2023 WHL Prospects Draft Preview
Calgary, Alta. – When the clock starts to tick and the 2023 WHL Prospects Draft gets underway Thursday morning, all eyes will be on the Prince Albert Raiders.
WATCH: 2023 WHL Prospects Draft live on WHL Live HERE
Pre-Show at 9:30 a.m. MT
First Round at 10 a.m. MT
Owning three of the top-10 selections certainly ensures the spotlight shines brightly on your Club, and that’s exactly what the Raiders are set with heading into Thursday morning, owning the first- and second-overall selections, along with the seventh-overall pick.
The excellent draft positioning represents a tidy bit of work for Raiders GM Curtis Hunt, who has been busy restocking the cupboards since architecting a 2019 WHL Championship squad. The first-overall selection owned by the Raiders was acquired in a blockbuster deal that saw Kaiden Guhle traded to the Edmonton Oil Kings in 2021.
The second-overall selection is a pick originally belonging to the Raiders, who won the 2023 WHL Prospects Draft Lottery and moved from the fourth-overall slot into the second-overall position. Finally, the seventh-overall pick owned by the Raiders was originally property of the Kelowna Rockets. It made its way to Seattle as part of a package for forward Matthew Wedman back in December 2019 before then shipping up to Hockey Town North as part of a package for Chicago Blackhawks prospect Nolan Allan in November 2022.
The last time the Raiders selected first overall, they called the name of eventual two-time WHL Champion Kaiden Guhle, an Alberta-born defenceman from Sherwood Park.
This represents the first time the Raiders will make a selection second overall.
Rounding out the top three is the Spokane Chiefs. The last time the Chiefs selected third overall, you have to rewind all the way back to 1999 when they called the name of forward Brad Schell. He went on to play over 275 regular season and playoff games with the Chiefs, amassing 198 points (71G-127A) along the way.
Hundreds of the best 2008-born players from across Western Canada and the United States will hope to hear their names called in the 2023 WHL Prospects Draft, whether by the Raiders or Chiefs early on or by any of the WHL’s 22 member Clubs throughout the course of the day.
Eligible players have had a full season to show what they bring to the table and that immense effort will be recognized by WHL Clubs Thursday.
As part of WHL.ca’s coverage of the 2023 WHL Prospects Draft, we turn our eyes to some of the highly-touted prospects hailing from each of the four Western Canadian branches.
While there might not be a consensus number-one pick like Gavin McKenna in 2022, there are plenty of quality prospects from across Western Canada, including defenceman Daxon Rudolph from Lacombe, Alta., who spent the 2022-23 campaign with the Northern Alberta Xtreme U15 Prep squad, registering 50 points (17G-33A) in 30 regular season games and adding another 12 points (5G-7A) in five playoff games to lead his team to a CSSHL U15 championship. The 6-foot, 179-pound rearguard registered four goals in five games at the 2023 Alberta Cup and was named to the Alberta Cup All-Star Team.
Keaton Verhoeff of Fort Saskatchewan is another Alberta-born defenceman generating intrigue. The 6-foot-3, 191-pound blueliner skated in 27 games with RINK Hockey Academy Kelowna U15 Prep, securing 46 points (13G-33A) and adding another seven points (2G-5A) in five playoff games.
Alberta has talent up front as well, with forward Brett Olson of Spruce Grove, Alta., turning heads playing U18 AAA with the St. Albert Raiders this past season. The 6-foot-2, 168-pounder earned himself 30 points (13G-17A) in 35 games as an underage player in the Alberta Elite Hockey League.
British Columbia’s flavour seems to come from the forward groups, with a pair of B.C.-born twins – Liam and Markus Ruck – injecting some spice into the 2023 WHL Prospects Draft, having both put up impressive numbers as teammates with Okanagan Hockey Academy’s U15 Prep team. Hailing from Osoyoos, B.C., 5-foot-11 Liam posted 90 points (53G-27A) in 27 games, while 5-foot-10 Markus chipped in with 87 points (22G-65A) in 27 outings. Liam’s 53 goals and 90 points led the CSSHL’s U15 league, as did Markus’ 65 assists.
Not to be forgotten is forward Mathis Preston – an OHA teammate of the Ruck twins. A product of Penticton, B.C., the 5-foot-11, 157-pound Preston recorded 81 points (45G-36A) in 26 games and added another 10 points (7G-3A) in four playoff games.
