The WHL will hold their annual bantam player draft this Thursday. This year, players born in 1998 will be the ones selected.
The WHL does a pretty nice job archiving past draft results, so you can go back through the years to give yourself a little perspective on the importance of this draft. Because players are drafted at such a young age, the results, even very early in the draft, vary widely between kids that went to become superstars, and kids that were never heard from again. History also tells us that a few of the kids drafted on Thursday will go on to play NCAA hockey.
Here's a few story lines to keep an eye on during the draft on Thursday.
If you're looking for way more in-depth analysis into the WHL Draft, I highly recommend Western Elite Hockey Prospects, who does an amazing job keeping up on this stuff year-round, and usually ends up with a pretty accurate list on draft day.
The best starting point for the more casual observer is this top 22 list compiled by The Pipeline Show, based on lists submitted by a group of WHL scouts.
Their second overall prospect, Nolan Patrick, is the nephew of former University of North Dakota defenseman James Patrick. Patrick seems likely to head to the WHL, but has also told some teams he has no interest in reporting to them.
The #5 overall prospect on that, Beck Malenstyn, looks like he will go much lower in the draft, because he has not committed to the WHL, instead choosing to keep his NCAA options open.
Shattuck-St. Mary's D Liam Schioler(a Manitoba native by birth), is ranked 19th on that list. I was extremely impressed with him in the bits I got to see Shattuck's bantam team play this year. He kind of reminded me of Ian McCoshen when he played on the Shattuck bantam team.
20th overall Dante Hannoun is the younger brother of current Michigan Tech commit Demico Hannoun.
There's also bound to be more than a few Americans taken in the draft on Thursday.
It's an especially notable year for Minnesotans in the draft. Much of the focus throughout the year has been on the top three of defenseman Ryan Lindgren, and forwards Joey Anderson and Kieffer Bellows. Lindgren recently committed to play college hockey for Minnesota, becoming one of the youngest players ever to do so. Anderson played with Hill-Murray this year as an 8th grader, working his way up from JV to a spot on the team's second line and becoming a consistent scoring threat by the end of the year. Kieffer Bellows is the son of long-time NHLer Brian Bellows.
Their reputation comes earned as well. Last summer, they were part of a AAA team that traveled up to Canada for the prestigious North American Hockey Classic, where they blew a bunch of teams out, with their only loss being a tight 4-2 defeat to an Edmonton team comprised of about half of the first round of this upcoming draft, including three of the likely top five picks.
Among some of the other Minnesotans to watch, Shattuck goalie Ryan Edquist is highly rated among goalies, and Spring Lake Park HS forward Austen Long had an excellent HS season.
Beyond that, there should be the usual picks from the Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Denver areas. I did get a chance to see the Arizona Bobcats play and they should have a few players with a shot at getting drafted, including Blake Bargar, Phillip Knies, Sean Mallonnee, and Johnathan Dube.