The 2009 NHL draft is almost upon us and on Friday some teams will make a selection that solidifies their organization; others will make choices that keep them spinning their wheels, while some will outright strike out.
In today’s game if you don’t draft well you have no chance of competing. Of course astute trades and free-agent signings are keys to success as well, but the foundation of every championship team is built through their draft.
The names will be called out on Friday and Saturday, but it will be at least three years before most teams find out if they made the right choice.
Tony MacDonald, the director of amateur scouting for the Carolina Hurricanes, has the final say on Canes’ selections this weekend. He mentioned on my radio show last week that the travel schedule of the WHL teams makes the transition to the NHL a bit easier for them than players from the OHL or QMJHL. It doesn’t guarantee success, but when so much is riding on a draft pick, every element has to be considered.
So which WHL teams have a better track record of producing NHL players? Here is a look at the last 20 years. I’ve highlighted first rounders or any draft pick that made an impact in the NHL.
BRANDON WHEAT KINGS
The Wheaties produced some very good players in late ’70s and early ’80s, like Bill Derlago, Brian Propp, Ron Hextall, Laurie Boschman and Dave Semenko. Ray Ferraro was drafted while playing for Penticton in the BCJHL before starring with the Wheaties and scoring 108 goals and 192 points as a 20-year-old in ’83/84.
Colby Robak, 2nd rounder went 46th to Florida.
Eric Fehr, 1st rounder went 18th to Washington.
Ryan Stone, 2nd rounder went 32nd to Pittsburgh.
Jordin Tootoo, 4th rounder went 98th to Nashville.
Stefan Cherneski, 1st rounder went 19th to NYR.
Wade Redden, 1st rounder went 2nd to NYI
Mike Leclerc, 3rd rounder went 55th to Anaheim.
Peter Schaeffer, 3rd rounder went 66th to Vancouver
Chris Dingman, 1st rounder went 19th to Calgary.
Sven Butenschon, 3rd rounder went 57th to Pittsburgh.
Marty Murray, 4th rounder went 96th to Calgary.
Trevor Kidd, 1st rounder went 11th to Calgary.
In the last 20 years the best player they’ve produced is Wade Redden. Trevor Kidd, Chris Dingman, Peter Schaefer and Jordin Tootoo have been decent players. Brayden Schenn and Scott Glennie will both go in the top 15 this Friday and their success could surpass the Wheat Kings’ best draft year; 1979 when they had four 1st rounders: Boschman, Propp, Brad McCrimmon and Ray Allison.
Best NHL player: Tie, Ron Hextall and Brian Propp
The Hitmen have only been around since ’95/96, but they have produced a staggering nine first rounders in that time, unfortunately most haven’t panned out.
Karl Alzner, 1st rounder went 5th to Washington.
Alex Plante, 1st rounder went 15th to Edmonton.
Andrew Ladd, 1st rounder went 4th to Carolina.
Jeff Schultz, 1st rounder, went 28th to Washington.
Andy Rogers, 1st rounder went 30th to Tampa Bay.
Ryan Getzlaf, 1st rounder went 19th Anaheim.
Johnny Boychuk, 2nd rounder went 61st to Colorado.
Brent Krahn, 1st rounder went 9th to Calgary.
Matt Pettinger, 2nd rounder went 43rd to Washington.
Pavel Brendl, 1st rounder went 4th to NYR
Kris Beech, 1st rounder went 7th to Washington.
Chris Nielson, 2nd rounder went 36th to NYI.
They’ve produced nine 1st rounders in 13 seasons, but only Getzlaf, Ladd and Schultz have made a serious impact. Alzner should be a regular next season.
Best NHL player: Ryan Getzlaf
They’ve only been around for the past three seasons, so they don’t have much to show.
Oscar Moller is easily the best prospect they’ve produced. Moller was a 2nd rounder in ’07, but cracked the Kings this year. He is small, but he looks like he’ll have a decent future. Edmonton native Mark Santorelli is the Bruins’ all-time leading scorer with 183 points in 144 games and was a 4th round pick of the Predators in ’07. He might become a serviceable player.
