When it comes to the top WHL rookies there are a number of young hot prospects, but you might be surprised that some of them aren't this list. Guys Like Martin Marincin of Prince George. The Oilers 2010 2nd round pick has 15 points in 13 games so far. Tyler Pitlick, also an Oiler draft pick who joined Medicine Hat after a year in the NCAA, won't be on it either. I don't think an NHL drafted player - or any player who is past their draft year - should be eligible for the Jim Piggott Memorial trophy for the loops top freshman. Instead here are some of the top players eligible for the 2011, 2012 or even 2013 NHL drafts learning their craft in the Western Hockey League.
5. Hunter Shinkaruk - Medicine Hat (1-4-9 - 9 GP)
His numbers won't scream at you, as his 9 points are just enough to keep Shinkaruk inside the top 20 when it comes to rookies, but keep in mind he just turned 16 thirteen days ago. The small skilled forward isn't eligible for the NHL draft until 2013!!! I watched him help dismantle the Oil Kings a couple of weeks ago when he notched 3 points, and he didn't look like a kid who just turned 16 two days before the game. Shinkaruk has speed and a nose for the net. He caught our attention in the pre season tournament in St. Albert and still has it. We'll be watching him closely, for the next 3 years.
4. Jesse Pauls - Chilliwack (1-8-9 - 10 GP)
The only dman on the list, Pauls has been impressive at times for the Bruins, but also has appeared to struggle, as his minus 3 rating vs Prince Albert this month might indicate. He's -4 overall, but near point per game production. Pauls isn't the biggest rearguard at just 5'09, but I'm told he has high end skill and plays a smart game. Oozes confidence. I'm looking forward to seeing that in person Wednesday night When the Bruins face the Oil Kings. I'm sure Pauls' name will come up tonight when we speak with Chilliwack play by play man Randy Merkley on The Pipeline Show at 8:45 pm mst. 2012 NHL draft.
3. Troy Bourke - Prince George (4-5-9- 12 GP)
Bourke was my pick for western conference rookie of the year and he hasn't disappointed his followers yet. When PG rolled through town I saw a speedy smart player who played with composure of an 18 year old rather then a 16 year old. He was playing with Brett Connolly earlier in the season, but with all the changes PG has made this year he was bumped when Taylor Stefishen showed up from Ohio State. This is a good and bad situation for Bourke. He doesn't get to play with Connolly, so that's bad, but he gets the better match up when it comes to opposing defenceman, so that's good. 2012 NHL draft.
2. Marek Tvrdon- Vancouver (6-5-11- 12 GP)
He's doesn't get as much hype as countryman Thomas Jurco, but this Slovakian winger is making scouts look twice. Tvrdon busted out of the gate with 3 points in his first contest and 5 in his first 4. He has nice size at 6.02, 212 pounds, but from scouts I've talked to might not get around the ice as smooth as some others. That could be ironed out as the season goes on and Tvrdon gets more and more comfortable with the league. 2011 NHL draft.
1. Sven Bartschi- Portland (9-11-20-13 GP)
Did you know who Nino Niederreitter was at this time last year? Niederreitter was ranked behind Brett Connolly, Mark Pysyk, Alex Petrovic, Emerson Etem and Troy Rutkowski when Central Scouting produced their 2009 fall list. This year there is another Swiss that the rankings have missed. Bartschi was the 7th overall pick in the CHL import draft and the Hawks are flying high with the 5.10, 185 pound winger. Batschi leads all WHL rookies in scoring with 20 points in just 13 games, 9 of those points are goals, which also is the best for freshman. The impressive numbers shouldn't be to shocking as he lit the lamp 4 times in a pre season game. He doesn't have Nino's size or apparently his mean streak but he could mimic Niederreitter and turn heads at the 2011 World Junior Championship in Buffalo. 2011 draft.