The WHL regular season is less than one week old, but the NHL Draft-eligible players hoping to hear their names called in Nashville next June are already getting considerable attention.
In an article published to TSN.ca Thursday, TSN Director of Scouting Craig Button pinned nine WHL players as potential first-round selections for the 2023 NHL Draft in his pre-season Craig’s List Top-30 rankings.
Regina Pats captain Connor Bedard comes in at number one, with East Division rivals Brayden Yager (Moose Jaw Warriors) and Zachary Benson (Winnipeg ICE) at numbers five and nine, respectively.
“I think that he changes the fortunes of a franchise for the better,” said Button of Bedard, who put up 51 goals and 100 points for the Pats in 2021-22 as a 16-year-old. “I don’t see another player in his class.”
Brandon Wheat Kings co-captain Nate Danielson checks in at number 20, just ahead of Prince George’s Riley Heidt (21) and Kelowna’s Andrew Cristall (22).
Heidt’s Cougars teammate Koehn Ziemmer follows shortly thereafter at number 24 along with Red Deer Rebels forward Kalan Lind (25) and Rockets defenceman Caden Price (26).
Bedard kick-started his 2022-23 campaign by winning a gold medal with Canada at the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship in Edmonton.
Six of the other eight WHL players mentioned in Button’s list (Yager, Benson, Heidt, Cristall, Lind and Price) were on the Canadian squad that captured a gold medal at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup in Red Deer this past August.
TSN’s digital coverage of the WHL begins Thursday when Bedard and the Pats visit the defending WHL Champion Edmonton Oil Kings. TSN subscribers will be able to watch the game as part of their streaming package at TSN.ca.