2019-20 Draft Eligible players to watch

Ridly Greig-Brennan Riddle-Stuart Skinner (Doug Wyrostok)

Brandon Wheat Kings: Ridly Greig Forward 5-foot-11, 159 pounds

Greig has already had a four-point game against the Moose Jaw Warriors in the preseason. This past summer, he played for Team Canada at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, and next summer, he’s projected as the 58th pick in the NHL Entry Draft by Future Considerations. When it all comes down to it, if Greig can put together a good winter, there’s a very good chance he’ll be picked prior to that, and even if he isn’t, Greig has the abilities to be a top-notch professional moving forward into the future.

Calgary Hitmen: Luke Prokop Defenseman 6-foot-4, 203 pounds

Prokop is a towering right-handed shot blueliner who has the potential to be a major contributor for the 2019-20 Calgary Hitmen. Prokop, primarily known for his defensive game, has a similar build to former Hitmen defenseman and team captain Travis Sanheim. An early sign that Prokop could be an integral piece of the Calgary defense corps is his role so far in WHL preseason play. Prokop has not only played solid penalty kill minutes but also has quarterbacked power plays with great confidence. The seventh overall selection in the 2017 WHL draft has the pedigree and ability to prove his value for the 2020 draft and will be an exciting player to watch excel in his role.

Prokop had 10 points in 62 contests last season in the WHL and suited up for all five games for Canada White at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, recording a single assist. 

Edmonton Oil Kings:  Jake Neighbours Left Wing 5-foot-11, 201 pounds

Jake Neighbours (photo-Andy Devlin)

The fourth overall pick of the 2017 WHL Bantam Draft is looking to drive up his NHL draft stock in his second season with the Oil Kings. Currently ranked as a fringe first-round pick by many, Neighbours has the opportunity to make a big splash this season and solidify himself as a first-rounder come June. In his WHL rookie season, he was able to put together a respectable 24 points in 47 games. However, Neighbours will be looking to build off his breakout 2019 playoff performance, where he was able to elevate his game to another level, contributing 12 points in 16 games and being a game-changing factor when his team needed him most. Enough room has opened on the Oil Kings roster for Neighbours to step into a prominent role, making him a must-watch NHL draft prospect this season.

Everett Silvertips: Michal Gut Forward 6-foot, 181 pounds

The 2019 CHL Import Draft selection is quickly making a name for himself, and he hasn’t even played a WHL regular season game yet. At this year’s Hlinka Gretzky Cup, he was a point-per-game player with four goals and three assists in seven games. In the preseason, Gut recorded two goals and one assist in 5 games. In the Czech Republic’s U19 league last season, he notched 19 goals and 21 assists in 33 games. If Gut’s explosive skating and offensive prowess translate to the WHL game, he will definitely be a player to watch in this year’s NHL Entry Draft.

Kamloops Blazers:  Inaki Baragano Defenseman 5-foot-10, 165 pounds

One player that could find himself popping up on a few scouting lists this season is Inaki Baragano. After spending the majority of the 2018-19 season with Lausanne’s U20 team, the Blazers selected the Swiss defenseman 16th overall in the 2019 CHL Import Draft. Baragano is not the most physically imposing presence on the ice, but he is far from passive. His ability to absorb the oncoming forecheck and calmly move the puck under pressure has created safe and efficient exits from the defensive zone. The right-shot defenseman is equally assertive in the offensive end, where he has a knack for sealing the wall on his right side and pinching in to support his forwards at just the right time. Baragano may need some time getting used to the smaller North American rinks, but his mobility, vision, and awareness in all three zones will allow him to eat up solid minutes for the Blazers in his draft-eligible season.

Kelowna Rockets: Alex Swetlikoff Forward 6-foot-2, 179 pounds

Forward Alex Swetlikoff chose to forego an NCAA scholarship to join the Kelowna Rockets midway through last season. Now 18, he may be a bit larger than his listed dimensions after a busy off-season of training. Undrafted by NHL teams in June, the Rockets should benefit from Swetlikoff arriving for the 2019-20 campaign with a chip on his shoulder.

Logan Barlage (phoyo-Brian Liesse)

Lethbridge Hurricanes: Logan Barlage Centre 6-foot-4, 201 pounds

After being passed over for his first time through the NHL Entry Draft, that could be all the motivation the Humbolt product needs heading into the season. Primed to be a top-six forward — most likely the second-line centre — Barlage will be put into situations to show what he is made of. With the departure of much of the top six from last season, the Hurricanes will be looking for the next man up to step up and take on a bigger role. Barlage will be out to prove that he’s ready and that NHL scouts missed big by passing him up.

