Jay Wallace

Nine WHL players remain unsigned from the 2017 NHL draft

Nick Henry of the Lethbridge Hurricanes was recently signed to an NHL contract by the Colorado Avalanche and it got us thinking, who’s left to be signed from his draft class?

With a little under three months left to sign CHL draft picks (June 1), NHL teams are finding themselves little time left to make decisions on players they drafted in 2017. Some of these players are surprises while others are a little less so. We take a look at who’s left and discuss what’s happened since they were drafted. We’ll go from the top of the class to the last WHL pick in the draft.

Scott Walford

Drafted by the Montreal Canadiens 68th overall in the third round. Drafted by the Victoria Royals 18th overall in the first round in 2014.

The 19-year-old defenseman was drafted following a breakout season with the Victoria Royals. In his draft year Walford scored six goals and added 24 assists in 60 games of WHL action. Since then he has played in 130 WHL games and scored 11 times, he also has 68 assists over those 130 games and was named assistant captain for the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons. The Victoria Royals will play in the playoffs this season, Walford has 14 games of playoff experience.

Montreal has not really shown it’s hand regarding Walford, with seven contract spots, as well as plenty of cap space. There are several prospects ahead of him in the Canadiens system including fellow WHLer Josh Brook, who is signed. Noah Juulsen and Cale Fleury are also former WHL players for their AHL affiliate in Laval.

Stelio Mattheos

Stelio Mattheos has racked up quite the career. Photo: Brandon Wheat Kings

Drafted by the Carolina Hurricanes 73rd overall in the third round. Drafted by the Brandon Wheat Kings first overall in 2014.

After sticking with the Wheat Kings in his 16-year-old season, Mattheos went on to collect 61 points in 69 games with the Wheat Kings in his draft year. He was a highly touted prospect by many, ranked higher than his eventual landing spot at 73rd overall. Since being drafted in the third round Mattheos has piled up 185 points in 131 WHL games, including 87 goals. The Wheat Kings are vying for a playoff spot with the Red Deer Rebels and Medicine Hat Tigers and Mattheos has 45 games of playoff experience as well as a WHL Championship and three games in the Memorial Cup.

Carolina has eight contract spots available, as well as cap space for several players. 20-year-olds Morgan Geekie and Jake Bean are former WHLers signed with the team, both playing in the minors with the Charlotte Checkers. It will be interesting to see if Carolina invites Mattheos to play in the AHL if the Wheat Kings season is completed before the Checkers’ is.

Lane Zablocki

Drafted by the Detroit Red Wings 79th overall in the third round. Drafted by the Prince George Cougars in the fifth round 109th overall in 2013.

After collecting 54 points in 64 games with the Regina Pats and Red Deer Rebels, Zablocki bounced around the Western Hockey league. By the time he reached his overage season, he was playing on borrowed time in Kelowna and was eventually let go. He then moved down to the Junior A ranks and played for the Vernon Vipers. There have been injury concerns for Zablocki throughout the last few seasons.

The Detroit Red Wings have room for just two contracts and it is not likely they will use either on a player who did not stick in the WHL in his overage season.

Kyle Olson

Kyle Olson Photo: Doug Westcott

Drafted by the Anaheim Ducks 122nd overall in the fourth round. Drafted by the Tri-City Americans 45th overall in the third round in 2014.

Olson had a pretty good draft eligible season, tallying 20 goals and adding 37 assists in 72 games for the Americans. He also played for the U-18 Canadian team adding three points in five games. Since his draft season Olson has dealt with an injury, limiting him to 36 regular season games in the 2017-18 season. This season as an assistant captain, Olson has gone over a point-per-game pace, piling up 70 points in 61 games for the Americans. He also adds 14 games of playoff experience to the Americans as they make a run at the Ed Chynoweth cup this spring.

The Anaheim Ducks have room for three contracts but have very minimal cap space remaining to sign players. There are 16 non-roster forwards in their prospect pool and that does not bode well for Olson. Three former WHLers are part of that roster which includes former standout Sam Steel. Anaheim would be remiss to allow Olson to re-enter the draft unless they believe he could fall to them again in a later round.

Zach Fischer

Brett Kemp-Zach Fischer (photo-Andy Devlin/Edmonton Oil Kings)

Drafted by the Calgary Flames 140th overall in the fifth round. Was undrafted before playing with the Medicine Hat Tigers.

