Prince Albert a proven pathway to the NHL

 

To say that the Prince Albert Raiders have produced a plethora of NHL graduates could almost be the understatement of the year. Since 1983 when Dan Hodgson had his name called in the fifth round by the Toronto Maple Leafs and Alan Stewart had his name announced by the New Jersey Devils in the 11th round, 205th overall or last years Washington Capitals second-round selection Bret Leason, the Raiders are well scouted by NHL clubs. By my count, 90 Raiders graduates have been selected to the NHL, of those 90 players, 43 have played at least two games in the NHL, 21 of them have played more than one hundred games. That’s good for a 47% success rate per NHL pick.

HALIFAX, NS – MAY 17: Game 1 of the Memorial Cup Presented by Kia between the Prince Albert Raiders and the Halifax Mooseheads on Friday, May 17th, 2019 in Halifax, Nova scotia, Canada. (Photo by Vincent Ethier/LHJMQ)

Something Raiders fans can hold above the heads of other WHL fans is this one simple fact, in the modern era of the league no other club has produced two first overall draft picks at the NHL Draft. Legendary Minnesota North Stars / Dallas Stars centre Mike Modano was the first when the North Stars took him first overall in the 1988 draft. Modano’s career total of 1,374 points is still the most points scored by an American in the National Hockey League. This never really shocked Raiders fans as they had seen the prowess of a young Modano when he tallied just shy of 300 points for the Prince Albert faithful. Modano’s number nine hangs in the rafters at the Art Hauser Centre and the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas. Modano is one of just five players to have their number retired by the Dallas Stars.

Photo Credit – Prince Albert Raiders Website

The second of the two first overall picks to come out of Prince Albert is former Ottawa Senators defenceman Chris Phillips who played 18 seasons with the Sens until he retired at the end of the 2015-16 season. In that time period, Phillips never played a single game for the Senators farm club, in fact, the only deviation from Ottawa came during the 2004-05 NHL lockout when he suited up for Brynas IF in Sweden. While playing for the Raiders, Chris Phillips earned the Jim Piggott Trophy for Rookie of the Year in 1996 and in the following season, he was awarded the Bill Hunter Memorial Trophy as the WHL’s Best Defenceman.

According to www.draftsite.com, the Raiders will have an 18th name called in the first round of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. Defenceman Kaiden Guhle is coming off of a shortened season, with a career-high 40 points in 64 games. Kaiden does not have to look far for NHL inspiration as his older brother and former Prince Albert Raider, Brendan Guhle was drafted by the Buffalo Sabres in 2015 and has since become the seventh defenceman for the Anaheim Ducks.

 

Kaiden meanwhile has already felt the pressures of international hockey having played for Team Canada, performing as team Captain of the Red squad at the 2018 Under 17 World Hockey Challenge. In six games for Team Canada, he played very strongly, showing off his ability to find the open man racking up three assists while still showing an aggressive side to his game. Most recently he was selected to play in the CHL Top Prospects Game, where he truly showed how strong of a defender he is with flashes of brilliance and contributing at the other end scoring the first goal of the game. His even-keel style of play is a calming factor for Head Coach Marc Habscheid. Guhle was in the teams top six for +/-  with a +23 overall which along with his increased point total shows that he continues to mature and become a better defender with each passing season.

As the NHL prepares to enter the 2020 NHL Playoffs two outstanding past Prince Albert Raiders are in contention for a shot at Lord Stanley’s Cup. Leon Draisaitl of the Edmonton Oilers alongside teammate Connor McDavid will be facing off against the Chicago Blackhawks while Josh Morrissey of the Winnipeg Jets will be lining up with his teammates against the Calgary Flames. Both Draisaitl and Morrissey were first-round selections at the NHL Draft by their current clubs. They along with players like Dave Manson who’s number four is in the rafters beside Modano’s number nine at the Art Hauser Centre are apart of the current 17 first-round selections the Raiders have provided the NHL with.

Ozzy Wiesblatt (photo-Lucas Chudleigh Apollo Multimedia)

To go with Kaiden Guhle the electric Ozzy Wiesblatt and Ilya Usov are two Raiders forwards to watch at the Draft with Wiesblatt expected to be selected in the second round while Usov who recently departed for Minsk, Belarus to try out for Dinamo Minsk of the KHL is expected to go in the late fifth round. Not to be forgotten is 17-year-old defenceman Landon Kosior who just finished his first season in the WHL and is already being considered a late-round draft pick. Certainly, one thing that the Prince Albert Raiders hockey club has shown is consistency in developing skilled, mature hockey players with bright futures ahead of them.

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