6. Patrick Holland, RW – Tri City Americans
(Calgary Flames, 7th round, 2010 (since traded to MTL))
An often overlooked piece in the offensive juggernaut that is the Tri City Americans, Patrick Holland very well may have the most NHL upside out of any forward on the team. After only one year of junior hockey, the Calgary Flames used a late round pick to land the highly skilled forward who has since gone on to become one of the most exciting players in the WHL. Holland is a smooth player with sneaky, quick hands, and great playmaking sense. He plays the blueline on the power play, effectively quarterbacking what became the league’s most explosive offense. He has a quick release and a shot that gets through traffic with precision. Already signed to his first professional contract, Holland should start next season in the AHL.
7. Emerson Etem, RW – Medicine Hat Tigers
(Anaheim Ducks, 1st round, 2010)
Emerson Etem’s 19-year-old season in the WHL is one that will long be remembered as he became the first player since Layne Ulmer in 2001 to top 60 goals – and the first since Pavel Brendl in 1998 to score 50 goals in 50 games. The biggest knock on Etem heading into the 2010 draft was his skating – something he has quickly proved to actually be an asset. Though his style isn’t textbook, Etem gets where he’s going in a hurry, and has great hands and a lethal shot to finish when he gets there. Etem was without a doubt the league’s premier goal scorer this year, and has scored 143 goals in only 202 career regular season games. Etem projects as a potential first line winger at the NHL level, and has to be considered one of the top goal scoring prospects in the world. Etem will have to get stronger, and will have to score goals to be fully effective, but he certainly has the skill and compete level that teams love to have in their system.
8. Michael St. Croix, C – Edmonton Oil Kings
(NY Rangers, 4th round, 2011)
With an improving young team in Edmonton, Michael St. Croix improved his point totals from 2010-11 by a full 30 points, while displaying improved two-way play and good leadership capabilities. The results in Edmonton were immediate, as the team won the WHL’s Scotty Munro trophy with the league’s best record. St. Croix played in all 72 games for the Oil Kings, and led the team in scoring by 25 points while also finishing the season with a +40 rating – second best on the team. St. Croix is a smooth offensive player, with good hands in tight and very good timing. He’s a good passer with a very accurate shot, and is willing to go to the hard areas to compete and make plays. Size and strength will be a bit of a concern going forward, but at only 18 years of age, St. Croix will still have at least one more year of WHL hockey to improve in this area. St. Croix will certainly be considered a contender for the league’s scoring title in 2012-13, as the Oil Kings will retain many of their key pieces heading into next year, with St. Croix looking to lead the way once again.
9. Michael Ferland, LW – Brandon Wheat Kings
(Calgary Flames, 5th round, 2010)
Spending his season flanking Mark Stone on the top line for the Wheaties certainly didn’t hurt Ferland’s stock this year, as he finished just inside the top-10 in the league in scoring. Ferland proved to be a burden for WHL defensemen this year, as the big-bodied forward effectively used his pro frame to battle his way to the front of the net for scoring opportunities. Ferland has good hands in tight and a quick release that allowed him to score 47 goals this year. Ferland also competes hard in the defensive zone, and continued to be a willing pugilist when he was called upon to drop the gloves. Ferland will look to the AHL after his season is over, where he will have to improve upon his skating in order to make it to the next level.
10. Sven Bartschi, LW – Portland Winterhawks
(Calgary Flames, 1st round, 2011)
After making the jump to North America and the WHL as an 18 year old, Sven Bartschi burst onto the scene with the Portland Winterhawks, en route to being selected in the first round of the 2011 draft by the Calgary Flames. This year, Bartschi continued to show his impressive offensive game. Despite some injury woes, Bartschi absolutely tore up the WHL alongside Ty Rattie, showcasing his excellent hands and timely passing to create arguably the league’s deadliest duo. Bartschi plays every shift at a high speed, and despite his small frame, goes to the hard areas on the ice. He has a very underrated shot that he gets off in a hurry, and competes on a high level whenever he’s called upon. Bartschi could start next season with the Calgary Flames, however it is possible that he starts off in the AHL – either way, Bartschi has well above average offensive instincts, and definitely projects as a potential top-6 NHL forward.