The end of the regular season is an important time for Western Hockey League prospects to leave a last impression in the heads of scouts.
That impression, though, will extend into the playoffs for Seth Jones of the Portland Winterhawks.
Jones has made himself a household name and has firmly planted himself at the top of our rankings. Jones routinely shows why he is the crown jewel of the draft. The first and most exciting part of his game is his ability to handle the puck and move his feet at an extremely high level for his size. He is able to maneuver the ice with such ease and electricity which makes him impossible to either contain offensively or to beat on the defensive side. Jones contributes at both ends of the ice and plays huge minutes making him an invaluable asset to his team. He is a physical defenseman with exceptional smarts. He is a master at turning loose pucks into odd-man rushes for his team with slick, heads-up breakout passes.
Jones’ ability to thrive physically, offensively, defensively, and mentally are why his is a can’t miss prospect. Wherever he ends up going on draft day, he is sure to be an impact NHL defenseman for many years to come.
Regina Pats forward Morgan Klimchuk didn’t have the same immediate impact of Jones, but his continued momentum has pushed him up the draft rankings.
Klimchuk is an offensive forward who has improved all parts of his game over the course of the year, earning his way into the first round of our rankings. He is the type of forward you hate to defend because he can beat you in so many ways. He is always one of the fastest skaters on the ice and uses his wheels to tear through the neutral zone off the rush. Klimchuk is also very agile allowing him to spin off checks move around to open scoring areas. He has a lightning fast release to his shot that he used to score 36 goals this year. Klimchuk also uses his vision and smarts to thread deadly passes across the ice.
Klimchuk does a good job involving himself physically on the forecheck but he certainly needs to add some mass to his smallish frame. He is definitely an offense-first player that will have to improve his defensive impact as he matures, but that won’t scare teams away from his top-six upside.
Unfortunately for Klimchuk his Regina Pats will not be heading to the playoffs, but that doesn’t mean his season is over. He should be a big part of Canada’s entry into next month’s U-18 World Championship in Russia.
Swift Current Broncos defenseman Dillon Heatherington has played strong down the stretch and will get in playoff action.
He is a big, mobile defenseman that makes his presence felt with not only his size and physicality, but also in his ability to move the puck up ice. Heatherington will never put up huge numbers but he certainly projects as a guy that can you can rely on to play big minutes in roles at both ends of the ice. He is already succeeding playing against some of the top forwards in the league and his play with the Broncos is a big reason why he has risen in our rankings. He is exceptionally smooth on his feet allowing him to hound opposing forwards and also compete in open ice situations. He frequently uses his strength to claim territory around his net and in the corners.
While Heatherington is good in all areas of the nice, no part of his game really shows the type of elite upside that could push him into the first round. Sometimes his hockey sense can get exposed in pressure situations leading to a turnover or missed assignment in his own zone.
Despite not being an all-around high end prospect, Heatherington is big, reliable defenseman that a lot of NHL teams will be keeping a close eye on in the playoffs.
The post-season will be crucial for Jones, Klimchuk, Heatherington and the rest of the 2013 draft class as the final sprint towards June’s NHL Draft begins.