Best NHL player: Oscar Moller
EDMONTON OIL KINGS
During the ’60s and ’70s the Oil Kings produced some great players like Johnny Bucyk, John Davidson, Norm Ullman and Al Hamilton but we’ll focus on this edition. In only their second year, the Kings haven’t made an impact yet when it comes to producing players. Tomas Vincour will go in the 3rd or 4th round this weekend, which is a bit of a disappointment since back in September he was projected to be a late first rounder. An injury hurt his ranking, but if he continues to progress he could crack an NHL roster.
Brent Raedeke signed a three-year deal with the Red Wings last summer, but that’s it for now. Mark Pysyk will be a 1st rounder in 2011 and Dylan Wruck and Michael St. Croix will be high picks in 2012, so we should see more scouts at Oil Kings games during the next few years.
Best NHL player: N/A
In six short years the Silvertips have produced some top-end talent:
Kyle Beach went 11th overall to Chicago. Beach is a talent, and once he gets his head screwed on straight he should be a decent NHLer. Getting sent home from the AHL was not a good start this past year.
Zach Hamill, 1st rounder went 8th overall to the Bruins.
Tyler Ellington, 2nd rounder went 41st to the Canucks.
Peter Mueller, 1st rounder went 8th overall to Phoenix
Leland Irving, 1st rounder went 26th overall to the Flames.
Best NHL player: Peter Mueller
Keaton Ellerby 1st rounder went 10th to Florida.
Matt Kassian. 2nd rounder went 57th to Minnesota.
Devan Dubnyk 1st rounder went 14th to the Oilers.
Scottie Upshall, 1st rounder went 6th to Nashville.
Erik Christensen, 3rd rounder went 69th to Pittsburgh.
Shaonne Morrison, 1st rounder went 19th to Boston
Robyn Regehr, 1st rounder went 19th to Colorado.
Shane Doan, 1st rounder went 7th to Winnipeg.
Jarome Iginla, 1st rounder went 11th to Dallas.
Nolan Baumgartner, 1st rounder went 10th to Washington.
Jason Holland, 2nd rounder went 38th to NYI.
Jason Strudwick, 3rd rounder went 63rd to NYI.
Hnat Domenichelli, 4th rounder went 83rd to Hartford.
Brad Lukowich, 4th rounder went 90th to NYI.
Tyson Nash, 10th rounder went 247 to Vancouver
*** The Islanders clearly were in love with the Blazers in 1994, drafting three of them.
Darcy Tucker, 6th rounder went 151st to Montreal.
David Wilkie, 1st rounder went 20th to Montreal.
Scott Niedermayer, 1st rounder went 3rd to New Jersey.
Daryl Sydor, 1st rounder went 7th to Los Angeles.
Paul Kruse, 4th rounder went 83rd to Calgary.
The Blazers produced some great talent in the ’90s, but haven’t had any top-rated players this decade.
Best NHL player: Scott Niedermayer.
Luke Schenn, 1st rounder went 5th to Toronto.
Tyler Myers, 1st rounder went 12th to Buffalo.
Brandon McMillan, 3rd rounder went 85th to Anaheim.
Kyle Cumiskey, 7th rounder went 222nd to Colorado.
Blake Comeau, 2nd rounder went 47th to NYI.
Shea Weber, 2nd rounder went 49th to Nashville.
Scott Parker, 1st rounder went 20th to Colorado.
Scott Hannan, 1st rounder went 23rd to San Jose.
Todd Fedoruk, 7th rounder went 164th to Philly.
Kyle Mclaren, 1st rounder went 9th to Boston
Dale Purinton, 5th rounder went 117th to NYR.
The Rockets have been the dominant team in the WHL for the past decade with three championships, much like the Blazers dominated the ’90s with four championships.
Best NHL player: Shea Weber, but Luke Schenn will give him a run when their careers are over. Clearly they can produce defensemen, but they haven’t produced any skilled NHL forwards.
The Ice has been around since 1996 when they were in Edmonton and then moved to Kootenay in 1998. They haven’t produced much in their 13 years so far, but these six players all contributed to their two WHL titles in 2000 and 2002.
Nigel Dawes, 5th rounder went 149th to NYR.
Jarret Stoll, 2nd rounder went 36th to Edmonton.
Dan Blackburn, 1st rounder went 10th to NYR.
