The Western Hockey League is typically known for developing big strong defensemen, but a large group of small players may very well steal headlines at the 2014 NHL Draft.
No small player has made as big of an impact this year as Swift Current Broncos defenseman Julius Honka.
The Finnish defender has made the transition to the North American game look seamless. He is one of the smoothest and most effective offensive defenders to come through the league in recent memory. He fearlessly zips up and down the ice and has the ability to make plays using his elusiveness and quick thinking abilities. Honka is the Payton Manning of draft eligible power play quarterbacks this season. His creativity, patience, and poise combine to make him a reliable and extremely effective asset.
Some may have concerns on Honka’s ability to defend at the pro level, but he has shown a rare talent to use his offensive acumens to quickly transition the puck up ice and limit the time he spends in his own zone. More often than not he is able to sling the puck to an open teammate faster than you can say…. Honka.
While he has shown excellent puck moving talents early in the year, he will have to continue to improve his overall strength and battling tendencies to vault himself even higher in Future Considerations’ rankings.
Moose Jaw Warriors sniper Brayden Point is another small sniper off to a solid start.
Point is a responsible two-way center that has an immense level of hockey sense and on-ice awareness. He has quick hands and very good foot work which allows him to maneuver off the cycle and dart through the neutral zone. Point is used in all situations and has proven to be a serviceable threat to make plays at both ends of the ice. He has shown excellent vision and also the ability to find the back of the net when given the opportunity.
Like any small player, the concern’s surrounding Point’s game have centered on his physicality and development. He hasn’t grown very much since he entered the league at age 15. He does like to go to the greasy areas of the ice, but usually he is shrugged off the puck and left chasing the play back to his end.
Point is certainly a wildcard heading into the draft. His hockey sense and character are major assets, but his lack of physical presence will likely make him a mid-round pick next June.
Honka and Point aren’t alone, though. Everett Silvertips duo Ivan Nikolishin and Tyler Sandhu, Portland Winterhawks centre Chase De Leo, Kootenay pivot Luke Philp, Brandon forward Rihards Bukarts and injured Victoria defender Joe Hicketts join them as smaller player looking to hear their names called at June’s draft.