The first round of the 2021 NHL Draft is slated for Friday evening. Several WHL stars are hoping to hear their names called as part of the festivities.
Edmonton Oil Kings forward Dylan Guenther is the top-ranked WHL skater ahead of the NHL Draft. The Edmonton, Alta. product is ranked #5 among North American skaters in the final NHL Central Scouting rankings.
Guenther’s Oil Kings teammate, Sebastian Cossa, is at the top of the list among North American goaltenders.
Three more WHL skaters are included in the top 20 of the NHL Central Scouting final rankings: Medicine Hat Tigers forward Cole Sillinger comes in at #10, Winnipeg ICE defenceman Carson Lambos follows Sillinger at #11, while Saskatoon Blades forward Colton Dach checks in at #19.
The first round of the NHL Draft has proven fruitful in recent years for Western Hockey League players. In each of the past two NHL Drafts, seven WHL players were selected in the first round.
Portland Winterhawks forward Seth Jarvis was the first WHL player selected in the 2020 NHL Draft, going 13th overall to the Carolina Hurricanes. Prince Albert Raiders defenceman Kaiden Guhle went 16th overall to the Montreal Canadiens, while fellow blueliner, Braden Schneider of the Brandon Whaet Kings, was selected 19th overall by the New York Rangers.
Forward Connor Zary of the Kamloops Blazers (24th overall, Calgary Flames), Edmonton Oil Kings forward Jake Neighbours (26th overall, St. Louis Blues), Brandon Wheat Kings forward Ridly Greig (28th overall, Ottawa Senators) and Prince Albert Raiders forward Ozzy Wiesblatt (31st overall, San Jose Sharks) capped off a busy first round for the WHL.
The first round of the 2019 NHL Draft in Vancouver, B.C., was just as busy, with three WHL skaters selected in the first seven picks. Saskatoon Blades forward Kirby Dach led things off by being selected 3rd overall by the Chicago Blackhawks, while Vancouver Giants defenceman Bowen Byram followed Dach, going 4th overall to the Colorado Avalanche. The Buffalo Sabres took Lethbridge Hurricanes forward Dylan Cozens 7th overall.
Reigning WHL Player of the Year, Peyton Krebs of the Winnipeg ICE, was taken 17th overall in 2019 by the Vegas Golden Knights. Kelowna Rockets defenceman Lassi Thomson (19th overall, Ottawa Senators), Rockets forward Nolan Foote (27th overall, Tampa Bay Lightning) and Moose Jaw Warriors forward Brayden Tracey (29th overall, Anaheim Ducks) also heard their names called on night one at Rogers Arena.
The 14 WHL players selected in the first rounds in 2019 and 2020 are the most among the three leagues that comprise the Canadian Hockey League, and the WHL has produced five or more first round selections in eight of the past 10 NHL Drafts.
In 2020, 28 of the 78 CHL selections came from the WHL. In 2019, 28 of the 71 CHL players selected skated in the WHL.
Overall, 322 WHL players have been taken in the first round of the NHL Draft dating back to 1967.