Thomas Plihal, 5th rounder went 140th to San Jose.
Marek Svatos, 7th rounder went 227th to Colorado.
Steve MacCarthy, 1st rounder went 23rd to Chicago.
Best NHL player: Jarret Stoll
Zach Boychuk, 1st rounder went 14th to Carolina.
Luca Sbisa, 1st rounder went 19th to Philly.
Kris Versteeg, 5th rounder went 134th to Boston.
Brent Seabrook, 1st rounder went 14th to Chicago.
Nick Tarnasky, 9th rounder went 287 to Tampa Bay.
DJ King, 5th rounder went 190th to St.Louis.
Byron Ritchie, 7th rounder went 165th to Hartford.
Bryce Salvador, 6th rounder went 138th to Tampa Bay.
Brantt Myhres, 5th rounder went 97th to Tampa Bay.
Jamie Pushor, 2nd rounder went 32nd to Detroit.
Jamie Mclennan, 3rd rounder went 48th to NYI
Mark Greig, 1st rounder went 15th to Hartford.
The Hurricanes have been in Lethbridge since 1987, but they haven’t produced a dominant NHL player to date. Ashton Carter will be a first rounder on Friday.
Best NHL player: Brent Seabrook.
MEDICINE HAT TIGERS
Tyler Ennis, 1st rounder went 26th to Buffalo.
Kris Russell, 3rd rounder went 67th to Columbus.
Darren Helm, 5th rounder went 132nd to Detroit.
Cam Barker, 1st rounder went 3rd to Chicago.
Jay Bouwmeester, 1st rounder went 3rd to Florida.
Joffrey Lupul, 1st rounder went 7th to Anaheim.
Ryan Hollweg, 8th rounder went 238th to NYR.
Jason Chimera, 5th rounder went 121st to Edmonton.
Jonathon Aitken, 1st rounder went 8th to Boston.
Josh Green, 2nd rounder went 30th to Los Angeles.
Rocky Thompson, 3rd rounder went 72nd to Calgary.
Rob Niedermayer, 1st rounder went 5th to Florida.
Mike Rathje, 1st rounder went 3rd to San Jose.
David Cooper, 1st rounder went 11th to Buffalo.
Chris Osgood, 3rd rounder went 54th to Detroit.
The Tigers have a pretty good track record in the past 20 years, and based on the players Bob Green selected for the Tigers before moving to the Oil Kings, you’d think the Oil Kings will start producing some NHLer’s in the next few years.
Best NHL player: Lanny McDonald chosen 4th overall in 1973.
MOOSE JAW WARRIORS
Travis Hamonic, 2nd rounder went 53rd to NYI.
Kenndal Mcardle, 1st rounder went 20th Florida.
Dustin Boyd, 3rd rounder went 98th to Calgary.
Troy Brouwer, 7th rounder went 214th to Chicago.
Nathan Paetsch, 7th rounder went 202nd to Buffalo.
Kyle Brodziak, 7th rounder went 214th to Edmonton
Brooks Laich, 6th rounder went 193rd to Ottawa.
Brian Sutherby, 1st rounder went 26th to Washington.
Jamie Lundmark, 1st rounder went 9th to NYR.
Matt Higgins, 1st rounder went 18th to Montreal.
Reed Low, 7th rounder went 177th to St. Louis.
Ryan Smyth, 1st rounder went 6th to Edmonton.
Curtis Brown, 2nd rounder went 43rd to Buffalo.
The Warriors draft success is similar to their team record. They’ve only made it out of the 2nd round once, when they lost the WHL final in 2006.
Best NHL player: Theo Fleury, who was an 8th round pick, 166th to Calgary in 1987.
Brandon Mikkelson, 2nd rounder went 31st to Anaheim.
Brandon Dubinsky, 2nd rounder went 60th to NYR.
Brayden Coburn, 1st rounder went 8th to Atlanta.
Marcel Hossa, 1st rounder went 16th to Montreal.
Josef Balej, 3rd rounder went 78th to Montreal.
Paul Gaustad, 7th rounder went 220th to Buffalo.
Jason Labarbera, 3rd rounder went 66th to NYR.
Matt Walker, 3rd rounder went 83rd to St. Louis.