Medicine Hat Tigers: Jonathan Brinkman Forward 5-foot-11, 165 pounds

The Tigers graduated an important defenceman at the end of last season — a two-spotter in fact — Linus Nasse from Sweden. His departure made room for another import, and Brinkman’s name was called at the 2019 CHL Import Draft. Brinkman has plenty of international experience, but the 68-game WHL schedule will bring a new level of intensity. Brinkman arrives with speed and skill and is also a long-time personal friend of Tigers goaltender Mads Sogaard, which should aid in his transition to hockey in North America. The pair from Denmark are being looked upon to have an important impact in Medicine Hat this season.

Moose Jaw Warriors: Daemon Hunt Defenseman 6-foot, 198 pounds

At 17 years old, Hunt is already playing a man’s game. His six-foot frame is capable of handling the rigors of a WHL season, showcased as a 16-year-old playing in 57 of his team’s 68 regular season tilts last year. He followed up being a Warriors first-round pick at the 2017 bantam draft by collecting 40 points in 40 games with the Brandon Wheat Kings AAA Midget team. He also earned nine games with the Warriors as a 15-year-old. Hunt has also represented Canada at the U17 and U18 levels and performed well.

Portland Winterhawks: Seth Jarvis Forward 5-foot-10, 172 pounds

Seth Jarvis-Talyn Boyko (photo-Doug Love)
Jarvis is primed for a breakout year after scoring 39 points in his 16-year-old rookie season. The Winnipeg, Manitoba, native also helped Team Canada to a silver medal at the 2019 Hlinka Gretzky Cup. Jarvis is surrounded by a group of talented forwards, including fellow 2020 NHL Entry Draft eligibles Cross Hanas and Simon Knak. The speed and hands of Jarvis are most noticeable, and his ability to release his shot quickly often catches goaltenders by surprise.

Prince Albert Raiders: Ozzy Wiesblatt Right Wing 5-foot-10, 194 pounds

Wiesblatt comes into this season with the expectation that he will be one of the offensive lynchpins for the Raiders.  He will be looking forward to improving on his very impressive rookie season, where he scored 15 goals and 24 assists in 64 games, which earned him a spot on Canada’s Hlinka Gretzky Cup squad. Wiesblatt has been very impressive in the camp and the preseason. He is a very cerebral player who has good hands and has improved his skating over the off-season. Wiesblatt is very strong on his skates and absorbs contact. I’d expect him to finish the season north of a point-per-game this season and probably be selected inside the first three rounds.

Prince George Cougars: Tyson Upper Left Wing 5-foot-10, 165 pounds

Watch for this second year returning player to capitalize on more opportunities and be more of an offensive threat than last season. With more offensive stardom to work with, Upper’s fast skating speed and quick transition game will lead him into more odd-man rushes exemplified already through the preseason. Last season, fans could see glimpses of offense from the 2001-born, and this season, fans should expect to see him lighting up that big red flashing lamp.

Red Deer Rebels: Joel Sexsmith Defenseman 6-foot-1, 181 pounds

You want a great story — he’s your guy. Returning from having blood clots in his legs after being a first-round WHL Bantam Draft pick, Sexsmith checks all the boxes. He wants to work hard and be responsible in his own end while also contributing on the scoresheet. He has some size to him, and the skills are there for scouts to take notice. As the season continues, it will be imperative for scouts to watch how he is deployed, as he has only played 55 games that mattered over the last two seasons.

Regina Pats: Nikita Sedov Defenseman 6-foot-1, 192 pounds

Last year, Nikita was ranked on the NHL Central Scouting list but was passed up in the NHL draft. It was his first season in the WHL after one season in the U.S. He played in all 68 WHL games, which is impressive for a rookie. His offensive numbers weren’t great, but he has size, reach, and a physical playing style. If he works on his defensive game, he may have a chance to be picked in the coming draft.

Saskatoon Blades: Kyle Crnkovic Left Wing 5-foot-6, 154 pounds

Heading into a draft year is never easy on a player, nor is being asked to step up in a big way offensively. But if the 2019 preseason is any indication, Saskatoon Blades forward Kyle Crnkovic will be a name which will climb the NHL draft rankings over the 2019-20 season. In 52 games last season with Saskatoon, the 17-year-old, who turns 18 in February, registered 11 goals and 20 assists. Through the 2019 preseason, Crnkovic averaged more than two points-per-game, and if that transitions into the regular season, I can see him scoring more than 110 points, putting him in the conversation for a first-round selection. Working against Crnkovic, however, is his size, which could possibly drop him into the third or fourth round.

