The month December was highlighted by a few key performances by big name prospects from the Western Hockey League.
Perhaps none was under more scrutiny than Kamloops Blazers forward JC Lipon, who was able to represent Team Canada at the World Junior Championship.
Lipon is an interesting prospect to say the least. Having been passed over in the previous two drafts, Lipon is now making a name for himself with strong play on the Blazers top line.
He doesn’t have the best tools in this draft. Lipon’s skating could use some work and his size isn’t pro-ready. He plays a bit of a perimeter game offensively, but that doesn’t limit his ability to cause havoc on the forecheck.
More times than not you will see Lipon carry the puck over the blueline then stop up and dish a pass off to a teammate. That’s his bread and butter. He also has produced at an alarming rate because he is able to work the half wall on the power play and knock the puck around in the crease area.
Lipon’s NHL potential is somewhat limited, though. He doesn’t think the game at a high level and his size isn’t ideal for the pro game despite being older than most other prospects. He will have to make improvements to his skating as he isn’t the most powerful or quick skater around. Lipon looks to be a mid to late round prospect for a team that wants a project that can step up to the AHL as soon as next season.
Medicine Hat Tigers captain Hunter Shinkaruk was one of the last players cut from Canada’s team, but it wasn’t for a lack of trying.
Shinkaruk was one of the strongest and most consistently dangerous forwards at Canada’s camp. He used his shifty skating and good edge work to deceive defenseman in the neutral zone as well as down low in the corners. Shinkaruk isn’t the biggest guy around, but he doesn’t back down from a battle and he fearlessly goes to the net.
The way Shinkaruk flies around the ice reminds me or Edmonton Oilers forward Taylor Hall. This may raise some concerns on his durability. Shinkaruk’s a feisty player, but to withstand the rigours of the NHL game he will need to add some mass.
Despite these concerns of his size, Shinkaruk is an elite level prospect that will hear his name called in the front end of the first round come draft day.
One player that wasn’t able to benefit from any World Junior buzz was Brandon Wheat Kings defenseman Ryan Pulock. Unfortunately a couple injuries have limited Pulock’s playing time this year and a bone chip in his wrist will cause him to miss the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game.
That said, injuries won’t hurt Pulock’s draft standing. He has an absolute cannon of a shot. Pulock plays in all situations for the Wheat Kings, but his shot alone makes him one of the most feared power play quarterbacks in the league.
Pulock is more of a play-starter than a playmaker. He uses his good vision and passing ability most effectively in his own zone where he frequently starts the breakout for his team. He is a calming presence to the Wheat Kings offensive game as Pulock is one of the most poised defenseman available out of the WHL this season.
His defensive game is another story.
Although Pulock is one of the smartest and most positionally sound defenseman around, his defensive efficiency is hindered by his complete lack of a physical game. He doesn’t use his size and strength as a benefit on the ice. He does have a very quick stick, which he uses as often as he can to close up passing lanes and harass opponents in the corners.
Because of Pulock’s elite level smarts, puck moving ability, and booming slap shot, he will most certainly be a hot commodity should he continue his strong play through January and beyond.