Offense reigns supreme in the WHL

TSR Features | 30 Mar 2012

Brendan Shinimin's impressive season landed him an NHL entry-level contract with the Phoenix Coyotes.

The 2011-12 WHL season saw the league’s highest scoring player since Pavel Brendl scored 134 points for the Calgary Hitmen in the 1998-99 season. In a league that has been known more for defensive play in recent years, this season will either stand out as an anomaly, or as a trend – in fact, in each of the last three years, the WHL’s leading scorer has surpassed the previous year’s leader.

This season, there were eight players who surpassed the 100 point plateau; and another four that ended the season with more than 90 points. Included in that group was Portland’s Sven Bartschi, who scored a whopping 33 goals and 94 points in only 47 games – good for a two point per game average. Here’s a breakdown of each player’s output, as well as a brief look at what the road may look like in the future.

1. Brendan Shinnimin, C – Tri City Americans

(Signed as FA with Phoenix Coyotes)

Coming into the season, there was no doubt that Brendan Shinnimin would be amongst the leading scorers from the start. Shinnimin’s 58 goals and 76 assists paced the Americans to their fourth US Division title in 5 years, also earning the Bob Clarke trophy as the league’s top scorer. The smallish Shinnimin also continued to prove a willingness to compete in the rough and tumble WHL by adding 82 penalty minutes, good for fifth on his team. With above average playmaking skills, good speed, excellent hockey smarts, and a high compete level, Shinnimin should adjust fairly smoothly to the AHL next season. Getting stronger has to be a major point of focus for Shinnimin, however if he can bring his scoring tough to the next level, he should certainly be on the fast track to success in the pro ranks.

2. Mark Stone, C – Brandon Wheat Kings

(Ottawa Senators, 6th round, 2010)

Mark Stone of the Brandon Wheat Kings is another player who had high expectations to start the year. Stone went on to lead the Wheat Kings in assists, points, and plus minus; and also made an appearance for Team Canada at the 2012 World Junior Championships, scoring 10 points (fourth in the tournament), including 7 goals, while leading Canada to a bronze medal. Though Stone could stand to add some bulk before moving on to the pro game, he does have a big frame with which to work. He’s an excellent playmaker, able to thread passes to his teammates from just about any angle, and is a very good shooter. He does a good job of finding space for himself and getting the puck on and off of his stick very quickly. Should Stone be able to improve his foot speed, he will have all of the tools to be a very good prospect with middle-six potential at the NHL level.

3. Ty Rattie, RW – Portland Winterhawks

(St. Louis, 2nd round, 2011)

Any concerns the Portland Winterhawks had about their offense coming into the season were quickly answered by the lethal combination of Ty Rattie and Sven Bartschi. After losing three of their top five scorers in 2010-11 to the pro ranks, the duo quickly revved up their game and led the Winterhawks to a second place finish in their division. Rattie showed an improved willingness to go to the hard areas and make plays, while continuing to use his speed and great offensive instincts to earn himself quality scoring chances. Rattie was seemingly dangerous every time he was on the ice, and his deadly shooting and timely playmaking were the prime reasons. Rattie will have to continue to get stronger, and will also need to improve his two-way play to become a more complete player. As it stands, Rattie should be an early front runner for next year’s scoring title in the WHL, where he will likely spend the season while he continues to develop into a top prospect for the St. Louis Blues.

4. Adam Hughesman, LW – Tri City Americans

(NHL Free Agent)

Adam Hughesman improved his points totals in each of his five years in the WHL, this season coming in at 4th in the entire league in scoring. Hughesman is a very good complimentary winger with a quick release and strong offensive instincts. Though he doesn’t have a lot of size or toughness to his game, he has proven a durable, reliable player throughout his WHL tenure, finishing with 350 points in 338 career regular season games, as well as an impressive +121 career rating. Whether or not he has the upside to play in the pros is debatable, particularly when he remains an unsigned free agent, but he should attract some AHL interest for next year.

5. Jordan Weal, C – Regina Pats

(LA Kings, 3rd round, 2010)

When Jordan Weal was available with the 70th pick in the 2010 draft, the Kings had to be ecstatic. Thought to be a possible late first round pick (TSR had him at #23 overall), Weal had already scored 172 points through two WHL seasons and certainly looked capable of following in the footsteps of then-teammate Jordan Eberle. Weal has been a prolific scorer throughout his junior career – posting two 100+ point seasons – scoring 385 points in only 282 games. The smallish forward is a quick, deceptive skater, and he has above average offensive instincts. He gets to open areas and finds teammates with perfectly timed passes, and has a great sense of where everyone is on the ice. Size will be a big concern for Weal moving forward, as well as some questions about his two-way play – something he certainly improved upon as he grew into a more mature junior player. Weal has already moved on to play with the Manchester Monarchs of the AHL, where he will likely spend next season.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this feature, analyzing the 6-10 top scorers in the WHL this season.

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