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Players to watch in the 2019-2020 WHL season

We recently posted an article about Draft Eligible players to watch in the 2019-2020 season, now it’s time to look for other players to watch. Not all of these players are stars, but they might become stars this season!

Brandon Wheat Kings – Cole Reinhardt Left Wing 2000 6-foot-1 203 pounds

Reinhardt led his team to a win with three goals at the Canad Inns Intrasquad game. After a 45-point season last year, I fully expect that Cole will make the next step and perhaps challenge Luka Burzan, who most think will lead the team in points, for that spot. With 22 goals and 23 assists last season, he’s shown he has the touch to set things up and finish as well.

Calgary Hitmen – James Malm Left Wing 1999 5-foot-9 174 pounds

The Calgary Hitmen may have one of the stronger, more valuable 20-year-old classes in the WHL this season. Left-winger James Malm is a significant part of that along with captain Mark Kastelic and alternate Dakota Krebs. Malm is a four-year WHL veteran who over 230 games with Vancouver and Calgary has amassed 73 goals and 196 points. Malm has terrific hands and skating ability and will likely play significant power play minutes. The Langley, British Columbia product has a skill set that also includes impressive creativity and offensive awareness. The maturity and craftiness which Malm plays with also make him a possible linemate to some of the young talents on the Hitmen roster. Malm is a player that elevates the offensive potential of those who play alongside him. Aside from offering leadership, experience, and talent, Malm is also heading into a very important season in the individual sense. With it being Malm’s overage season there is certainly an opportunity to impress clubs at the professional level. The undersized yet skilled forward recently attended Calgary Flames development camp and with a strong enough season has the chance to gain attention and potentially earn a professional contract.

2018 first round Bantam pick Dylan Guenther (photo-Andy Devlin)

Edmonton Oil Kings – Dylan Guenther Left Wing 2003 6-foot-1 170 pounds

Oil Kings fans were able to get a sneak peek of Dylan Guenther last season, as the 2018 1st overall pick played in 8 games as a 15-year-old for the club, producing three goals and four points. This season, he has the opportunity to join the team full time, and make his mark in his rookie year. Guenther put together 58 points in just 28 games while playing with the Northern Alberta X-treme Prep in 2018/19. Showing that he was worthy of being the first overall selection in the WHL Draft. Now he looks to prove his worth in the WHL, and the talent this kid possesses should be putting the entire league on notice.

Everett Silvertips – Keegan Karki Goaltender 2000 6-foot-4 218 pounds

The Everett Silvertips brought in Keegan Karki from the U.S. in the off-season. Karki has not played much recently but looks to be completely healthy heading into this season. He was the fifth-ranked North American goaltender for the 2018 NHL Entry Draft after posting a 3.20 GAA and .890 save percentage in 41 games. Ultimately, he was passed up in the NHL Entry Draft. With Dustin Wolf in contention for a spot on the U.S. World Junior Squad, Karki could be relied on in the Silvertips crease for up to a month. If Karki takes the reins and impresses, the Silvertips could be in a position where they are able to deal one of their goalies for help in another area.

Kamloops Blazers – Kyrell Sopotyk Forward 2001 5-foot-11 176 pounds

“When you’re physical, it’s hard to play against, so for myself, I wanted to play physically [and] have that stronger presence. That training I did in the summer, it just transferred to the game. . .”- Kyrell Sopotyk after earning his second WHL fight last Friday night against the Rockets.

The Aberdeen, Sask. native had a slow start to the 2018-2019 campaign, tallying just two points in his first 21 games, but the final 21 games told a much different story. Sopotyk put up 10 points during that stretch, including four points in his final five games heading into the tie-breaker against the Kelowna Rockets. The playoffs served as somewhat of a coming-out party for the left-winger as he scored four goals in those seven games, including three on the man-advantage. Sopotyk’s offensive abilities are well-known going into his sophomore season, but the forward’s compete level is what stands out the most. Sopotyk is listed at a modest 5-foot-11 and 176 pounds but plays larger, his tenacity on the forecheck and non-stop motor from whistle-to-whistle create havoc for defenseman trying to break out of the zone. Sopotyk’s combination of skill and compete allow him to move up-and-down the lineup and contribute to all dimensions of the game, especially in crunch time.

Kelowna Rockets –  Sean Comrie Defenseman 2000 6-foot 165 pounds

Comrie arrives for the 2019-20 season as a WHL mystery. Selected by the Brandon Wheat Kings in the second round at the 2015 WHL Bantam Draft, he chose the Junior A route and his two-year stint with the Spruce Grove Saints garnered a scholarship to the University of Denver. After one NCAA season, Comrie has landed in Kelowna as a result of a deal at the 2019 WHL Bantam Draft. Comrie is also getting a look at the Philadelphia Flyers development camp. How the 19-year-old adapts to the rigors of the 68-game schedule in the WHL remains to be seen.

