The 2012 NHL Entry Draft is shaping up to be one of the deepest drafts in recent memory and a strong reason for that is the WHL crop, which is second to none.
Defensemen are truly the story with as many as five WHL defenders potentially ready to get picked in the first round alone. With that being said, there are many intriguing players to come out of the ‘Dub’ this year.
This list is one that takes a look at the most intriguing and interesting players who are draft eligible out of the Western Hockey League this season.
Griffin Reinhart – Edmonton Oil Kings
Opinions vary on the big and smooth skating Griffin Reinhart from the Edmonton Oil Kings. Some see him as a potential second coming of Chris Pronger, while other expectations are much lower. The simple fact is that the league hasn’t seen a 16-year-old with Reinhart’s size and skill package in quite some time.
The now 17-year-old is going to have to go out and prove that his skating will continue to improve and that his offensive totals were not a fluke last season. With a strong season, his future potential might be enough to vault him to the top of the pile in 2012. Reinhart will be faced with a large number of challenges this season, including facing top offensive groupings game in and game out.
Matt Dumba – Red Deer Rebels
Matt Dumba will be one of the most watched draft eligible players of the season this coming year. The explosive rearguard has drawn comparisons to PK Subban and Dion Phaneuf and for good reason. He’s fast, he hits hard, he’s got great offensive instincts and he’s a leader.
Dumba headlined the blueline for Team Canada this summer at the Ivan Hlinka tournament and it was clear that he is near the top in regards to prospects. A top-10 spot in the draft could be his for the taking and he will be counted on big time in Red Deer, especially if teammate Ryan Nugent-Hopkins sticks with the Edmonton Oilers.
Mike Winther – Prince Albert Raiders
After centre Mark McNeill, the Prince Albert Raiders offensive depth tends to fall off. That’s where Mike Winther comes in. The second year forward will be counted on heavily to provide that secondary scoring this time around.
He has a good mix of grit, offensive ability and smarts. He’s not afraid to get dirty if that’s what his team needs, leading in his own unique way. If he can have a strong year offensively, improving on his nine goals from last year, we could see a team picking him because of his well rounded abilities as a future bottom six player.
Tanner Eberle – Moose Jaw Warriors
The name might sound familiar and it should be. Tanner Eberle is a distant cousin of Oilers star Jordan. That’s where the similarities seem to end, though. Jordan is a dynamic offensive player while Tanner is a heart and soul player. He’s a prototypical energy guy as he will hit anything in sight and isn’t afraid to get into a war of words on any given shift.
He’s a smooth and fast skater and uses those attributes to create offensive chances. If he can prove he has true offensive touch over the course of a long WHL season, he could be a major sleeper pick. NHL teams also love bloodlines, and Eberle will be no different.
Jaynen Rissling – Calgary Hitmen
Jaynen Rissling seems to get lost in the shuffle when talking about the top blueliners from the WHL for 2012. He’s big, he can skate, he can move the puck and he plays with toughness.
He was one of the lone bright spots on a terrible Calgary Hitmen team last year and with the club destined for improvement this year, Rissling should get much more press and attention.
If he gets lost in the shuffle, he could be one of the draft’s big sleepers.
Morgan Rielly – Moose Jaw Warriors
Morgan Rielly was already a legit top prospect before this summer’s Ivan Hlinka tournament, but he really had another coming out party at the event. He’s got second to none skating ability, puck skills and offensive touch. Now that he’s a second year WHL player, his confidence is clearly growing and for good reason. He has the game to back up his swagger on and off the ice.
But he does come with his flaws. He can over handle the puck at times and is also prone to being exposed by a consistent and hard forecheck. If he can continue to work on his decision-making skills, the sky is the limit for what Rielly will be able to do at the next level as his career evolves.
Colton Sissons – Kelowna Rockets
One of the most pro-ready WHL forwards in the 2012 draft is Kelowna Rockets winger Colton Sissons. The North Vancouver product had the role of a third liner last season, more often than not, and that allowed him to slide under the radar. That likely ends this year as he will be counted on to play more minutes and provide more offence.
Another nice sign for Sissons is the fact that his production never tailed off in the playoffs last year as he was able to put up six points in 10 games after 41 in 63 games during the regular season. Like with most big, young forwards, he could use more work on his skating and with his first step but overall we truly like his future potential.
Travis Brown – Moose Jaw Warriors
Speaking of guys that fly under the radar, Travis Brown of the Moose Jaw Warriors is a potential ‘off the board’ pick. The defenseman was a former fourth round pick of the Warriors in the 2009 Bantam Draft and he played in only three games for them last season.
Another challenge facing the 17-year-old rookie is the fact that the Warriors have arguably the deepest blueline in the WHL, with five of their regulars attending NHL training camps this fall. Due to that depth, he’ll likely be faced with sixth and seventh man duties but he’s got the game to be drafted. Brown has great size at six-foot-two and has very good mobility for his size. He’s a strong puck mover and loves to get involved physically.
Dominik Volek – Regina Pats
Czech winger Dominik Volek was the Regina Pats ninth overall choice in the 2011 CHL Import Draft. Making the jump as a 17-year-old in your draft year has been a gamble that hasn’t always paid off for NHL draft hopeful Europeans. It will be interesting to see if Volek can turn that trend around.
He’s got good size at over six-foot-one. He also has true offensive touch as he scored over a point-per-game in the Under-18 Czech league last year. He also had success at the under-20 level as well. The Pats are another team that struggled last season to find offense and Volek could be a piece of the potential offensive puzzle for them going forward.
Troy Bourke – Prince George Cougars
The Prince George Cougars relied on Troy Bourke a ton last year and he answered the call, scoring 19 goals as a 16-year-old rookie. He’s continuing to grow physically and that extra size should serve him well in his draft year. The former first round Bantam Draft pick has an excellent nose for the net and a great shot. He’ll be counted on to not only provide offence again, but to also improve on what he did last year.
Cody Nickolet is a WHL-based scout for Future Considerations and can be found on Twitter. For all the latest Future Considerations news and posts, follow FC’s Official Twitter Feed, on YouTube and on Facebook!