Brendan Morrow, 1st rounder went 25th to Dallas.
Andrew Ference, 8th rounder went 208th to Pittsburgh.
Brad Isbister, 3rd rounder went 67th to Winnipeg.
Jason Wiemer, 1st rounder went 8th to Tampa Bay
Dave Scatchard, 2nd rounder went 42nd to Vancouver.
Adam Deadmarsh, 1st rounder went 14th to Quebec.
Nolan Pratt, 5th rounder went 115th to Hartford.
Scott Nichol, 11th rounder went 272nd to Buffalo.
Cale Hulse, 3rd rounder went 66th to New Jersey.
Joaquin Gage, 5th rounder went 109th to Edmonton.
Steve Konowalchuk, 3rd rounder went 58th to Washington.
The Winterhawks have had 18 players go on to the NHL in the last 20 years, but only Brendan Morrow, and to a lesser extent Brandon Dubinsky and Jason Weimer, has made a legitimate offensive impact.
Best NHL player: Cam Neely, 1st rounder went 9th to Vancouver in 1983.
PRINCE ALBERT RAIDERS
Kyle Chipchura, 1st rounder went 18th to Montreal.
Jeremy Colliton, 2nd rounder went 58th to NYI.
Scott Hartnell, 1st rounder went 6th to Nashville.
Nick Schultz, 2nd rounder went 33rd to Minnesota.
Chris Phillips, 1st rounder went 1st to Ottawa.
Steve Kelly, 1st rounder went 6th to Edmonton.
Brad Church, 1st rounder went 17th to Washington.
Shane Hnidy, 7th rounder went 173rd to Buffalo.
Denis Pederson, 1st rounder went 13th to New Jersey
Dean McCammond, 1st rounder went 22nd to Chicago.
Scott Allison, 1st rounder went 17th to Edmonton.
The Raiders haven’t been to the WHL championship since 1985; when they went on to win the Memorial Cup. Since then they’ve been average.
Best NHL player: Mike Modano in a landslide. No one is even close.
Interesting to note that Chris Phillips was the last WHL player to be chosen 1st overall, and before him it was Mike Modano in 1988.
PRINCE GEORGE COUGARS (Victoria years included)
Ty Wishart, 1st rounder went 16th to San Jose.
Dustin Byfuglien, 8th rounder went 245th to Chicago.
Dan Hamhuis, 1st rounder went 12th to Nashville.
Derek Boogaard, 7th rounder went 202nd to Minnesota.
Blair Betts, 2nd rounder went 33rd to Calgary.
Tyler Bouck, 2nd rounder went 57th to Dallas.
Trent Hunter, 5th rounder went 150th to Anaheim.
Eric Brewer, 1st rounder went 5th to NYI.
Joel Kwiatkowski, 8th rounder went 194th to Dallas.
Ronald Petrovicky, 9th rounder went 228th to Calgary.
Chris Mason, 5th rounder went 122nd to New Jersey.
Steve Passmore, 9th rounder went 196th to Quebec.
The Cougars haven’t won the league since 1981 and since they’ve missed the playoffs 12 times. They hold the distinction of being the worst junior team in history when they went 5-65-2 in 1989/1990.
Best NHL player: Grant Fuhr, 1st rounder went 8th to Edmonton in 1981.
RED DEER REBELS
Brandon Sutter, 1st rounder went 11th to Carolina.
Dion Phaneuf, 1st rounder went 9th to Calgary.
Colin Fraser, 3rd rounder went 69th to Philly.
Boyd Gordon, 1st rounder went 17th to Washington.
Cam Ward, 1st rounder went 25th to Carolina.
Derek Meech, 7th rounder went 229th to Detroit.
Colby Armstrong, 1st rounder went 21st to Pittsburgh.
Jeff Woywitka, 1st rounder went 27th to Philly.
Kyle Wanvig, 2nd rounder went 36th to Minnesota.
Stephen Peat, 2nd rounder went 32nd to Anaheim.
Mike Brown, 1st rounder went 20th to Florida.
Lance Ward, 1st rounder went 10th to New Jersey (He didn’t sign and went back in the draft and was chosen 63rd by Florida in 1998).
