and Director of Amateur Scouting Marcel Comeau. In fact, the Jets selected a total of five players from the WHL on Draft Day in New Jersey.

Ryan Pulock of the Brandon Wheat Kings was the 15th overall selection, chosen by the New York Islanders. Owner of perhaps the heaviest shot among WHL defensemen, Pulock follows in the footsteps of Griffin Reinhart of the Edmonton Oil Kings, who was the Islanders first round selection last year. Pulock already has three full WHL seasons under his belt.

The Ottawa Senators made Curtis Lazar the first WHL forward chosen, as the burly power forward went 17th overall. In two seasons with the Edmonton Oil Kings, Lazar has been to the WHL Championship Series twice and played for the Memorial Cup once.

The San Jose Sharks traded up to the 18th spot where they selected Mirco Mueller of the Everett Silvertips. A lanky, skilled rearguard, the Swiss-born Mueller is most certainly destined for a return to the WHL where his development should speed up under the watchful, demanding eyes of new bench boss, Kevin Constantine.

In a rare draft day move, the Vancouver Canucks opted for a selection from the WHL, snaring highly touted forward Hunter Shinkaruk in the 24th spot. Shinkaruk, ranked ahead of Lazar in some quarters, is a persistent forward with a scoring touch. The Canucks, who selected London Knights forward Bo Horvat with the ninth pick, certainly addressed secondary scoring with their two first round selections.

The Anaheim Ducks used the 26th pick to call Seattle Thunderbirds defenseman Shea Theodore to the podium. The top puck mover on the Thunderbirds backend, Theodore is from Abbottsford, BC. He is firmly on the Hockey Canada radar with a number of international appearances to date.

The Calgary Flames didn’t look too far from home when they used their third pick of the first round, 28th overall, to choose Morgan Klimchuk of the Regina Pats. Klimchuk, who grew up in Calgary, greatly improved his skating this past season and became a consistently productive scorer in Regina.

All told in the first round, eight players from the WHL heard their names called, including five defensemen and three forwards. A total of 33 players were selected over the course of the seven round draft.

Perhaps somewhat surprising was the activity associated with WHL goaltenders at the NHL Draft. Little was said during most of the past season about the depth and quality among WHL goaltenders, yet NHL teams saw fit to select a total of five netminders. That number actually equals the total taken at the 2010, 2011 and 2012 Drafts combined.

Heading into the 2013 edition, the highest ranked goaltender was Eric Comrie of the Tri-City Americans. Comrie is highly skilled, but spent most of the past season recovering from hip surgery. All told, he played in only 37 games, yet caught the attention of the Winnipeg Jets as they selected him in the second round, 59th overall. All eyes will be on Comrie, from Newport Beach, CA, as he enters the season amid questions about the status of his hip.

Tristan Jarry of the Edmonton Oil Kings garnered significant attention this past season, primarily in a backup role behind Laurent Brossoit (CGY). Jarry played in the Top Prospects Game in January, and also managed to post solid numbers in the WHL with six shutouts in 27 appearances. The Pittsburgh Penguins made Jarry their second pick, 44th overall. Jarry’s development should get a huge boost as he is likely to see plenty more minutes with the Oil Kings this coming season.

Patrik Bartosak of the Red Deer Rebels became property of the Los Angeles Kings when he was chosen in the fifth round, 146th overall. He delivered a phenomenal save percentage of .935 this past season, along with a 2.24 goals-against average in 55 appearances. He was virtually unbeatable in shootouts. With the new CHL mantra of late associated with the abolishment of import goaltenders, Bartosak might just enter the history books as the last import goaler to win the CHL’s Vaughn Goaltender of the Year award.

Much like Jarry, Brendan Burke of the Portland Winterhawks has played second fiddle to a veteran goaltender over the past two seasons. With the departure of 20-year-old Mac Carruth (CHI), Burke would appear to be the leading man between the pipes moving forward in Portland. Burke was selected by the Phoenix Coyotes in the sixth round, 163rd overall.

The final goalie chosen was MacKenzie Skapski of the Kootenay Ice, selected in the sixth round, 170th overall, by the New York Rangers. Skapski, who checks in at 6’3 and 185 pounds, was a work horse of sorts in Cranbrook. In his first full season at the helm as the number one guy, Skapski appeared in 65 games, posting a 2.78 goals-against average and a .910 save percentage on a Kootenay team that just managed to squeak into the playoffs.

