WHL burning questions: summer edition

We’ve entered the summer doldrums, the time when hockey fans are just itching to see their teams hit the ice. We thought it was high time to look at the WHL teams burning questions as we head into the final month before training camps. Each team will have a Face of the Franchise (FOTF) and Fresh New Face (FNF) listed.

 

Brandon Wheat Kings – Will Nolan Patrick play in the NHL or WHL this season? Is Logan Thompson the goalie to take them into the playoffs?

FOTF – If Nolan Patrick does not return then it’s Kale Clague.

FNF – Braden Schneider – the 1st round pick in 2016 appeared in four games with the Wheat Kings including three in the playoffs. Last season he earned 31 points in 35 games for the Prince Albert Mintos in the Saskatchewan Midget League.

Calgary Hitmen – Which Nick Schneider will we see this year? What kind of numbers will a healthy Jake Bean put up this year?

FOTF – Jake Bean.

FNF – Jackson Van de Leest – the 1st round pick from 2016 is a defenseman who is already six-foot-five 187 pounds and played 10 games for the Hitmen including three in the postseason. He played for Okanagan in the CSSHL and had three goals and 19 points in 29 games.

Edmonton Oil Kings – Who will be their two goalies? Which three players will make up their top line?

FOTF – Davis Koch.

FNF – Matthew Robertson – their 1st round pick from the 2016 Draft is a defenseman who had 16 points in 29 games in the Albert Midget League for Sherwood Park Kings. He also played in seven games with the Oil Kings in 2016-17.

Everett Silvertips– Can Carter Hart be named the WHL’s top goaltender for the 3rd year in a row? How different will the style of play be under new head coach Dennis Williams?

FOTF – Carter Hart.

FNF – Ethan Browne – their 1st round pick from 2016 had 29 points in 27 games for the Sherwood Park Kings in the Alberta Midget League. He played one game for the Silvertips last year.

Kamloops Blazers – Is Dylan Ferguson ready to be the full-time number one goalie? Is this the year they finally surpass Kelowna?

FOTF – Nick Chyzowski.

FNF – Connor Zary – their 2nd round pick from 2016 had 27 goals and 45 points in 36 games for Saskatoon in the Saskatchewan Midget League.

Kelowna Rockets– They have four overage players who are NHL signed. Do any of them play in the WHL this year? Does Kole Lind join Dillon Dube on Team Canada?

FOTF – Dillon Dube.

FNF – Kaedan Korczak – their 1st round pick from 2016 played nine games with the Rockets including five in the playoffs. The defenseman had 29 points in 42 games for the Yorkton Maulers in the Saskatchewan Midget League.

Kootenay ICE – How many points will 16-year-old Peyton Krebs get this year? After a lot of personnel changes off the ice this summer, how many will come in the standings?

FOTF – Cale Fleury.

FNF – Peyton Krebs – the 1st overall pick in 2016 had six points in six games with the ICE. Last season he had 15 goals and 40 points in 29 games in the Alberta Midget League with the UFA Bisons .

Lethbridge Hurricanes – Who will be their leading goal scorer? Will Stuart Skinner be the best goalie in the Eastern Conference?

FOTF – Stuart Skinner.

FNF – Dylan Cozens – their 1st round pick from 2016 appeared in 15 games with the Hurricanes including 12 in the playoffs where he had three goals and five assists. He had 27 goals and 57 points in 30 games for Yale in the CSSHL.

Medicine Hat Tigers– Can they score 350 goals again this year? Is Jordan Hollett ready to be a number one goalie?

FOTF – Mason Shaw.

FNF – Josh Williams – their 1st round pick from 2016 scored a goal in four games with the Tigers. He scored 18 goals and had 55 points in 27 games with Yale in the CSSHL.

Moose Jaw Warriors – Can they handle the pressure of being one of the preseason favorites? Is Brody Willms their starting goalie to start the year?

FOTF – Brett Howden.

FNF – Brayden Tracey – their 1st round pick from 2016 had 8 goals and 19 points in 28 games for the Calgary Northstars in the Alberta Midget League.

Portland Winterhawks – Do 1st round NHL Draft picks Cody Glass and Keiffer Bellows play on the same line? Are they the team to beat in the U.S. Division… the Western Conference?

FOTF – Cody Glass.

FNF – Keiffer Bellows – the 19-year-old had seven goals and 14 points in 34 games for Boston University and also earned gold at the World Junior Hockey Championships where he scored twice in the Gold Medal Game.