B.C. has a leading defenceman of its own, with 5-foot-10 Ryan Lin of Delta Hockey Academy making waves. The product of Richmond, B.C., registered 41 points (17G-24A) in 27 games with Delta’s U15 Prep squad this season. He also found his way into seven playoff games with Delta’s U17 Prep team, notching seven points (2G-5A) in five games.
Out in Saskatchewan, forward Dayne Beuker led his hometown Humboldt Broncos U15 AA team to a Saskatchewan U15 AA championship. The 5-foot-9 forward exploded for 103 points (47G-56A) in 30 regular season contests before fueling his team’s playoff run with 28 points (11G-17A) in nine outings.
Defenceman Jake Missura is another name worth noting from the Land of Living Skies. The product of Saskatoon recorded 25 points (6G-19A) in 26 games with the Saskatoon Bandits U15 AA team and found his way into four games with the U18 AAA Blazers.
From the Keystone Province, Brandon-born forward Jaxon Jacobson was a weapon with the Brandon Wheat Kings U18 AAA team, posting 60 points (24G-36A) in 44 games. Many have him as the consensus top-ranked Manitoban-born player.
Defenceman Brek Liske of Beausejour, Man., enjoyed a quality campaign with the Northern Alberta Xtreme U15 Prep team, collecting 34 points (10G-24A) in 26 games and adding another 11 points (1G-10A) in five playoff contests. Liske’s efforts helped NAX claim the CSSHL U15 championship.
As always, there are interesting family ties worth watching during the 2023 WHL Prospects Draft.
There’s another Iginla set to break onto the scene with 2008-born Joe having done some serious damage with RINK Hockey Academy Kelowna’s U15 Prep team this past season. The son of Hockey Hall of Famer Jarome and the brother of Seattle Thunderbirds forward Tij, Joe Iginla recorded 65 points (37G-28A) in 27 regular season contests.
Speaking of the Thunderbirds, the younger brother of Seattle star Dylan Guenther – Nathan – will hear his name called during the 2023 WHL Prospects Draft. The 6-foot, 160-pound defenceman was a steady presence for the Northern Alberta Xtreme U15 Prep team, collecting 29 points (5G-24A) in 30 games while adding another six points (1G-5A) in five games as his team claimed the CSSHL U15 title.
Edmonton-born Sawyer Dingman is the son of longtime Brandon Wheat Kings fan favourite Chris Dingman. The 6-foot-2, 193-pound Sawyer is already well on his way to being the physically imposing presence that his father was and he has skill to boot, having posted 34 points (11G-23A) in 30 games with the Northern Alberta Xtreme U15 Prep team. If you haven’t started to notice a theme, the CSSHL’s U15-champion NAX could feature heavily during the 2023 WHL Prospects Draft.
The first round of the 2023 WHL Prospects Draft, including a 30-minute pre-show, will be livestreamed FREE via WHL Live on CHL TV. All that is required is to register and login using a free account with CHL TV, no subscription or purchase necessary. The 2023 WHL Prospects Draft Show begins with co-host Chris Wahl and Taylor Green at 9:30 a.m. MT with live draft coverage beginning at 10 a.m. MT.
2023 WHL Prospects Draft – First Round Order of Selection
1) Prince Albert Raiders (from Edmonton)
2) Prince Albert Raiders
3) Spokane Chiefs
4) Victoria Royals
5) Brandon Wheat Kings
6) Vancouver Giants (from Swift Current)
7) Prince Albert Raiders (from Kelowna)
8) Vancouver Giants
9) Medicine Hat Tigers
10) Everett Silvertips
11) Calgary Hitmen
12) Edmonton Oil Kings (from Regina)
13) Tri-City Americans
14) Lethbridge Hurricanes
15) Prince George Cougars
16) Moose Jaw Warriors
17) Portland Winterhawks
18) Red Deer Rebels
19) Brandon Wheat Kings (from Saskatoon)
20) Everett Silvertips (from Kamloops)
21) Saskatoon Blades (from Seattle)
22) Spokane Chiefs (from Winnipeg)
The order of selection for the second round and all other rounds will be the inverse order of final 2022-23 WHL Regular Season standings. The complete order of selection for the 2023 WHL Prospects Draft can be found at https://whl.ca/draft.
Players eligible for the 2023 WHL Prospects Draft are 2008-born players who reside in Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Northwest Territories, Yukon, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.
Players not selected in the 2023 WHL Prospects Draft will remain eligible to be listed by WHL Clubs at any time thereafter.