Jesse Wallin, 1st rounder went 26th to Detroit.
Darren Van Impe, 7th rounder went 170th to NYI.
In their short history the Rebels have produced some quality players, and will have another first rounder this year in Landon Ferraro.
Best NHL player: Tie, Dion Phaneuf and Cam Ward.
Colton Tuebert, 1st rounder went 13th to Los Angeles.
Jordan Eberle, 1st rounder went 22nd to Edmonton.
Josh Harding, 2nd rounder went 38th to Minnesota.
Barrett Jackman, 1st rounder went 17th to St. Louis
Brad Stuart, 1st rounder went 3rd to San Jose.
Kyle Calder, 5th rounder went 130th to Chicago
Josh Holden, 1st rounder went 12th to Vancouver.
Derek Morris, 1st rounder went 13th to Calgary.
Jeff Friesen, 1st rounder went 11th to San Jose.
Jason Smith, 1st rounder went 18th to New Jersey.
Jeff Shantz, 2nd rounder went 36th to Chicago.
Nathan Dempsey, 11th rounder went 245th to Toronto.
The Pats have produced seven 1st rounders in the past 20 years, with five being D-men. They’ve been pretty consistent making the playoffs 25 of the past 30 seasons. But they haven’t won the WHL title since 1980, and haven’t won the Memorial Cup since 1973.
Best NHL player: Clark Gillies — Hall of Famer was drafted 4th overall in 1973.
Colton Gillies, 1st rounder went 16th to Minnesota.
Devin Setoguchi, 1st rounder went 8th to San Jose.
Mike Green, 1st rounder went 29th to Washington.
Adrian Foster, 1st rounder went 28th to New Jersey.
Darcy Hordichuk, 5th rounder went 160th to Atlanta
Garnet Exelby, 8th rounder went 217th to Atlanta.
Cory Sarich, 2nd rounder went 27th to Buffalo.
Chris McAllister, 2nd rounder went 40th to Vancouver.
Clarke Wilm, 6th rounder went 150th to Calgary.
Wade Belak, 1st rounder went 12th to Quebec.
Rhett Warrener, 2nd rounder went 27th to Florida.
Norm Maracle, 5th rounder went 126th to Detroit.
Frank Banham, 6th rounder went 147th to Washington.
Richard Matvichuk, 1st rounder went 8th to Minnesota.
Scott Scissons, 1st rounder went 6th to NYI.
The Blades have produced a lot of serviceable players the past 20 years, but only Green and Setoguchi have shown any offensive prowess in the NHL. The Blades have lost the WHL final five times, but have never one a league championship. They have produced some of the toughest players ever in Tony Twist, Dave Brown, Joey Kocur, and Wendel Clark.
Best NHL player: Bernie Federko. Federko was drafted 7th overall in 1976, but two of his junior teammates went before him.
Blair Chapman went 2nd to Pittsburgh and Fred Williams went 4th to Detroit. Clearly the Blues made the best pick that year.
Thomas Hickey, 1st rounder went 4th to Los Angeles.
Steven Goertzen, 7th rounder went 225th to Columbus.
Shane Endicott, 2nd rounder went 52nd to Pittsburgh.
Oleg Saprykin, 1st rounder went 11th to Calgary.
Scott Kelman, 1st rounder went 15th to Phoenix.
Patrick Marleau, 1st rounder went 2nd to San Jose.
Jan Hrdina, 5th rounder went 128th to Pittsburgh.
Chris Wells, 1st rounder went 24th to Pittsburgh,
Deron Quint, 2nd rounder went 30th to Winnipeg.
Brendan Witt, 1st rounder went 11th to Washington.
Brent Bilodeau, 1st rounder went 17th to Montreal.
Petr Nedved, 1st rounder went 2nd to Vancouver.
Turner Stevenson, 1st rounder went 12th to Montreal.
Corey Schwab, 10th rounder went 200th to New Jersey.
They’ve had nine first rounders in the past 20 years, which ties them with Calgary for the second most. The Thunderbirds have had some big first round flops, Kelman, Bilodeau, and Wells and they are another long standing organization that hasn’t hoisted the WHL trophy. They’ve been in the league since 1971 and have made the final once in 1997.
