The Western Hockey League season is actually well past the halfway point, but the NHL All-Star break always evokes fans to evaluate the state of their team. Also, the WHL doesn’t take a break mid-season.
With that, here are my current top five WHL prospects:
5. Brendan Gallagher (Montreal Canadiens) - The third year wing for the Vancouver Giants had a goal and an assist on Friday, raising his point total to 64 (33 goals, 31 assists). That mark ranks him fifth among all WHL scorers. In last year’s playoffs, Gallagher rose to the occasion to the tune of 11 goals and 10 assists in 16 games. He’ll get another shot to perform on the WHL’s biggest stage, as the Giants have already clinched a playoff spot.
4. Ryan Johansen (Columbus Blue Jackets) – Just 18 years old, Johansen has stood out on a Portland Winterhawks roster that features more drafted players than any other in the league. Through 42 games, he needs just two more goals to surpass his career-high of 25 — set last year over 71 games. The Port Moody, BC native is the highest drafted player in the league, taken forth overall last June.
3. Linden Vey (Los Angeles Kings) – No one has more points (82) this season than Linden Vey of the Medicine Hat Tigers. The 2009 forth round pick has led the league in scoring the majority of the season and has a point in each of his last nine games. In his forth season in Medicine Hat, he has established a new career high in goals (33) and his plus-27 rating ranks him among the 10 best in the league.
2. Quinton Howden (Florida Panthers) - The Panthers elected to send their 2010 25th-overall selection back to the Moose Jaw Warriors for another year of seasoning and he hasn’t disappointed. His 28 goals rank eighth among all scorers. He’s played in only 39 games out of a possible 51, due to the time he missed while earning Canada a silver medal at the IIHF World Junior Championships. The Panthers are eight points out of a playoff spot and could use Howden’s scoring punch down the stretch.
1. Brayden Schenn (Los Angeles Kings) - Despite being the most well-traveled player in the league, Schenn has notched more than a point-per-game in just six games this year. He played eight games for Los Angeles, recording two assists. They lent him to their AHL affiliate, the Manchester Monarchs, on Nov. 17 for conditioning. He then reported back to his WHL team, the Brandon Wheat Kings for two games before winning tournament MVP for Canada in the World Juniors. He led the tournament with 18 points (8-10) — the most by a Canadian player since 1977 — all while playing the last two game with a separated shoulder. Brandon then traded Schenn to the Saskatoon Blades, where he’s appeared in four games, recording six points.
Honorable Mention: Brett Connolly (Tampa Bay Lightning), Brendan Ranford (Philadelphia Flyers), Ryan Howse (Calgary Flames), Carter Ashton (Tampa Bay), Nino Niederreiter (New York Islanders) and Cody Eakin (Washington Capitols).