2022 NHL Draft: WHL Players to Watch
The Western Hockey League (WHL) is set to kick off their first full-season in two years after playing limited games due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. This year is looking to be an exciting year for hockey in the WHL, particularly for some members of the 2021 NHL Draft class.
Here are the five prospects in the WHL to watch this season (in alphabetical order):
Keaton Dowhaniuk, D, Prince George Cougars (WHL)
One player to keep an eye on is Prince George Cougars defender Keaton Dowhaniuk. The six-foot, 154-pound defender saw just 22 games of action last season in what was a shortened 25 game season for the WHL’s BC Division. He recorded eight points (three goals, five assists) in 22 games and was a key contributor to the Cougars defense where he averaged 19:87 of ice time per game.
While he weighs just 154 pounds, Dowhaniuk is a physical player who is not afraid to sacrifice the body to stop a rush.
“Expectations will be high for Dowhaniuk this season, given his high draft status, and with how long Prince George has been struggling for there will be some pressure as well. There are some intriguing tools at his disposal, as he seems like a well-rounded guy who could log a lot of minutes and contribute in all three zones,” FCHockey head Western scout Derek Neumeier said. ” However, I found him to be a little too passive in his rookie season, so I’d like to see him step up and be a difference-maker in more of his shifts.”
The fluent skating and mobile defenseman will return to the Cougars this season and will take on a bigger role, he has all the traits to be a first-round selection at the 2022 draft.
Conor Geekie, C, Winnipeg Ice (WHL)
Conor Geekie, a 6-foot-4 center on the Winnipeg Ice, is another player to keep an eye on. He comes from a family with a history in hockey; his father Craig played three seasons in the WHL with the Brandon Wheat Kings and Spokane Chiefs in the 1990’s.
His brother, Morgan Geekie, played three seasons with the Tri-City Americans before being selected in the third round of the 2017 NHL Draft by the Carolina Hurricanes and is now with the expansion Seattle Kraken.
Last season, Geekie split his time between the Virden Oil Capitals of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League (MJHL) and Winnipeg. During his nine games with the Oil Capitals, he registered four points (one goal, three assists). A return to play protocol was then announced by the WHL in April of 2021, prompting him to return to the ice. Geekie finished the season with an impressive 23 points (nine goals, 14 assists) in 24 games despite a shortened season.
“Geekie is an offensive-leaning power center who leveraged his combination of size and skill to make a difference in this game against Regina from start to finish. This was my first viewing of him, and what stood out all game was his dominant puck control ability,” FCHockey crossover scout Brandon Holmes said. “With the puck on his stick, Geekie consistently used his frame to his advantage by using his body and reach to shield pucks from defenders and extend puck possession deep in the offensive zone. His skill in tight and around his feet was also quite good as well, allowing him to stickhandle in tight spaces and open space in the offensive zone.”
The strong power-forward will return to Winnipeg where he hopes to have an impact season alongside fellow top-prospect Matthew Savoie. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Geekie selected in the top-10
Mats Lindgren, D, Kamloops Blazers (WHL)
Mats Lindgren is the son of Mats Lindgren — a former Swedish NHLer. The Kamloops Blazers drafted the former Burnaby Winter Club star No. 7 overall in the 2019 WHL Bantam Draft and he made his debut in 2019-20 playing in four games. This past season, he played for the Chicago Cougars of the United States Premier Hockey League (USPHL) and scored 11 points (two goals, nine assists) 10 games.
When the B.C. Lindgren returned to the Blazers in April. He recorded 10 points (one goal, nine assists) in 22 games for the Blazers.
“Lindgren has that ability to draw in pressure and evade through creativity of his edgework,” FCHockey regional scout Joel Henderson said. “He shows a high-end understanding of transition passing and puck protection which makes him one of the highest potential defensemen available from the WHL for the 2022 Draft.”
The 5-foot-10 offensive-defenseman will return to the Blazers this season where he will take on an even larger role within the lineup. Lindgren could very well be a first-round selection in the 2022 draft.
Matthew Savoie, C, Winnipeg Ice (WHL)
Matthew Savoie is the Western Hockey League’s top prospect. With uncertainty surrounding the WHL season, the St. Albert, AB product played four games with the Sherwood Park Crusaders of the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL) where he recorded six points (three goals, three assists). After that short stint, Savoie found himself south of the border playing for the Dubuque Fighting Saints of the United States Hockey League (USHL).
Savoie posted 38 points (21 goals, 17 assists) in 34 games with the Fighting Saints and was named to the USHL All-Rookie Team.
He returns to the WHL this season and will be a top forward for the Ice alongside Geekie.
“He’s a chameleon on offense, one shift he’s an elite playmaker who finds his teammates with ease, on the next he’s a power forward using his skating a body to bulldoze through defenders and cut to the net” FCHockey scout Austin Broad said.”He’s a multi-dimensional offensive threat that adapts and changes his method of attack every time he touches the puck. ”
Savoie looks to make a major impact this season and is already projected to be one of the league’s leading scorers.
Mathew Ward, C, Swift Current Broncos (WHL)
Mathew Ward made his WHL debut last season with the Swift Current Broncos where he recorded 22 points (six goals, 16 assists) in 23 games — an impressive start to his rookie-campaign. He is a highly skilled, and flashy forward who possesses a never quit attitude.
While he is a smaller player standing just 5-foot-7, Ward does not let his size affect him and instead uses it to his advantage to fly past players and use evasive moves to get around defenders.
“A skilled offensive forward who plays with a lot of quickness, smarts and determination, it took Ward almost no time at all to become one of the most impactful players on the Broncos. He’s certainly on the smaller side, but he does the things that you want guys his size to do, such as pushing the pace and playing with confidence. He’s going to have a really big role this season in Swift Current and I could easily see him excelling in it.” Neumeier said.
Ward will return to Swift Current for what will be his second WHL season. We will see if he can replicate his point production from last year, and continue to impress NHL scouts.