Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects. The major junior hockey season is several weeks old and we’re here to take a look around the Western Hockey League. Today, we bring you our 2019-20 WHL Central Division Players to Watch.
You can check out all of this year’s Top Shelf Prospects articles here.
2019-20 WHL Central Division
Players to Watch
Carl Stankowski, Goaltender, Calgary Hitmen
Stankowski is undersized for a goaltender but has tremendous reflexes and quickness. He surprised many when he took over in the Thunderbirds crease at the start of the 2017 WHL playoffs. He surprised even more with his brilliant play in those playoffs, taking the team to the WHL Championship. Stankowski is looking to bring the same type of play he had in those playoffs, and do it all season long, in order to overcome those size concerns and be drafted in his third go through the NHL draft next June. With what he’s done so far, he’s an intriguing story to watch.
Jett Woo, Defence, Calgary Hitmen
A Vancouver Canucks prospect, Woo shows poise with the puck on his stick, keeping his head up and looking to make plays. He has a strong first pass out of the zone and has shown the ability to quarterback the power play. Woo increased his offence in each of the last two seasons by joining the rush more and pinching at the blue line. He is not reckless though and picks his spots well. Woo is rarely caught out of position. Woo is becoming more and confident in his game. This shows in that he is more creative with his passing, makes more plays and puts up more points each year. His ability to make quick moves with his stick and change angles has helped him to open up passing lanes.
Matthew Robertson, Defence, Edmonton Oil Kings
A second-round pick of the New York Rangers. Robertson has great size at 6-foot-4 and pairs this with excellent mobility. He skates well in both directions and has the pivots to transition from offence to defence quickly and vice versa allowing him to play a 200-foot-game. Robertson is a very good passer. This shows up in the transition game where he can start the rush from his own end. It also helps him at the point on the power play. Robertson has a good slap shot and a knack for getting it through the shooting lane. Robertson has good gap control and keeps attackers to the outside on the rush. If they have their head down, he is not afraid to throw a big hit.
Calen Addison, Defence, Lethbridge Hurricanes
Drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins, Addison is an outstanding skater. This helps him to play a two-way game and be effective at both ends of the ice. Addison has very good vision and passing skills, with the ability to start the transition game and play the point on the power play. He loves to drive offence and jumps into the play. Addison also has the stickhandling ability to skate the puck out of danger and even to lead the rush. Addison also has a very good snapshot and wrist shot. He gets them both off very quickly, with an excellent release. He sneaks down from the line, using these shots from the top of the circle. His slap shot is good, but not great. Addison gets his shots through traffic and on the net. His skating and poise allow him to walk the line and open up shooting lanes.
Dylan Cozens, Centre, Lethbridge Hurricanes
Drafted by the Buffalo Sabres, Cozens is a pure goal scorer. He has an excellent wrist shot and a quick release as well as the soft hands to finish in close. Cozens also has a good snapshot and slap shot. He is not afraid to get to the dirty areas of the ice, establishing a position at the top of the slot, where he can fire in one-timers or provide the “high-screen” that many teams are using to great effect in recent years. With the puck on his stick, he is not afraid to take it to the front of the net.
Dylan Cozens also sees the ice very well. He controls the puck in the cycle game before dishing to an open teammate. His hockey IQ is excellent, as he anticipates where his teammates are headed and is able to set them up for good scoring chances.
Mads Sogaard, Goaltender, Medicine Hat Tigers
Drafted by the Ottawa Senators, the 6-foot-7 Sogaard is a huge goaltender. His size allows him to take up large portions of the net and gives shooters little to look at. He uses an effective butterfly technique. Even when he is down in the butterfly his chest still reaches the crossbar and covers a lot of the net. Sogaard tracks pucks well and moves side-to-side quickly. However, he isn’t always under control, and he can sometimes overslide leaving net open. With his long legs, he can also give up a big five-hole when he is moving side to side. He is very good at stopping the first shot. For his age, he shows good rebound control, but like most young goalies there is still room to improve. His legs are powerful and quick. He also has a good glove hand and strong blocker.
2020 NHL Draft Prospects
Jake Neighbours, Left Wing, Edmonton Oil Kings
The fourth overall pick in the 2017 WHL Bantam Draft, Neighbours scored 11 goals and 24 points in 47 games played. He already has eight points in nine games this season. Neighbours is a strong forward who plays a 200-foot game. He is effective on the forecheck, getting in quickly and creating havoc in the zone. Neighbours brings this same game to the defensive zone, backchecking effectively. He gets to the front of the net where he is able to score goals in tight. Neighbours is also a good skater and stick handler.
Noah Boyko, Right Wing, Lethbridge Hurricanes
Boyko has a very good wrist shot and a good release. He is good without the puck, reading the play and finding openings in the defence to take a pass and get a shot on net. He plays a gritty style, forechecking effectively and controlling the puck down low on the cycle game. Boyko keeps his feet moving and plays with a lot of energy in all three zones leading to a strong two-way game.
Keaton Sorensen, Centre, Red Deer Rebels
Coming in at just 5-foot-9 and 150 pounds, Sorenson is an undersized but talented forward. Sorensen makes up for his lack of size with outstanding skating ability. He is lightning quick, with agility and edgework to match. This skating is combined with good stickhandling to make him exceptionally difficult to deal with on the rush. As defenders back off to be sure that they are not beaten to the outside, he can take advantage by firing a quick shot on net or passing to a teammate through the open passing lane. More a playmaker than a scorer, Sorensen has excellent vision.
Ben King, Right Wing, Swift Current Broncos
The 13th overall pick in the 2017 WHL Bantam Draft, King scored five goals and 26 points in 48 games as a rookie. The 6-foot-2 forward has the size to play a power game, getting to the net and scoring goals from the dirty areas of the ice. He also has skill with a strong wrist shot, good stickhandling ability, and the vision and passing skills to be a playmaker. His skating is average at this point though and he will need to show improvements in this area to reach his full potential.
Kasper Puutio, Defence, Swift Current Broncos
The first overall pick in the 2019 CHL Import Draft is a slick skating defender. He is able to move the puck effectively, with good passing skills on the breakout and the ability to stickhandle the puck out of his own end and through the neutral zone. Puutio can also quarterback the powerplay. He uses his agility to walk the line and open up passing and shooting lanes. His vision and passing skill allow him to set up teammates from the point. He also has a good shot which he keeps low and on the net, allowing teammates to get deflections and rebounds.
WHL Central Division Main Photo:
EVERETT, WA – JANUARY 26: Lethbridge Hurricanes forward Dylan Cozens (24) accelerates into the neutral zone in the first period of a game between the Lethbridge Hurricanes and the Everett Silvertips on Saturday, January 26, 2019 at Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett, WA. (Photo by Christopher Mast/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)