Brian Liesse

WHL Prospects Review: Pacific Division

 

Over the coming weeks, we will be taking a look at WHL prospects who have been fortunate enough to hear their name called at the NHL Draft over the past two years.

First up is the Pacific Division.

Between 2018 and 2019, seven players were drafted to five different teams in the division. Now that we’re 1-2 years removed from those draft selections, let’s take a look at where these prospects are now in their hockey careers.

Anaheim Ducks

With the 29th overall pick, the Anaheim Ducks selected Brayden Tracey, a 6-foot, 176-pound left-winger from Calgary.

At the time of his selection, Tracey had just wrapped up an impressive 2018-19 rookie campaign with Moose Jaw, scoring 36 goals with 45 assists for 81 points. All of those numbers set WHL rookie records, earning Tracey WHL Rookie of the Year honors. Tracey’s strong stickhandling skills and ability to control the puck in tight spaces allows him to create space for plenty of scoring chances.

In November 2019, Tracey signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Ducks worth $925,000. Later that season, Tracey (as well as goalie Adam Evanoff and a pair of WHL Bantam Draft picks) was traded at the deadline to the Victoria Royals in exchange for Logan Doust, Nolan Jones, and goalie Brock Gould. The Royals also threw in a gold mine of draft picks, which included a third-round pick in the 2020 WHL Bantam Draft, a first-round pick in 2021. and their second and fourth-round picks in 2022.

In his first 24 games with Victoria, Tracey scored seven goals with sixteen assists for 23 points. After scoring 20 points in 11 games to start the year, Tracey’s production slowed after a couple of injuries, but the sky is the limit for the 19-year-old winger this season.

Calgary Flames

In the late stages of the 2019 NHL Draft, the Calgary Flames looked to the crease. The Flames took goalie Dustin Wolf from the Everett Silvertips in the seventh round (214th overall).

This past season, Wolf earned CHL Goalie of the Year honors after posting a 34-10-2 record with a WHL-leading 1.88 GAA and .935 save percentage. He also delivered nine shutouts. Wolf learned from the best after backing up fellow CHL Goalie of the Year Carter Hart during the 2017-18 season.

Wolf was equally impressive during the 2018-19 season, going 41-15-4 with a 1.69 GAA, a .936 save percentage, and seven shutouts. However, Wolf had some stiff competition for CHL Goalie of the Year that season. The award went to Prince Albert’s Ian Scott, who went 38-8-3 during the regular season. Scott led the Raiders to their first WHL championship since 1985.

Back in May, the Flames signed Wolf to a 3-year entry-level contract worth $2.775 million with an AAV of $925,000. Because Wolf is only 19, he is a slide candidate, meaning that his contract can be extended by one year if he does not appear in 10 NHL games.

San Jose Sharks

In the second round of the 2019 NHL Draft, the San Jose Sharks selected left winger Dillon Hamaliuk. At the time of his selection, Hamaliuk had just come off his third season in the WHL with the Seattle Thunderbirds. Despite being limited to 31 games due to injury, Hamaliuk was still productive, scoring 11 goals and 15 assists for 26 points. The previous year in his only full WHL season, Hamaliuk scored 15 goals and 24 assists for 39 points in 72 games played.

Last year, Hamaliuk was traded to the Kelowna Rockets (along with teammates Jake Lee and Cole Schwebius) in exchange for a trio of WHL Bantam Draft picks in 2019, 2021 and 2021. The Rockets also sent over future Thunderbirds captain Conner Bruggen-Cate. During Hamaliuk’s first season in Kelowna, he scored 15 goals with 16 assists for 31 points in 56 games.

Hamaliuk has a big presence on the ice at 6-foot-3, 201 pounds. His speed is impressive, considering his size. He finds a way to the net with impressive puckhandling, allowing him to score in tight spaces. He’s your quintessential power forward, using his size to create scoring opportunities for him and his teammates.

In October 2019, the Sharks signed Hamaliuk to an entry-level contract worth $2.4 million over three years, including signing bonuses. The Sharks traded away two third-round picks in order to move up in the second round to select Hamaliuk.

