The WHL will hold their annual bantam draft this Thursday, with the Prince George Cougars holding the first pick.. This year, they'll be drafting players born in 1995. You can follow the draft online.
From an American perspective, the big story of this draft will be the players from the Los Angeles Selects bantam AAA team, which was absolutely loaded with talent this year. Their top player was a forward by the name of Brian Williams, who people seem extremely excited about. He could be a top 5 pick. Forwards Adam Erne, Chase Deleo, and Andrew Oglevie could also potentially be high picks, as well as defenseman Scott Savage and Kyle Mitsunaga. They've also got one of the top goalies in the draft in Eric Comrie. Comrie is the younger brother of Mike Comrie, and former Denver Pioneer Paul Comrie. I did the math for you: 18-year difference between Eric and Paul.
That's a lot of kids with enough talent to go very high in the draft, which makes for at least a little drama on Thursday. If those kids are going as high as projected, it probably means teams are confident they can sign them. If they drop a little, the college route looks a little more likely.
Although this group kind of reminds of the '90 group of LA featured in the movie In the Crease, and that group's impact hasn't been bad by any stretch, but also not as dominating as you might expect. Mitch Wahl has had a nice WHL career and will probably get a shot in the NHL at some point. Steven Hoshaw was the other "can't miss" prospect on that team. He had a commitment to Alaska during Doc Delcastillo's regime, but no longer appears to have that offer. Matt Leitner and Troy Power off that team have college commitments lined up, and Nick Maricic played for Yale last year. I don't remember if Max Nicastro was on that team--he was the following year-- but he's maybe the one other kid that has a shot at the NHL. It goes to show that even at that high of a level, the odds of making the NHL are still too long to be that much of a consideration at that age.
This year's WHL draft is also an interesting year for Minnesotan kids. Apple Valley's Hudson Fasching may end up as one of the best in this age group, but I don't believe he's given any indication of going that route. Some team will likely take a flier on him in a late round just because of how talented he is though.
Meanwhile, Shattuck St. Mary's forward Taylor Cammarata is a player that may be open to going to the WHL if he's selected by the right team. Cammarata is a little guy with some crazy stickhandling ability. He finished the year with 170 points in 58 games, while his next closest teammate had 101 points.
There may be a few other Minnesotans that teams take fliers on, but I haven't heard of any other serious threats to go to the WHL.
It's a very quiet year in Texas and Arizona. The top Texan is a forward named Connor Hutchins, who moved to the Detroit Honeybaked AAA program midway through the year. According to Pointstreak, he had 8 points in 5 games with Honeybaked, which was on pace with the leading scorers on his Honeybaked team.
It sounds like a very down year for Arizona, though usually a couple of kids get picked in the later rounds because a couple WHL team owners live in Arizona and like to see a few locals get picked.