2018-19 WHL B.C. Division Preview

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KELOWNA, BC - FEBRUARY 7: Bowen Byram #44 of the Vancouver Giants skates with the puck against the Kelowna Rockets at Prospera Place on February 7, 2018 in Kelowna, Canada. (Photo by Marissa Baecker/Getty Images)

Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects. It’s that time again, major junior hockey is back and we’re here to preview the new season for you. All three leagues are kicking off this week. With that in mind, we continue our division previews today as we make our way around the country.

You can check out all of this year’s Top Shelf Prospects articles here.

Check Out the WHL East DivisionWHL Central Division, and WHL U.S. Division Previews here.

2018-19 WHL B.C. Division

Top Three Contenders in Projected Order of Finish

Vancouver Giants

All eyes across the hockey world will be on Bowen Byram, who has a chance to be the first defenseman off the board in the 2019 NHL Draft. Matt Barberis and Dylan Plouffe will provide him with veteran support on the blueline. Alex Kannok-Leipart is also a Washington Capitals prospect. They have a strong goalie backstopping the team in David Tendeck. Up front, Milos Roman will be asked to lead the way. Scoring depth will come from James Malm, Davis Koch, Brayden Watts, and Dawson Holt. They are also looking to rookie Justin Sourdif to contribute.

Kelowna Rockets

The Rockets lost plenty of offensive punch over the off-season. Kyle Topping, Conner Bruggen-Cate, Jack Cowell and Nolan Foote will be asked to take steps forward and lead the attack. Now in his draft year, Foote will be looking to have a breakout season. Overager Braydyn Chizen is an experienced leader on defence, while Kaeden Korczak enters his draft season as the latest top defence prospect from the Kelowna factory. He played for Team Canada at the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup. Lassi Thomson was added in the import draft. In goal, Roman Basran and James Porter Jr. battle for the starting spot.

Victoria Royals

Dante Hannoun and Lane Zablocki are back for their overage seasons and might be two of the best overage players in the league. Igor Martynov and Kaid Oliver will be asked to take another step forward after good seasons last year. Newcomers Brandon Cutler and Tanner Sidaway will also have big roles. On defence, Scott Walford should step up and become the team’s go-to player in all situations. Mitchell Prowse, Ralph Jarratt, and newcomer Jameson Murray should fill out the top four. Griffen Outhouse could be one of the best goalies in the WHL and steal games.

 

Players to Watch

Dylan Ferguson, Goaltender, Kamloops Blazers

A seventh-round pick of the Dallas Stars in the 2017 NHL Draft, Dylan Ferguson was pressed into emergency duty for the Vegas Golden Knights as the fifth goalie they used early last season. Back in junior, he showed good signs, with a 0.907 save-percentage behind a weak Kamloops defence last season. Ferguson takes away the bottom of the net with his quick legs. He tracks the puck well and moves side-to-side with ease. He can use some work on his glove hand though.

Jermaine Loewen, Left Wing, Kamloops Blazers

Loewen was a seventh-round pick of the Stars in the most recent NHL Draft, becoming the first hockey player born in Jamaica to get that honour. The six-foot-four-inch winger put up 36 goals and 64 points in 66 games last season. He uses his size to play a power game, as he is effective in winning battles on the boards and causing havoc in front of the net. Loewen is willing to play a physical game. He is quick for his size and gets in on the forecheck, forcing defenders into making mistakes.

Milos Roman, Centre, Vancouver Giants

A Calgary Flames draftee, the bread and butter of Roman’s game is his playmaking ability. He has excellent vision and high-end hockey IQ. Roman sees plays developing and finds open teammates in traffic. He can make passes through tight areas, and threads the needle on defenders, or makes an accurate saucer pass on a teammates tape. Roman is a good stick-handler and uses his body to protect the puck on the cycle. He can extend plays and allow a teammate the time and space to get open. Roman works hard to pressure defenders in the corners, creating turnovers on the forecheck. He wins battles for pucks, and when he does, can quickly turn that into a scoring chance.

The majority of Roman’s goals come in close to the net. He has the soft hands and quick release to score in tight. He also has the hand-eye coordination to get tip-ins and pounce on rebounds. However, Roman lacks power in his wrist shot and one-timer. His shot does not challenge goalkeepers from further out. He will need to add some power to be a goal scorer at the next level.

David Tendeck, Goalie, Vancouver Giants

An Arizona Coyotes prospect, Tendeck is just six-foot-one. He is a bit small compared to other recently drafted goalies. Tendeck plays a butterfly-style of game. He gets up and down quickly thanks to his strong athleticism. He also relies on his reflexes, which are extremely quick. Tendeck takes away the top of the net with a good glove hand. He does a good job of tracking the puck through traffic and making stops. He could use some work on his overall technique as well as his rebound control.

Scott Walford, Left Defence, Victoria Royals

A Montreal Canadiens prospect, Walford creates offence from the back end, with excellent passing ability. He uses his skating to create space in transition and makes a strong first pass to his teammates when that space opens up. He also has the ability to make plays at the blue line, quarterbacking the power play and setting up teammates. Walford could improve his slap shot from the point. He is a solid two-way player, who maintains good gap control and has the strong positioning to cut down passing and shooting lanes. Walford is also not afraid to battle in his own end of the rink, both in front of the net and in the corners.

