November 5, 2022

Bedard not alone when it comes to interesting draft talent from the WHL

With great hype comes great expectations and Connor Bedard, the consensus No. 1 prospect for the 2023 NHL Draft, certainly has had both placed upon him well before entering the 2022-23 season.

Bedard, who has started the season with 29 points (13 goals, 16 assists) with the Regina Pats, is unquestionably the most-watched prospect in this year’s class. Certainly the Western Hockey League, to say the least.

And he’s delivered on those early expectations.

“Bedard is the easy answer as the presumptive No. 1 pick has already gotten off to a torrid start to the season,” FCHockey’s chief Western scout Donesh Mazloum said.

“His shot creation is second to none. He has an unimpeachable ability to get the puck on net and can score from anywhere on the ice. Every defender on the ice knows how deadly and dangerous his shot is and yet he still finds a way to delay, bait, and give/go around coverage to gain space for his release.”

Bedard isn’t alone, though. He’s got plenty of company on the ‘expected-to-do-good-things’ front from the WHL.

Cue Zachary Benson, No. 6 in FCHockey’s ranking for the 2023 draft.

“I’ll also mention Benson as a player I am expecting big things out of this year,” Mazloum said. “I was lucky enough to go to both the Hlinka Gretzky tournament and Team Canada’s selection camp and Benson was the most consistent forward throughout.

“He has a true knack for getting the most out of his linemates and Winnipeg has a myriad of offensive weapons surrounding him. I think Benson could really chisel his name into the top handful of picks with a big season and deep playoff run.”

Here is Mazloum’s take on the draft class set to come out of the Western Hockey League:

Who are you personally looking forward most to scouting this season?

It’s tough to choose just one as this is likely one of the strongest draft eligible groups out of the WHL in years, and there are a host of players to choose from. Push comes to shove, I’ll go with Andrew Cristall simply for the fun factor he brings to the game. He is one of the slickest puckhandlers and clever passers available in the draft and his creativity is second to none. Every game he creates a handful of ‘wow’ moments and he’s usually worth the price of admission alone.

Who is your sleeper pick as the biggest riser from the WHL?

If you’re looking for sleeper picks, take your eyes out west and catch a Seattle Thunderbirds game. I think both Gracyn Sawchyn and Nico Myatovic fit the bill as guys who are flying under the radar as we enter the WHL season. Myatovic’s numbers last season don’t jump off the page, but he steadily improved throughout the season and was an absolute force in Seattle’s surprise run to the WHL final. Sawchyn was the fourth-leading scorer for the USNDP U17 Team last year so while he’s new to Canadian fans, he comes up north with a host of skill and potential.

Who do you see being the toughest prospect to gauge from your region?

The name that immediately comes to mind is Tri-City defender Lukas Dragicevic. He brings with him high pedigree, solid production, and NHL size however his skating and play reading leave a lot to be desired. He made Team Canada as an underage player for the U18 World Championship last spring and yet was left home for the U18 Hlinka Gretzky tournament this summer. He is sure to be a polarizing player all year and it will be tough to lock down exactly what type of player he can be at the professional level.

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