Year in and year out, the WHL has produced some of the show’s biggest and baddest skaters- many outside the first round. Shea Weber, Milan Lucic, Dustin Byfuglien… the list goes on and on. Who in the 2010 class is a possible second-day surprise?
D Alex Petrovic (Red Deer Rebels)
Ht/Wt: 6’4, 193 lbs
2009-10: 26 GP, 4-10-14, -1, 39 PIM
Alex Petrovic isn’t the nastiest player on this list, or the best skater, or the best with the puck. But his mix of size, sound defensive awareness and steadfast dedication to team play scream safe pick.
The best evidence of this is comes from the month of October, which Petrovic missed the entirety of thanks to a bad back. During that time the Rebels went 6-6-0 and had a goal differential of -16 (38 GF/54 GA). In total, they allowed 4.5 goals per game. With him in the lineup, Red Deer has an average GF per game of 2.5!
Petrovic is also an important dressing room presence, and as such is as close to a franchise defender as it gets in the WHL. While he might not reach those lofty heights in the best league in the world, he has the will- if not the ability- to be another Matt Greene or Jason Smith.
Statistically, Petrovic actually compares quite nicely with Smith:
Smith 17/18- 0.61 PPG, 2.7 PIMPG
Petrovic 17/18- 0.54 PPG, 1.5 PIMPG
D Dylan McIlrath (Moose Jaw Warriors)
Ht/Wt: 6’5, 215 lbs
2009-10: 38 GP, 2-9-11, +18, 118 PIM
The exact kind of player you wish the WHL would produce every year, Dylan McIlrath is a ton of fun to watch. Remember Milan Lucic’s dominant Memorial Cup performance? McIlrath can do that from the blueline. Watching the 6’4 rearguard run down two or three forecheckers by himself is like a kung fu movie- you expect that the others will jump in help, but before they can, the nasty rearguard has put them on their rear-end and cleared the puck.
McIlrath is a wild stallion at this point. His base hockey skills- surprisingly agile, quick feet and hard, crisp passes that almost always find there way north- get overshadowed by his style, but he wouldn’t be a +18 if he ran around recklessly. Oh, did we mention he’s also a great fighter?
Nevertheless, he doesn’t get to touch the puck as much as one would like in the offensive zone. If McIlrath can find a balance between playing his position and moving the puck, he could be the most feared defender in the league since Dion Phaneuf.
D Joey Leach (Kootenay Ice)
Ht/Wt: 6’4, 184 lbs
2009-10: 40 GP, 2-11-13, +16, 42 PIM
Typically, larger players earn t