The Western Hockey League is at its holiday break and the 2020 World Juniors are upon us. It seems like a natural time to check in on the prospects for the 2020 NHL Draft.
We’ve spent a lot of time in WHL arenas this fall. Based on those viewings, and asking around about other players, here are the 30 top WHL prospects for the upcoming NHL Draft at this juncture.
#1: RW Justin Sourdif – Vancouver Giants
There are a lot of things to like about Sourdif’s game. He’s not a massive kid – listed as 5’11” and 163 pounds by the WHL site – but he’s been really productive. He has 27 points – 24 at even strength – this season and has been one of the main offensive drivers for the Giants. He’s also a right shot option at center, which adds some versatility to his game that a lot of other first-time eligibles don’t have. That said, he has had some inconsistency in his game this season that can hopefully be smoothed out.
#2: D Kaiden Guhle – Prince Albert Raiders
Tall and lanky, with a frame that can pack on a bit more muscle, Guhle has shown flashes of offensive brilliance at times. At his worst, he’s merely a good 200-foot defender. But it’s those flashes of brilliance that have scouts excited, and they’ve become more the rule than the exception as he’s matured.
#3: D Braden Schneider – Brandon Wheat Kings
First, the negatives: Schneider is a late birthday (born five days after the 2019 draft cut-off) and is already physically mature, so there’s not a ton of growth left in him in that sense. But he uses his size well and his game somewhat resembles Edmonton Oil Kings defender Matthew Robertson in that he’s good in all three zones. He just doesn’t have the offensive upside that Guhle has.
#4: C Connor Zary – Kamloops Blazers
Zary’s been an offensive force for the Blazers this season. He’s really been valuable for their power play – he has points on half their goals as they’ve scored more PP goals than almost every other WHL team this season. Moreover, he’s used his speed incredibly well. He’s not a perfect player – his play away from the puck is still a work in progress, though he’s not a liability – but his offensive zone play will be what gets him to the NHL.
#5: C Seth Jarvis – Portland Winterhawks
Jarvis has been a minor revelation this season, supplementing his strong two-way play with a surprisingly potential offensive touch. One of the most consistent players in his age group, Jarvis has gone to the net with more regularity in all situations this season and been rewarded. He doesn’t have the offensive upside of Zary, but he’s got a strong enough work ethic to help a team in a lot of different ways.
#6: RW Ozzy Wiesblatt – Prince Albert Raiders
The younger brother of Calgary Hitmen forward Orca Wiesblatt – and older brother of Medicine Hat prospect Oasiz – Ozzy has been one of the most productive five-on-five players in his age group this season. The knock on him is that he fades into the background of games on occasion, but when he’s on his game he’s capable of tilting things in his team’s favour with his combination of size, speed and tenacity.
#7: LW Jake Neighbours – Edmonton Oil Kings
A product of Airdrie, Neighbours has played a lot of WHL games for someone of his age. He’s an incredible smart, versatile player who uses his body well. He’s not huge and he doesn’t have high end offensive upside, but he’s such a smart player that he’s always in position to get scoring chances (or to break them up at the other end).
#8: C Ridly Greig – Brandon Wheat Kings
The son of former NHLer Mark Greig, Ridly has come into his own this season for the Wheaties. A smart, savvy 200-foot player, he arguably takes a few too many penalties but he’s emotionally and physically engaged in most games. An August 2002 birthday, Greig is one of the youngest players in his draft class and still has a lot of filling out to do physically.
#9: C Jack Finley – Spokane Chiefs
Finley is a smart two-way player, but he’s also a physical beast – listed as 6’5″ and 205 pounds. He’s also one of the youngest players in the draft class, born less than two weeks before the cut-off for the 2021 NHL Draft. He’s still pretty raw due to his age, but he’s put up impressive offensive numbers in a secondary role for Spokane and has tons of potential for growth.
#10: D Kasper Puutio – Swift Current Broncos
A first year import, this Finnish defender has adjusted very quickly to the rigours of the WHL. It’s hard to really judge his offensive totals given how often the Broncos have been over-matched this season, but Puutio is a capable defensive player who’s posted very respectable offensive numbers given his circumstances.
Notes on the rest
The lone Hitmen player on this list, Prokop is a rock solid 200-foot defender with a smart first pass out of his zone and an underrated shot from the point.
Garard is the top WHL goaltender available. He’s been superb for Kamloops.
Svejkovsky could be this year’s Matthew Phillips (a small guy who can drive offense who might fall to the later rounds due to concerns about his size).
Gould could be this year’s Mads Sogaard (a tall guy with mediocre numbers who gets drafted higher than expected due to his potential).