Vancouver Canucks

Over the past two years, the Canucks have selected a pair of players from the WHL. In 2019, the Canucks selected Carson Focht from the Calgary Hitman in the 5th round (133rd overall). The year before, they took Moose Jaw’s Jett Woo with the 37th overall selection in the second round.

Woo had a breakout season leading up to the draft, scoring 12 goals and 54 assists for 66 points in 62 games for Moose Jaw during the 2018-19 campaign. That ranked him fifth in scoring amongst all defensemen in the WHL.

This past season with the Calgary Hitman, Woo’s production took a dip, but he still turned in a solid season. Woo scored seven goals and 39 assists for 46 points in 64 games.

Woo signed a three-year entry-level deal with the Canucks in March 2019 with an AAV of $1.08 million. While Woo has seen success at the WHL level, he faces stiff competition. Vancouver’s system includes fellow defensemen like Olli Juolevi and Jack Rathbone. Juolevi already has 63 AHL games under his belt with the Utica Comets, while Rathbone just signed his entry-level contract back on July 14. This past season, Rathbone scored seven goals and 24 points for 31 assists in 28 games.

Carson Focht is coming off of his fourth full season in the WHL. Last year, Focht scored 32 goals and 24 assists for 56 points in 61 games. That ranked him fourth on the team in scoring. The year before, Focht ranked second on the Hitmen in scoring with 26 goals and 38 assists for 64 points in 68 games. During that 2018-19 season, Focht also scored five goals and four assists for nine points in 11 playoff games.

In the 2019 NHL Draft, the Canucks selected Focht in the fifth round with the 133rd overall pick. However, he has yet to sign his entry-level contract with the team.

Some of Focht’s biggest strengths are his two-way game and work ethic. He said he has put a lot of work into his skating recently. He was passed over during his first year of draft eligibility in 2018, so you know he’s got that chip on his shoulder ready to prove himself.

Vegas Golden Knights

In the 2019 NHL Draft, the Vegas Golden Knights looked to the WHL for their first two picks. With the 17th overall selection, the Golden Knights took Peyton Krebs from the Winnipeg ICE. Then, with the 41st overall pick in the second round, Vegas selected Kaedan Korczak from the Kelowna Rockets. 

Krebs is a 5-11, 181-pound forward with exceptional speed, acceleration, and puckhandling skills. Krebs exploded onto the WHL scene during his first full year with the ICE in 2017-18, scoring 17 goals with 37 assists for 54 points in 67 games. That ranked him fourth on the team in scoring. Krebs followed that up with an even better season in 20181-19. Krebs led the ICE in scoring with 19 goals and 49 assists for 68 points in 64 games. This past season, Krebs scored an incredible 60 points (12 goals, 48 assists) in just 38 games, which would have given him 100 points if he had played the “full” season.

Krebs signed his entry-level deal with the Golden Knights last November, with an AAV of $1.34 million. He also was just named to the Stanley Cup Qualifiers and Playoffs roster with Vegas. He’s the youngest player on the roster by four years.

This past year, Vegas second-round pick Kaedan Korczak wrapped up his third full season in the WHL. He scored 11 goals with 38 assists for 49 points (all career highs) in 60 games with the Kelowna Rockets. 

Korczak, at 6-foot-4, 200-pounds, plays a physical game and has impressive speed and skating abilities for his size. He’s also reliable and can rack up plenty of ice time. He’s been regularly labeled as a “defensive defenseman” but has shown his ability to put points on the board as well.

Last December, Korczak signed his entry-level contract with Vegas and was recently invited to attend Team Canada’s virtual junior team summer development camp, which is going on this week. The 2021 WJC is scheduled to be held Edmonton and Red Deer from Dec. 26 to Jan. 5.

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    Sean Larson
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      Over the coming weeks, we will be taking a look at WHL prospects who have been fortunate enough to hear their name called at the NHL Draft over
    [See the full post at: WHL Prospects Review: Pacific Division]

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