WHL’s intrigue demands attention

Petan - Bryan Heim-Portland Winterhawks

With the regular season inching nearer to its conclusion, a few intriguing prospects are beginning to demand attention in the WHL.

No one has made a bigger impression than Portland Winterhawks forward Nicolas Petan.

The small forward has put up big numbers for the CHL’s top team playing alongside Brendan Leipsic and Ty Rattie on Portland’s top line. Petan has been highly successful because of his elite hockey sense and electric offensive skill set. He loves to have the puck on his stick and is able to create a chance on almost every shift with his top-notch vision and dangerous shot. Petan is a good skater that can cover a lot of ice. You can rely on him to cover his defensive responsibilities despite his unwavering commitment to be an offensive force.

One thing that doesn’t hinder Petan’s ability to make an impact is his size. He doesn’t play big, but rather understands how to be successful as a smaller player. Petan acts as a ghost in the offensive zone, constantly moving to open ice behind his opponents and finding opportune times to pick pucks out of scrums.

If Petan can continue at the torrid pace he has operated at all season long, his name will be getting called sooner, rather than later at June’s draft.

Brandon Wheat Kings defenseman Eric Roy is another name creating a bit of draft buzz.

Roy has an impressive mix of menacing size and fluid skating ability that is impossible to miss when he is on the ice. He is a strong puck handler that is able to corral tough passes and make solid outlets up to his teammates. Roy has been counted on to play big minutes, which includes time on both the power play and penalty kill for a young, strugglign Brandon squad. He also plays with a bit of an edge and has shown he can throw a hard check and isn’t afraid to engage after the whistle.

 

The biggest thing working against Roy is his lack of defensive refinement. He is a decent at knocking pucks away with his good reach and positioning, but too often Roy runs around and misses an assignment or takes a bad route to the puck. His defensive awareness gets exposed far too often on the rush.

Roy has all the tools that NHL teams covet in a young defenseman. If he can round out his defensive game he will surely be a valuable prospect for whichever team drafts him.

Jackson Houck of the Vancouver Giants has steadily improved during his sophomore season in the WHL.

Houck isn’t the type of player that has a single part of his game that sticks out, but rather, forces scouts to take notice with his consistency and work ethic. Houck possesses good offensive instincts, a quick shot, and the ability to thrive in the dangerous areas of the ice. He is a physical presence on the forecheck and loves to take the body to force pressure on the opposing defense. He uses his body effectively around the net to fend off bigger defenseman to maintain puck possession and win battles for open ice. Houck is the type of versatile forward that you can play in all situations.

The knock against Houck is whether or not his game will translate at the next level. He doesn’t have the best hockey sense and lacks the high-end skill which could hurt his ability to produce against tougher competition. He most likely projects to be a bottom-six forward that could be an asset on an energy line.

Houck is the kind of player that all winning teams need and will be a very solid mid-round pick up for an NHL team.

The 2013 draft class is as exciting as any in recent memory and the race up the draft charts will only heat up down the stretch.

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