Lane Zablocki, Right Wing, Victoria Royals

Detroit Red Wings draft pick, Zablocki is a very good skater, who gets in quickly on the forecheck and puts pressure on opposing defenders. He is a good stick handler and playmaker. Zablocki makes strong passes to linemates off the rush as well as out of the cycle game. Willing to play a gritty game, Zablocki battles for pucks on the boards and gets to the front of the net. Once there he can score goals in tight with his soft hands. He plays as a pest, consistently getting under his opponent’s skin. Zablocki must get stronger to continue to play this game at the next level.

 

2019 NHL Draft Prospects to Watch

Nolan Foote, Left Wing, Kelowna Rockets

Unlike his brother and his father, Nolan Foote is a forward. He has very good size and plays a game that is a blend of skill and power. Foote has good stickhandling and puck protection ability. He scored 13 goals and 40 points in 50 games last season. Foote has an excellent wrist shot and a very quick release. When teammates have the puck, he finds open areas to get that shot off. When the other team has the puck, he is quick to get in on the forecheck, causing pressure and creating turnovers. Foote also is a good playmaker with puck protection and passing skills.

Foote is willing to work in the dirty areas of the ice. He gets to the front of the net and uses his size to create havoc. He also battles well on the forecheck, as well as in his own end of the ice. He could stand to improve his skating over the next several years, however. He particularly needs work on his first step and early strides.

Kaedan Korczak, Right Defence, Kelowna Rockets

Korczak put up 16 points in 67 regular season game and four points in four playoff games as a rookie with the Rockets. He added three assists in five games at the Hlinka-Gretzky cup, helping Canada to a gold medal. The 11th overall pick in the 2016 WHL Draft, Korczak is an excellent skater and stickhandler. He retrieves pucks quickly in his own zone, and can make a slick move to quickly get them up the ice. He became more confident as the season went along, joining the rush and contributing to offensive chances. Korczak sees the ice well and can make good passes to start the rush, or in controlling the play in the offensive zone. With a bigger role this season, expect his offensive numbers to really break out.

Lassi Thomson, Kelowna Rockets

The Finnish defender was the Rockets first round pick in the 2018 CHL Import Draft. Thomson put up two points in seven games in helping Finland to the Under-18 gold medal last spring. He is another strong skater who loves to skate with the puck and join the offence. He also has a good shot. Thomson plays a strong two-way game on the international ice. It may take him some time, early in the year, to adjust to the smaller ice surface though.

Taylor Gauthier, Goalie, Prince George Cougars

Gauthier played in 32 games for the Cougars last year, with an .885 save percentage. While the numbers may not look great, he had a strong showing as a 16-year-old rookie goalie on a weak defensive team. Gauthier also played two games for Team Canada at the Hlinka-Gretzky tournament, putting up a 1.11 goals-against-average and .943 save percentage. Gauthier is the rare breed of right-handed catching goaltender. Gauthier is a hybrid-style goaltender who does a good job of always staying square to the puck and cutting down angles. He tracks the puck well and moves side-to-side quickly, making a number of reaction stops.   Expect him to see a lot of rubber this season.

Bowen Byram, Left Defence, Vancouver Giants

The third overall pick in the 2016 WHL Bantam Draft, Byram had a strong rookie season. He put up six goals and 27 points in the regular season but took his game to another level in the WHL playoffs with three goals and seven points in seven games. It was enough to earn Byram a spot with Team Canada at the IIHF Under-18 World Championships despite being an underage player. He also played at this summers Hlinka-Gretzky cup and was Canada’s best defenceman in helping the team to a gold medal.

Byram is an excellent skater in both directions and this becomes the basis of a strong two-way game. He is able to join the rush, or pinch in at the blue line and still get back to his defensive position. His strong backwards skating allows him to maintain strong gap control and makes him tough to beat on the rush. Byram is willing to play a physical game and forwards have to be aware of coming down his side of the ice with their heads down. He has a good point shot. Byram can skate the puck out of danger and makes a strong first pass to start the transition game.

 

2020 NHL Draft Prospects to Watch

Rhett Rhinehart, Right Defence, Prince George Cougars

The 13th overall pick in the 2016 WHL Draft, Rhinehart is already 6’3″ and 196 lbs. He uses that size to play a physical defensive game. Attackers must keep their head up on his side of the ice or risk being laid out with a big hit. He also has good vision and passing ability and a big shot from the point.

Justin Sourdif, Centre, Vancouver Giants

Selected 3rd overall in the 2017 WHL Draft, Sourdif won the BCMML scoring title and player of the year last season. He also got in 11 games (four regular season games, seven playoff games) with the Giants, but did not register a point. Now 16-years-old, the Giants are hoping that Sourdif has a bigger impact. Sourdif is a good skater who pairs that with soft hands. This helps him to create space off the rush, or working off the boards in the cycle. He is willing to take the puck into the dirty areas to make plays. Sourdif can make tape-to-tape passes through tight areas.

 

Check Out the WHL East DivisionWHL Central Division, and WHL U.S. Division Previews here.

 

Main Photo:
Embed from Getty Images

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