Noah Boyko (Andy Devlin)

Lethbridge Hurricanes – Noah Boyko 2002 Centre 6-foot-1 176 pounds

Primed for a big season Boyko spent parts of last season alongside Captain Jordy Bellerive before the blockbuster trade that saw Jake Leschyshyn and Nick Henry come to Lethbridge. He also saw an increase in his role on the special teams as the season went along. With the number of open roster spots on the Hurricanes, the Fort Saskatchewan native is expected to take on even more. With questions on whether Bellerive will return or not could also factor into where in the lineup Boyko slots. A potential top-six forward and top power play unit is not out of the question.

Medicine Hat Tigers – Cole Sillinger Centre 2003 6-foot 187 pounds

Sillinger collected a truckload of hardware at the end of the 2018-19 SMAAAHL season and then spent a few weeks with the Tigers. Medicine Hat’s 2018 first round selection at the WHL Bantam Draft, he did not look out of place during the first round of the playoffs against the Edmonton Oil Kings. Already WHL-size, the 16-year-old is slated as a centreman with the Tigers. With offensive skill to burn, Sillinger is an early-season candidate as one for the league’s top rookies. Hockey Canada may come calling as well, with the U17 on the radar.

Moose Jaw Warriors – Eric Alarie Forward 2003 6-foot-1 198 pounds

A great preseason should translate into a good to great regular season for the Winnipeg, MB native. The 16-year-old will join the club for his first full season. He scored a goal in the playoffs last season and was nearly scoring two points per game with RINK academy prep in the CSSHL. He already has the size of players two years older than he is and he knows how to use it. The final pick in the first round in 2018 also played on the Manitoba team at the Canada Winter Games in Red Deer in February and had two goals and four assists. The team finished in fifth place.
Jaydon Dureau (Photo: Chris Mast)

Portland Winterhawks – Jaydon Dureau Left Wing 2001 5-foot-11 165 pounds

The 18-year-old forward is poised for a stellar season after registering 12 goals and 17 assists a season ago. While overlooked in the NHL Draft this summer, Dureau attended the Florida Panthers Development Camp and is part of a young, yet talented Winterhawks forward core. All 29 points for the White City, Saskatchewan native came at even strength. With the departure of four key members of the Portland power play, Dureau is a prime candidate to help fill the void.

Prince Albert Raiders – Boston Bilous Goaltender 2001 6-foot-3 214 pounds

After spending the last four months of the season as the CHL goalie of the year Ian Scott’s understudy its Bilous crease in 2019.  Bilous enter the league with a lot of hype in 2017 after a strong season with the Fraser Valley Thunderbirds of the BCMML.  Unfortunately with the Edmonton Oil Kings Bilous struggled and got lost in the goaltending shuffle.  He is an athletically gifted goaltender that has improved his positioning and puck handling over the off-season.  In the past he has been known to have mental lapses but if he rectifies those issues Bilous has the potential to be an excellent number one goaltender that could be drafted this season after being passed over last year (was ranked by CSS early last season). If the Raiders are to remain a contender for the East division title they will need Bilous to reach his potential.

Prince George Cougars – Ilijah Colina Centre 2000 5-foot-9 174 pounds

If Colina can manage to stay healthy throughout the season, he will likely materialize into one of the Cougars best players. With an incredibly quick shot release and good offensive awareness through and through, he makes his teammates a threat to score as well as himself whenever he steps on the ice
Through the test tube that is the preseason, this could be a Cinderella type season for a 19-year-old that is the most deserving player on his team to have a breakout season.

Red Deer Rebels – Josh Tarzwell Centre 2000 6-foot-1 205 pounds

The Rebels are going to be looking for some offense and there is no one better suited to put a few more pucks in the net than Tarzwell. He had a career-high 11 goals in 67 games for the Rebels in a lesser role than he is expected to have this season. Tarzwell is a straight line skater but has found his way to the net more frequently this preseason. Through the preseason he was frequently placed on the top line with 20-year-olds Cameron Hausinger and Brett Davis. He is ready for a breakout year as a 19-year-old on a team that desperately needs goals to come from somewhere.

Regina Pats – Dawson Holt Forward 1999 5-foot-11 194 pounds

The 20-year-old came over from Vancouver in the off-season. He was originally drafted eighth overall, but has yet to live up to that potential. Dawson has been a serviceable player through out his career. He has a very good chance to break out this year. The team will lean on Dawson, so prime ice time will be available to him along with playing with the older core of forwards.