Tyrel Bauer  (photo-Brian Liesse)

Seattle Thunderbirds: Tyrel Bauer Defenseman 6-foot-3, 205 pounds

Every season, a group of players reaches the point where they become NHL draft-eligible. The Seattle Thunderbirds have one, in particular, that has captured the attention of scouts already: 17-year-old Tyrel Bauer of Cochran, Alberta. The large defenseman is somewhat of a blast from the past. His prowess isn’t of the common mold of defensemen by today’s standards. Bauer has already shown himself to be a premier shutdown d-man in the Western Hockey League. He uses his big frame and long reach to keep opponents from high percentage scoring areas and has also proven he isn’t afraid of the odd scrap. Bauer has received glowing praise from Seattle General Manager Bil La Forge in a recent interview with Guy Flaming on The Pipeline Show. “Ty Bauer, I believe is one of the best shutdown defensemen in the league and he’s only 17-years-old”. Seeing Bauer’s progression in his sophomore season will be something to watch for during the 2019-20 season.

Spokane Chiefs: Jack Finley Centre 6-foot-5 207 pounds

The Chiefs young centre has worked hard to be recognized as a potential draft selection in 2020. The sixth overall pick in 2017 has been an offensive force in his pre-WHL career. While playing on an older Spokane team, the then 16-year-old stuck with the team out of training camp and posted 19 points in 63 games. Having just turned 17, Finley will be among the youngest draft-eligible players in the WHL this season, and he is expected to take a large jump in his ice-time and point production.

Swift Current Broncos: Ben King Forward 6-foot-1 187 pounds

Another former first-round pick, King played all of his 16-year-old season with the Broncos. On a team that lacked offense, King was among the team leaders in points scored. King should show more offensive flair in his second full season in the ‘dub, as he showed he can pile up points in BC Minor Midget. King has also represented his province at the WHL Cup and was invited to the development camp for Team Canada White at the U17s.

Tri-City Americans: Mitchell Brown Defenseman 6-foot-2, 203 poundsMitchell Brown

A steadying force on the Americans blue line, Brown has shown that he has what it takes to move on to the next level after being invited to the Minnesota Wild training camp. While he does not pile up the points on the scoresheet, he does take care of the puck in his own end. Considered by many as a shutdown style of defender, he has worked hard enough to earn invites to provincial teams as well as development camp for Team Canada Red. The second-round draft pick of the Americans will be looking to be drafted in his second year of eligibility.

Vancouver Giants: Justin Sourdif Centre 5-foot-11, 165 pounds

The former third overall bantam draft selection enjoyed a great rookie year in the WHL, compiling 46 points (23G, 23A) in 64 games that saw him play big minutes for a 16-year-old, especially in the 2019 WHL Final. Sourdif was named to Team Canada’s Hlinka Gretzky Cup squad, which saw him produce at a point-per-game pace with five points (1G, 4A) in five games en route to a silver medal. Sourdif has made it known he wants to double his point total this year and will be given every opportunity to do so.

Victoria Royals: Keanu Derungs Left Wing 5-foot-11, 168 pounds

The Royals are trying to not to be overly excited about their 17-year-old import player Keanu Derungs. However, the young Swiss forward has people taking notice. Selected by the Royals with the 28th overall pick in the 2019 CHL Import Draft in June, Derungs is billed as a skilled player with good puck skills and the ability to finish. Those attributes were on display at the 2019 Hlinka Gretzky Cup as the product of Ilanz, Switzerland, demonstrated some high-level skill, including a highlight-reel goal for Team Switzerland. To add to that dimension, Derungs isn’t afraid to go hard to the net despite his light frame and even laid a couple of very solid hits in preseason play for the Royals. Surrounded by a veteran-laden offensive unit, Victoria has said early that it wants to allow Derungs time to develop into the North American style of game. However, if the forward continues to develop at this rate, he will force the Royals to make use of his much-needed high-end skill.

Photo Credit – Winnipeg ICE

Winnipeg ICE: Connor McClennon Left Wing 5-foot-8, 157 pounds

He may only be 17 years old, but this season is without a doubt Connor McClennon’s most important season of his young career. The Winnipeg ICE forward is eligible for the 2020 NHL Entry Draft and he already improved his stock by playing in the Hlinka Gretzky Cup with Team Canada. He’s currently ranked  No. 62 in the Future Considerations poll, but with a good winter, there’s a good chance he gets picked much earlier than that.

Thank you to all of the DUBNetwork team for their contributions to the article

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    Paul Figler
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    Brandon Wheat Kings: Ridly Greig Forward 5-foot-11, 159 pounds Greig has already had a four-point game against the Moose Jaw Warriors in the preseason
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