Prince Albert Raiders – Who will make up their top line? Who will be their top defensive pairing?

FOTF – Ian Scott.

FNF – Rhett Rhinehart – their 1st round pick from 2016 played two games with the Raiders. He had nine goals and 30 points in 25 games with Yale in the CSSHL.

Prince George Cougars – Will they have 10 or more rookies on the roster? Will they have a goalie with previous WHL experience?

FOTF – Nikita Popugaev.

FNF – Taylor Gauthier – their 1st round pick from 2016 was the 1st goalie selected in the draft. He had a 2.06 goals-against-average in the Alberta Midget League for the Calgary Buffaloes.

Red Deer Rebels – Who is their number one goalie? With up to seven defensemen with WHL experience on the roster, do they have the best blue line in the Eastern Conference?

FOTF – Brandon Hagel.

FNF – Chase Lowry – their 3rd round pick from 2015 who has played just one game for the Rebels. Last year he had 14 goals and 28 points for the Sherwood Park Kings in the Alberta Midget League.

Regina Pats – How many moves will the 2018 Memorial Cup hosts make? Does Sam Steel play in the WHL or NHL this year?

FOTF – Sam Steel.

FNF – Cole Muir – their 2nd round pick from 2016 played one game for the Pats. He had 16 goals and 32 points in 40 games in the Manitoba Midget League for the Yellowhead Chiefs.

Saskatoon Blades – What can we expect from Kirby Dach? Which players make up their top line and defensive pairing?

FOTF – Braylon Shmyr.

FNF – Kirby Dach – the 2nd overall pick from 2016 played 19 games with the Blades and had six goals and four assists. He had six goals and 26 points in 22 games for the Fort Saskatchewan Rangers in the Alberta Midget League.

Seattle Thunderbirds – How many games will goalie Carl Stankowski start? How will the WHL Champs do in a very deep U.S. Division?

FOTF – Carl Stankowski

FNF – Jake Lee – their 1st round pick from 2016 played six games for the Thunderbirds including two in the playoffs. The defenseman had three goals and 12 points in 32 games for the Sherwood Park Kings in the Alberta Midget League.

Spokane Chiefs – Do they have a number one goalie on their current roster? Will both Kailer Yamamoto and Jaret Anderson-Dolan surpass 100 points?

FOTF – Kailer Yamamoto.

FNF – Luke Toporowski – their 1st round pick from 2016 played in an Under-16 League for the Chicago Mission and had 10 goals and 21 points in 20 games.

Swift Current Broncos – Will Tyler Steenbergen score over 50 goals again? Will 20-year-old NHL signed defenseman Max Lajoie play in the WHL this season?

FOTF – Tyler Steenbergen.

FNF – Logan Barlage – the 4th overall pick from 2016 played 13 games for the Broncos including 13 in the playoffs. In the Saskatchewan Midget league he played for the Prince Albert Mintos and in 44 games had 37 goals and 76 points.

Tri-City Americans – Can a healthy Michael Rasmussen scored 50 goals and put up 100 points? Is Juuso Välimäki the top defenseman in the Western Conference?

FOTF – Michael Rasmussen.

FNF – Sasha Mutala – the 6th overall pick from 2016 played three games with the Americans last year. In the BC Midget League he played for the Greater Vancouver Canadians and registered 20 goals and 63 points in 39 games.

Vancouver Giants – Led by Bowen Byram will they have five 16-year-olds on the roster this season? What kind of numbers can a healthy Tyler Benson put up?

FOTF – Tyler Benson.

FNF – Bowen Byram – the 3rd overall pick in 2016 played 11 games with the Giants in 2016-17. The defenseman had five goals and 29 points in 20 games with Yale in the CSSHL.

Victoria Royals – Can Matthew Phillips score 50 goals again? How will the team look different with new head coach Dan Price?

FOTF – Matthew Phillips.

FNF – Jonathon Lambos – their 3rd round pick from 2016 played in the NAPHL for the Omaha Lancers and the defenseman had two goals and three points in 10 games.

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Jeff Hollick

Spent 16 years as the radio play-by-play voice of the 3-time WHL Champion and 2002 Memorial Cup winning Kootenay ICE. Covered the WHL for over 23 years. Named BCAB Broadcast Performer of the Year in 2011. @JeffHollick on Twitter