Saturday, 26 June 2010

WHL Has Seven Players Selected in First Round

The Western Hockey League is proud to announce that seven WHL players were selected in the first round of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft this evening at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Ryan Johansen, Nino Niederreiter, Brett Connolly, Dylan McIlrath, Mark Pysyk, Quinton Howden and Emerson Etem all had their names announced during the first round proceedings.

“The WHL pleased to once again this year serve as a leading supplier of player talent to the NHL,” commented WHL Commissioner Ron Robison, “The NHL Entry draft clearly indicates what an outstanding job our WHL clubs do in developing young talent.”

Portland Winterhawks forward Ryan Johansen became the first WHL player selected in the first round of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft when the Columbus Blue Jackets used the 4th overall selection to pick the 17-year-old Port Moody, B.C. product this evening in Los Angeles at the Staples Center. Johansen joined the Winterhawks for the 2009-10 season and played a huge role in the revival of the Portland franchise. A big-bodied center, Johansen is an elite-level playmaker with great vision, great hands and terrific passing skills. His big frame and long arms enable him to protect the puck extremely well, and his ability to change pace makes him an elusive player for defensemen to corral. His intelligence and vision make him particularly effective on the power play. The former 7th-round WHL Bantam Draft pick also has the puckhandling skills and soft hands to beat defenders one-on-one, and a strong and accurate shot to make him a scoring threat.

Nino Niederreiter, also of the Portland Winterhawks, was chosen immediately after Johansen as the New York Islanders used the 5th overall pick to take the Swiss forward. Coming over to the Winterhawks after playing for the Davos U-20 squad last year, Niederreiter has shown a strong combination of talent and grit, making his transition to the North American style of game rather seamless. He plays with a physical edge and doesn’t shy away from the tough areas of the ice. Shifty, skilled and possessing decent speed and skating, Niederreiter boasts good offensive instincts and a soft touch around the net that makes him a threat to score. He enjoys handling the puck, and usually creates scoring opportunities when the puck is on his stick in the offensive zone. Niederreiter has also shown he is a solid team player whose personality allows him to gel easily with teammates. A fan favorite in Portland, Niederrieter’s energetic and enthusiastic game is exciting to watch.

The Tampa Bay Lightning used their 6th overall pick to select Prince George native Brett Connolly, marking the third straight WHL player named. A dynamic and multi-tooled offensive star, Connolly is a player who can do it all in the offensive zone. He boasts terrific top-end speed and good agility to make him difficult to contain. His puckhandling skills are strong, and he can make plays at a high pace. An accurate shot, which he can get off in a hurry, makes him a threat to score from many different areas of the ice. Perhaps his best asset is his outstanding hockey sense. Connolly’s ability to read and anticipate plays helps him find holes and get into great scoring position. As offensively gifted as Connolly is, he’s also very responsible and aware in the defensive zone. The 2009 WHL and CHL Rookie of the Year, Connolly is the type of player who undoubtedly makes his teammates better.

The Moose Jaw Warriors Dylan McIlrath was the fourth WHL player selected in the top 10, as the New York Rangers used their 10th overall selection on the bruising defenceman. The native of Winnipeg, MB is a physical force for the Warriors, racking up over 271 penalty minutes in his first two seasons in the WHL, including 19 fighting majors in 2009-10. His offensive production picked up in the second half of the season, tallying 16 of his 24 points in 2010. McIlrath covers the ice well for a big player with his long reach keeping attackers at bay and his penchant for nastiness in his own end can help goaltenders to see the puck well. In 65 games for the Warriors this past year, he scored 7 goals and adding 17 assists for 24 points. He posted a +20 rating for the season while amassing 169 penalty minutes. In 7 playoff games for the Warriors, McIlrath notched 1 assist. He also played for Team Orr at the 2010 CHL Top Prospects Game, getting into a spirited battle with Team Cherry and Red Deer Rebels’ Alexander Petrovic.

Sherwood Park, AB native Mark Pysyk of the Edmonton Oil Kings was selected 23rd overall by the Buffalo Sabres. The Edmonton Oil Kings’ first ever WHL Bantam Draft selection, Pysyk has proved himself to be a strong two-way defenseman who eats up a lot of minutes and plays in all key situations for his team. The 6’1”, 174-lb blue liner is best known for his tremendous skating ability. A powerful and fluid skater, Pysyk boasts the quickness and agility to effectively skate the puck up ice and to keep himself in good defensive position. Pysyk also possesses good vision and awareness, and has a knack for making a solid first pass. Although not the most offensive-minded defenseman, Pysyk’s intelligence, hockey sense and passing ability make him a threat on the power play, and his skating enables him to join the rush when he sees the opportunity. While he may not be the most physical rearguard, Pysyk is a reliable presence in his own zone due to his excellent skating ability, awareness, positioning and his ability to make smart decisions with the puck.

Quinton Howden marks the second Moose Jaw Warrior selected in the first round when the Florida Panthers drafted the forward 25th overall. The Oak Bank, MB native arrived on the scene of the Western Hockey League with extremely high expectations after being the first overall pick in the WHL Bantam Draft in 2007. Howden covers the ice well with an almost effortless-looking stride. A versatile, skilled forward, he can be effective in the faceoff circle. In 65 games for the Warriors during the 2009-10 season, Howden scored 23 goals and added 37 assists for 65 points. He finished the season with a +14 rating and 44 penalty minutes. In two WHL playoff games he picked up 2 assists. Howden also played for Team Orr at the 2010 CHL Top Prospects Game.

Long Beach, California native and Medicine Hat Tiger Emerson Etem rounded out the WHL’s seven picks in the first round when the Anaheim Ducks selected the speedster 29th overall. The latest in an ever-growing list of elite prospects coming from California, Etem made a seamless transition to the WHL after spending the 2008-09 campaign with the U.S. National Under-17 team. Etem has proven to be an offensive force in his first WHL season, showing a natural goal-scoring ability, goodhands and a quick and accurate shot. His size and athleticism make him very difficult to contain and allow him to protect the puck extremely well. In addition, Etem boasts good hockey sense and vision that enable him get into good spots on the ice. Etem’s biggest asset, however, is his tremendous skating ability and his blazing speed. An exciting player to watch, Etem uses his speed to create dangerous chances off the rush, drive to the net, and put defenders on their heels. With his high-end puckhandling skills, Etem can make plays and get his shot off at a high pace. A highly coachable player, Etem is always looking to improve and consistently puts forth a strong effort.

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