Zach Fischer is the oldest player on this list, as a 1997-born player he was drafted by the Flames following his 19-year-old season. He then decided he did not want to play in Medicine Hat following his third season with the team and went home to await a trade. He played out the remainder of his season with the Spokane Chiefs adding 35 points in 43 games. He has since played in the ECHL on an AHL deal, remaining unsigned by the Flames. He has 11 points in 35 games with two different teams in the ECHL this season.

Calgary does have room for four contracts but are limited by cap space. With Fischer’s struggles at the ECHL level it appears he is destined to remain unsigned by the Flames and will be left to sort out his aspirations for 2019-20.

Jarret Tyszka

Jarret Tyszka (photo-Brian Liesse)

Drafted by the Montreal Canadiens 149th overall in the fifth round. Drafted by the Seattle Thunderbirds 16th overall in the first round in 2014.

The Thunderbirds defenseman had put up some decent numbers as a 17-year-old before being drafted by the Canadiens, scoring six times and adding 19 assists before helping his Thunderbirds to a WHL championship. He added seven points in 20 playoff games that season. Following his draft year, Tyszka has played in 109 games and added 68 points. This season he has dealt with injuries as well as the team trading away some of their best players. The Thunderbirds just locked in a playoff spot. Tyszka has 41 games of experience in the post season.

Montreal’s contract situation has been stated previously. It is believed that Montreal is using the maximum amount of time possible to sign their prospects before they are allowed to re-enter the draft.

Brett Davis

Brett Davis (Photo: Andy Devlin)

Drafted by the Dallas Stars 163rd overall in the sixth round. Drafted by the Lethbridge Hurricanes 78th overall in the fourth round in 2014.

Davis is an interesting study. He played well enough with the Lethbridge Hurricanes and Kootenay ICE to earn a look at the draft. His 33 points in 59 games were not exceptional but scouts gave him consideration based on his play with the teammates he had. A good season following his draft year made him valuable to teams looking for a playoff boost on a team that was spinning its wheels. He had to wait another season but was dealt to the Red Deer Rebels. His development has become stagnant  and his role with the Rebels is not as pronounced as it was with the ICE.

The Stars have room for three contracts but are extremely limited in cap space. Sources have stated that the Stars will not sign Davis and will allow him to re-enter the draft. His 20-year-old season, whether with the Rebels or another WHL team will determine his appetite to play himself into a contract or if he seeks USports as his next career move.

Brendan De Jong

Brendan De Jong (Dayna Fjord)

Drafted by the Carolina Hurricanes 166th overall in the sixth round. Drafted by the Portland Winterhawks 154th overall in the seventh round.

The 6’5″ defenseman had a good draft season, scoring eight times and adding 15 assists. The team and De Jong have been consistent, playing themselves into the playoff picture in all five seasons that De Jong has been a part of. Since his draft season, De Jong has played 117 games and added 51 points. This season he has battled some injuries but was granted an ‘A’ as a 20-year-old. He has played in 28 playoff games and the Winterhawks are headed to the playoffs again this spring.

Carolina’s cap and contract situation is discussed above. It is unknown how the Hurricanes view De Jong’s development. He has had an up-and-down overage season while battling an injury with Portland and likely will need a strong playoff run to wow the Hurricanes. USports may be the route he decides to take following the completion of the Winterhawks’ playoff run.

Jordan Hollett

Jordan Hollett (Andy Devlin)

Drafted by the Ottawa Senators 183rd overall in the sixth round. Drafted by the Regina Pats in the first round, 13th overall in 2014.

In his draft year, Hollett was the back up to Tyler Brown as the Regina Pats made a run to the WHL Championship. He played well in that 2016-17 season posting a 15-2-2 record, a 2.83 goals against average and a .901 save percentage. Following his draft eligible season, Hollett was dealt to the Medicine Hat Tigers and split duties with Michael Bullion and then Mads Sogaard. He has not really found his groove with the Tigers going 30-31-6-0 since he was brought over in 71 games.

The Ottawa Senators have room for only one more contract. The soon to be 20-year-old goaltender is in tough as the Senators have six goaltenders signed to contracts including a buried contract. He may re-enter the draft and will be hopeful to find a place where he could be the starting goaltender for the 2019-20 season.

 

Contract and cap information taken from capfriendly.com

Home Forums Nine WHL players remain unsigned from the 2017 NHL draft

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