The WHL season is back, and so is our coverage of the WHL. In the first scouting report of the season it is the Vancouver Giants hosting the Kamloops Blazers at the Langley Events Centre. There are multiple prospects to watch, and we will profile them below.
Scouting Report: Vancouver Giants vs Kamloops Blazers (9/29/17)
Both teams have struggled to start the season, and both are in the process of a retooling. Nonetheless, there are still multiple names from both teams that are worth keeping an eye on for the future.
Garrett Pilon, Center – 3rd Round, 87th overall (Washington Capitals)
Pilon isn’t necessarily the most physical center you’re going to find, but his is willing to lay a hit to get the job done. This is showcased primarily in the defensive zone. His positioning defensively is adequate, not allowing any significant lanes and seldom losing the man next to him for a scoring chance.
He is a smooth skater, but with only slightly above average speed. He has a clean stride, with no real worries there. He will need to get a bit faster to make the jump to the next level and be successful.
He also has a quick wrist shot that he fires off frequently. It’s because of this and his ability to put himself in the right spot that he operates on the first powerplay unit. He is very intelligent offensively, and he is undeniably the offensive focal point of the Blazers.
Jackson Shepard, Left Wing – 2018 Draft Eligible
Listed at 5’8″ and 165 pounds, Shepard doesn’t play like his size at all. He is a no-nonsense, gritty, and physical winger. He isn’t afraid to let his opponents know he’s there with a hit. He also is willing to get into battles on the boards, being surprisingly effective given his small stature.
He is a rather fast skater, but not the smoothest. There isn’t any glaring flaws in his stride, but it will take some work to clean it up. Nonetheless, it’s not anything to worry about when it comes to his play.
On top of his speed and grit, he is a rather intelligent player. He sees the ice relatively well and can make plays with his speed regularly. The only issue is that he sometimes gets a bit ahead of himself and overcommits to a play, knowing too well his speed can make up for it. This is something he will need to address to further his development, but is an easy fix.
Overall, Shepard looks to be a good prospect that would be a nice late round pick for an organization that likes fast and gritty forwards and doesn’t mind having a small skater.
Ty Ronning, Right Wing – 7th Round, 201st overall (New York Rangers)
Ronning, as many already know, is a very fast skater. He was likely the fastest skater on the ice for this game. The one issue in the past is that he had an awkward, almost bow-legged stride. This is something he looks to have addressed since last season, but it still shows up every once in a while towards the end of shifts when trying to break away from a defenseman. He will have to work on that more to effectively make the jump to AHL or NHL hockey.
Much like last year he is operating on the first unit for both the powerplay and the penalty kill. He is smart and jumps into lanes quickly on the former, and he has a good stick to make him effective on the latter. His speed makes him a threat to bag a shorthanded goal or two as well.
He showcased his intelligence and quickness to jump into lanes when he was there to clean up a rebound and put it in the back of the net in the second period. Blazers goaltender Dylan Ferguson scrambled, but had no chance to save Ronning’s shot.
Unsurprisingly, Ronning is the focal point of the Giants in all areas of the ice without Tyler Benson. This will be great for his development, and if he can clean up the stride he can make a solid jump in his development in 2017-18.
Tyler Popowich, Center – 2018 Draft Eligible
A big-bodied centerman who is a smooth skater is something everyone likes to have. He sees the ice well offensively, but tends to falter due to inconsistency in other areas of the ice. If he can play an end-to-end style of hockey, he has the tools to be a very good hockey player.
Defensively he has subpar positioning, looking more to hop on deflections and get going to the other end of the ice. This isn’t to say he’s a defensive liability, because he isn’t, but rather to say that his contributions in his defensive zone aren’t what you would hope for.
Popowich will have to work on his consistency and learn to exert himself in all areas of the ice. If he does this consistently, he is certainly one to keep an eye on for the future.
Stay tuned to Last Word on Hockey and LWOH Prospects all season for continued coverage of the WHL and all other prospects.