Saskatoon Blades – Colton Dach Forward 2003 6-foot-2 174 pounds

Throughout the 2019-20 season one player I will be keeping an eye on, in particular, is 16-year-old Colton Dach. In his first full year of WHL eligibility Dach already brings great size standing at six-foot-two and weighing 170 pounds. Through the 2019 preseason Dach registered roughly a point-per-game while showing a speed which much like his older brother Kirby Dach, is deceptively fast. Not only is Colton a player who can put up points for the Blades, he is someone who plays a good two-way game and can be known as an agitator and to get under players skins. Playing on at either the centre or winger position Colton is versatile and someone I can see developing into a top five or ten pick in the NHL come his draft year in 2022.

Seattle Thunderbirds – Payton Mount Forward 2002 5-foot-8 183 pounds

Coming off a relatively successful rookie campaign, Victoria, B.C. native, Mount will look to take a big stride forward this season. During the preseason he was Seattle’s top scorer and with a young lineup that could see as many as seven or eight rookies, Mount will need to be a regular offensive contributor for the Thunderbirds
Luke Toporowski (Photo: Spokane Chiefs/Larry Brunt)

Spokane Chiefs – Luke Toporowski Left Wing 2001 5-foot-10 179 pounds

If there is a player that is going to play with a chip on his shoulder it will be Toporowski. The 2001-born American was passed over at the 2019 NHL draft and he will make the opposition pay for his being skipped over. As a 17-year-old, Toporowski was contributing at a 0.8 point-per-game clip and wasn’t afraid to mix it up. He more than doubled his contributions from his 16-year-old story and will look to continue to grow. He plays a lot bigger than his frame suggests he would.

Swift Current Broncos – Joona Kiviniemi Left Wing 2001 6-foot-1 176 pounds

The Oulu, Finland native is ready to join the ranks of draft-eligible prospects looking to be taken at the 2020 Draft in Montreal. He may not receive a lot of press in tiny Swift Current but the scouts will want to keep an eye on him throughout the season. Kiviniemi has shown that he can put the puck in the net at the major junior level and will look to continue that on a young Broncos squad. He has the tools to be a powerful forward and has the size to make defenders think twice about him coming down the wing. Has adjusted to the North American style of play and has represented his country at the international level.

Tri-City Americans – Sasha Mutala Right Wing 2001 6-foot-1 196 pounds

Mutala was taken in the fifth round by the Colorado Avalanche and will look to be the star of the Americans for 2019-20. He will be entering his third full season with the Americans, and the team will need his offense to improve as it did from his first to the second season. He had six points over two preseason games and looked ready to take the reins of his team for 2019-2020. He has represented Canada internationally as well as within his province.

Vancouver Giants -Tristen Nielsen Centre 2000 5-foot-10 192 pounds

Coming into his first full season with the Giants, Nielsen is looking to build off of his 14 goal, 35 point campaign after coming over in a trade from Calgary early last season. He is a lightning-in-a-bottle type of player that has you at the edge of your seat every time he’s around the puck, whether it’s with a hard drive to the net or a hard-working backcheck. Having scored 19 goals as a 17-year-old, he has the potential to score 30 goals with a bigger role this year.

Victoria Royals – Carson Miller Centre 2000 5-foot-10 165 pounds

Carson Miller was a key piece in the deal that saw Victoria relinquish one of their top players in Dante Hannoun last season. This season, the Royals are excited about the potential Miller has as a 19-year-old, anticipating his best junior year to date.  Entering his second season on the Island, the forward will look to capitalize on top-six minutes. The product of Yorktown, SK put up 107 points in 28 games in his final year in bantam, leading to him being selected in the first round, 21st overall, in the 2015 WHL Bantam Draft. In the playoff last year for the Royals, Miller had 5 goals in 10 games while the entire offense struggled to find the net. The crafty centre has a pedigree for offensive and looks to prove that this season at the WHL level.

Winnipeg ICE – Matthew Savoie Centre 2004 5-foot-9 179 pounds

Matthew Savoie – Rob Wallator

Everyone around the Western Hockey League is watching Matthew Savoie this year. The 15-year-old Winnipeg ICE forward is set to play at least 30 games this season and many people are already asking, can he make history and win the Rookie of the Year award? Will the pressure get to him? I don’t think so and that’s why he’s your Winnipeg ICE player to watch.

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    Paul Figler

    We recently posted an article about Draft Eligible players to watch in the 2019-2020 season, now it’s time to look for other players to watch. Not all
    [See the full post at: Players to watch in the 2019-2020 WHL season]

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