Best NHL player: Tie, Petr Nedved or Patrick Marleau, both skilled players but guys who have soft reputations. Ken Daneyko with his Stanley Cup rings might get some votes.
Mitch Wahl, 2nd rounder went 48th to Calgary.
Michael Grabner, 1st rounder went 14th to Vancouver.
Kurt Sauer, 3rd rounder went 88th to Colorado.
Brad Ference, 1st rounder went 10th to Vancouver
Ty Jones, 1st rounder went 16th to Chicago.
Trent Whitfield, 4th rounder went 100th to Boston
Bryan Mccabe, 2nd rounder went 40th to NYI.
Valeri Bure, 2nd rounder went 33rd to Montreal.
Pat Falloon, 1st rounder went 2nd to San Jose.
Ray Whitney, 2nd rounder went 23rd to San Jose.
The Chiefs haven’t produced many NHL players, but as a team they’ve had lots of success since joining the league in 1982. They won two Memorial Cups, and are 2-2 in the WHL final. Jared Cowan will be a top-ten pick on Friday, and if the pundits are correct, he could end up being the best Chief to play in the NHL.
Best NHL player: Ray Whitney.
SWIFT CURRENT BRONCOS
Nathan Smith, 1st rounder went 23rd to Vancouver.
Brad Larsen, 4th rounder went 87th to Colorado.
Tyler Wright, 1st rounder went 12th to Edmonton.
Scott Allison, 1st rounder went 17th to Edmonton.
Geoff Sanderson, 2nd rounder went 36th to Hartford.
Kimbi Daniels, 3rd rounder went 44th to Philly.
The smallest franchise in all of Major Junior hockey doesn’t have a great track record in producing NHL players in the last 20 years.
Best NHL player: Joe Sakic, 1st rounder went 15th overall in 1987 to Quebec.
They haven’t produced a lot of players, but this past season was only the 2nd time they haven’t made the playoffs since 1973. They’ve won the WHL championship three times and won the Memorial Cup in 1989.
Chet Pickard, 1st rounder went 18th to Nashville.
Eric Mestery, 2nd rounder went 57th to Washington.
Carey Price, 1st rounder went 5th to Montreal.
Shawn Belle, 1st rounder went 30th to Dallas.
Scott Gomez, 1st rounder went 27th to New Jersey.
Dan Focht, 1st rounder went 11th to Phoenix.
Jaroslav Svejkovsky, 1st rounder went 17th to Washington
Daymond Langkow, 1st rounder went 5th to Tampa Bay
Terry Ryan, 1st rounder went 8th to Montreal.
Brian Boucher, 1st rounder went 22nd to Philly.
Sheldon Souray, 3rd rounder went 71st to New Jersey.
Jason Bowen, 1st rounder went 15th to Philly.
Vladimir Vujtek, 4th rounder went 73rd to Montreal.
Bill Lindsay, 5th rounder went 103rd to Quebec.
The Americans have been part of five different cities since their inception in 1966. They were in Calgary for 11 years before becoming the Billings Bighorns for five, and then they were in Nanaimo for one year, New Westminster for five, and have been in Tri-City since the ’88/89 season. They’ve had ten first rounders in the last 20 years, but only four have been regulars, Pickard is still a prospect.
Best NHL player: Olaf Kolzig, who is one of the owners along with Stu Barnes.
Jonathon Blum, 1st rounder went 27th to Nashville.
Milan Lucic, 2nd rounder went 50th to Boston.
Gilbert Brule, 1st rounder went 6th to Columbus.
Mark Fistric, 1st rounder went 28th to Dallas.
The Giants have only been around for eight seasons, but they’ve had a lot of success. They won the WHL in 2006, and then they lost the league final, but won the Memorial Cup as the host team in 2007. In a short time they’ve become a dominant franchise.
Best NHL player: Milan Lucic.
You wonder why teams like Spokane and Kootenay don’t have a lengthy list of players who go on to succeed in the NHL considering their success in the WHL. Yet a team like Tri-City develops 10 first-rounders in 20 years, but never comes close to winning a championship.
Will a player have more team success but less personal success in a certain WHL city? I’d like to think not, but it’s clear that certain franchises win more in the WHL, just not with NHL caliber players.