Forwards JC Lipon of the Kamloops Blazers and Myles Bell of the Kelowna Rockets are notable as well, given that they’ve both been passed over at previous editions of the NHL Draft. Lipon, who suited up for Team Canada at the 2013 WJC, was chosen by the Jets in the third round, while Bell was selected by New Jersey in round six.

Defenseman Brendan Kichton of the Spokane Chiefs, who was unable to secure a contract from the New York Islanders after being selected at the 2011 NHL Draft, was chosen by the Jets in the seventh round. All Kichton has done is lead the WHL in scoring by a defenseman in each of the past three seasons.

Here are a few more WHL numbers for your perusal:

Past WHL – NHL Draft Results
2013 NHL Draft: 33 (1st Round: 8)
2012 NHL Draft: 32. (1st Round: 6)
2011 NHL Draft: 33. (1st Round: 6)
2010 NHL Draft: 33. (1st Round: 5)
2009 NHL Draft: 31. (1st Round: 5)
2008 NHL Draft: 37. (1st Round: 9)
2007 NHL Draft: 37. (1st Round: 9)
2006 NHL Draft: 24. (1st Round: 4)

WHL Players Drafted, in Order, with HF Top 10 & Mock Draft Rankings

1st Round (8)
4. Seth Jones (NAS) Portland Winterhawks: HF Rank #1. HF Mock Draft #1.
13. Josh Morrissey (WPG) Prince Albert Raiders: HF Rank #4. HF Mock Draft #28.
15. Ryan Pulock (NYI) Brandon Wheat Kings: HF Rank #5. HF Mock Draft #18.
17. Curtis Lazar (OTT) Edmonton Oil Kings: HF Rank #2. HF Mock Draft #19.
18. Mirco Mueller (SJ) Everett Silvertips: HF Rank #7.
24. Hunter Shinkaruk (VAN) Medicine Hat Tigers: HF Rank #3. HF Mock Draft #9.
28. Morgan Klimchuk (CGY) Regina Pats: HF Rank #9.
26. Shea Theodore (ANA) Seattle Thunderbirds: HF Rank #6. HF Mock Draft #30.

2nd Round (7)
43. Nic Petan (WPG) Portland Winterhawks: HF Mock Draft #29.
44. Tristan Jarry (PIT) Edmonton Oil Kings
50. Dillon Heatherington (CBJ) Swift Current Broncos: HF Rank #10.
53. Madison Bowey (WAS) Kelowna Rockets: HF Rank #8.
59. Eric Comrie (WPG) Tri City Americans

3rd Round (4)
67. Keegan Kanzig (CGY) Victoria Royals
72. Tyrell Goulbourne (PHI) Kelowna Rockets
89. Oliver Bjorkstrand (CBJ) Portland Winterhawks
91. JC Lipon (WPG) Kamloops Blazers

4th Round (3)
93. Mason Geertsen (COL) Vancouver Giants
94. Jackson Houck (EDM) Vancouver Giants
112. Zachary Pochiro (STL) Prince George Cougars

5th Round (4)
131. Cole Ully (DAL) Kamloops Blazers
135. Eric Roy (CGY) Brandon Wheat Kings
139. Mitchell Wheaton (DET) Kelowna Rockets
146. Patrik Bartosak (LA) Red Deer Rebels

6th Round (5)
158. Ben Betker (EDM) Everett Silvertips
160. Myles Bell (NJ) Kelowna Rockets
163. Brendan Burke (PHX) Portland Winterhawks
169. Marc McNulty (DET) Prince George Cougars
170. Mackenzie Skapski (NYR) Kootenay Ice

7th Round (4)
188. Greg Chase (EDM) Calgary Hitmen
190. Brenden Kichton (WPG) Spokane Chiefs
196. Kyle Burroughs (NYI) Regina Pats
204. Tyler Lewington (WAS) Medicine Hat Tigers

# of Players Selected – By WHL Team
4 – Portland; Kelowna.
2 – Brandon; Everett; Edmonton; Medicine Hat; Regina; Victoria; Kamloops; Vancouver; Prince George.
1 – Calgary; Prince Albert; Seattle; Swift Current; Tri City; Red Deer; Kootenay; Spokane.
0 – Moose Jaw; Lethbridge; Saskatoon.

# of Players Selected – By NHL Team
5 – WPG
3 – CGY; EDM;

# of Players Selected – By Position
16 – Defensemen
12 – Forwards
5 – Goaltenders