The 2012-13 WHL season is just around the corner and here are eight players to keep an eye on.
- Ryan Murray (Everett Silvertips). Despite being NHL ready Murray will be back in the WHL for his fourth season if there is an extended NHL lockout. He won’t blow you away with fancy offensive skills but he is very good at all aspects of the game. He has already shown he can play with men by playing significant minutes for Canada at the World Hockey Championships. He was drafted second overall by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2012 NHL Entry draft. Murray has the potential to be the next Scott Niedermayer as a steady, reliable defenseman who excels at everything. He is ranked 30th in the FHC Prospects Guide.
- Ty Rattie (Portland Winterhawks). Rattie absolutely dominated the WHL last season, scoring 57 goals and 121 points in 69 games. He will be playing his fourth full season on a stacked Portland team, which means his numbers will once again be at the top of the league. Rattie showed he could handle the added pressures of big games as he scored 19 goals in 21 WHL playoff games, which included a four-goal game against the Kelowna Rockets. Rattie will be an offensive force in the WHL as well as for Canada at the World Juniors. He is going to be an impact player for the St. Louis Blues and should develop into a better version of Kris Versteeg. In the FHC Prospects Guide he is ranked 100th.
- Mathew Dumba (Red Deer Rebels). Dumba does it all; he can score goals, put up points and throw huge hits. He doubled his production in year two, going from 26 points as a rookie to 57 points as a sophomore. He is the type of defenseman that helps teams win Championships. Get on YouTube and check out his hits there, he will be the most feared player in the WHL. He won’t put up huge numbers in the NHL but will consistently be around the 45-50 point mark once he makes the jump. Dumba has the potential to be the next Chris Chelios. He was drafted seventh overall in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft by the Minnesota Wild and is the 33rd ranked prospect in the FHC Prospects Guide.
- Morgan Rielly (Moose Jaw Warriors). We should finally get to see exactly what Rielly is made of this season. Obviously the Toronto Maple Leafs think he is something special as they took him fifth overall in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft despite only playing in 18 WHL games last season. He missed most of the 2011-12 WHL season due to an ACL injury, but was lights out when he did play. He scored 18 points in 18 games; can he score at that pace for a whole season? Hopefully Rielly can get back to and stay at 100% as a significant injury like he suffered does weaken that part of the body and leads to multiple injuries. Draft with caution, he is high risk with very high reward and is ranked 34th in the FHC Prospects Guide.
- Sam Reinhart (Kootenay Ice). This Reinhart is the youngest of the three sons of Paul Reinhart and quite possibly the most talented. He scored 28 goals and 62 points in 67 games as a rookie in the WHL. He will be expected to carry more of the offensive load this season with older brother Max moving up to the AHL. He averaged just under a point a game last season and this season those totals climb will climb, as he is a lock for 40+ goals and 90+ points. Sam isn’t draft eligible till 2014, but is ranked second in the FHC Prospects Guide 2014 NHL Draft Watch List.
- Griffin Reinhart (Edmonton Oil Kings). Reinhart was selected fourth overall in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft by the New York Islanders. He has improved his points per game over his two WHL seasons and should see a bigger jump this season. He doubled his goal totals in season two to 12 goals; look for him to break the 20-goal mark this season. Reinhart is a big, mobile defenseman who needs to play a more physical game and has the potential to be a lesser version of Shea Weber. He is the 41st ranked prospect in the FHC Prospects Guide.
- Duncan Siemens (Saskatoon Blades). Siemens is the top ranked prospects in the Colorado Avalanche system according the FHC Prospects Guide and ranked 31st overall. Siemens has proven he can put up points in the WHL and will finish his checks every chance he gets. If there is a NHL season this year he will challenge for a roster spot on the big club as the Avs don’t have much depth at the defense position. Injuries are always a concern for players like Siemens who aren’t afraid to throw the big hits and he may have suffered a concussion last season. Think Scott Stevens but with a little more offense.
- Seth Jones (Portland). If the WHL preseason is any indication of what to expect from Jones then Portland fans are in for a treat, with five points in just three games. He is a 6-4, 206 pound defenseman who is just loaded with potential. Last season with the U18 U.S. National Team he scored eight goals and 31 points in 52 games. At the Worlds U18 Tournament he scored three goals and eight points in six games. He comes from an athletic family as his father is a professional basketball player and has scouts drooling over him. Portland is expecting a lot of great things from Jones and is expected to go in the top two of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.
Eight other players to keep an eye on heading into the 2012-13 WHL season are Hunter Shinkaruk (Medicine Hat Tigers), Marek Tvrdon (Vancouver Giants), Henrik Samuelsson (Edmonton), Damon Severson (Kelowna Rockets), Derrick Pouliot (Portland), Colton Sissons (Kelowna), Victor Rask (Calgary Hitman) and Troy Bourke (Prince George Cougars).
For more information on prospects purchase the 2012 FHC Prospects Guide.
For more fantasy hockey analysis, check out FantasyHockeyCoach.com.