WHL’s top talent takes next step at NHL Draft

Three years after they composed five of the top six picks in the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft, promising prospects Tyler Benson, Sam Steel, Josh Anderson, Brett Howden and Kale Clague each heard their name called inside the opening three rounds of the 2016 NHL Draft in Buffalo.

The intriguing group of 1998-born talents has been at the top of their age class for several seasons now and NHL clubs have taken notice.

The one omission of course, is top 2017 NHL Draft prospect Nolan Patrick, a late 1998 birthday who was selected fourth overall by Brandon in 2013 and wasn’t eligible to be chosen in Buffalo.

The five standouts were part of a class of 34 WHL players selected by NHL clubs, with a player overlooked in the WHL Bantam Draft in Calgary Hitmen blueliner Jake Bean (Carolina Hurricanes) leading the charge at 13th overall before Howden, Johansen and Steel were also selected in the first round.

Howden, the fifth overall pick in 2013, was the first WHL forward off the board as the Moose Jaw Warrior was taken 27th overall by the Tampa Bay Lightning. The 18-year-old follows in the footsteps of his older brother Quinton, also a former Warrior who was taken by a Florida-based team, going 25th overall to the Panthers in 2010.

“I know he was feeling what I was feeling back when he got drafted,” the younger Howden said of his forerunner. “I could see the nerves in him, and I was pretty nervous as well so it’s pretty cool to be able to share this moment together.”

Kelowna Rockets defenceman Lucas Johansen followed suit one pick later, being selected 28th overall by the Washington Capitals. The younger brother of WHL graduate and Nashville Predators centreman Ryan Johansen has continued his steady development on a perennial contender in Kelowna. The 6’1″, 176Ib. Johansen registered 10 goals, 39 assists and 49 points in 69 games as a sophomore this past season.

Regina Pats centreman Sam Steel rounded out the first round at 30th to the Anaheim Ducks. Steel was the second overall pick in the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft and boosted his draft stock with a solid playoff showing, helping lead the Pats into the second round with six goals, 10 assists and 16 points in 12 contests.

“It was a long time sitting there,” said Steel, who was the final selection of Friday’s first round. “I’m just happy I was able to end the night this way.”

The WHL was at the forefront of Saturday’s second round as Vancouver Giants star Tyler Benson was taken 32nd overall by his hometown Edmonton Oilers. The first overall pick in 2013, Benson overcame adversity this past season, being limited to 30 games by a groin injury but managed to record nine goals, 19 assists and 28 points when healthy. The promising centreman grew up an Oilers fan.

“It’s a very special moment to be able to put this jersey on, the team I cheered for growing up,” Benson said with a smile. “To have my own name on it and be a part of the organization is a great moment.”

Benson was thankful for the Vancouver Giants, who have stood by him over the course of an up-and-down season.

“I have to thank the organization for what they’ve done for me,” he added. “The medical staff have really helped me heal and I’m ready to go now.”

After Saskatoon Blades defenceman Libor Hajek was taken by the Tampa Bay Lightning 37th overall and Everett Silvertips goaltender Carter Hart went to the Philadelphia Flyers at 48th, Brandon Wheat Kings blueliner Kale Clague, the sixth overall pick in 2013, was chosen by the Los Angeles Kings at 51st overall.

Clague, who overcame an injury-riddled rookie campaign, rebounded as a sophomore to help the Wheat Kings claim their first WHL title in 20 years with a strong playoff showing that included six goals, eight assists and 14 points in 21 games.

“It’s nerve-wracking,” said Clague following the selection. “You don’t really know where you’re going to end up, but when the 51st pick came around with Los Angeles they called my name and it’s a whirlwind.”

Josh Anderson, the third overall pick of the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft, was selected in the third round by the Colorado Avalanche with the 71st overall pick. The 6’3″, 210Ib. Prince George Cougars defenceman recorded a goal and five assists over 39 games in an injury-shortened season.

Other WHL players who were first round selections in the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft chosen in Buffalo include forward Dillon Dube of the Kelowna Rockets, selected in the second round (56th overall) by the Calgary Flames, winger Beck Malenstyn of the Calgary Hitmen, selected in the fifth round (145th overall) by the Philadelphia Flyers and defenceman David Quenneville of the Medicine Hat Tigers who was selected in the seventh round (200th overall) by the New York Islanders.

The 34 players selected continues a productive run by the WHL at the NHL Draft, producing at least 30 selections for the 10th straight year dating back to 2007.


WHL Players Selected in the 2016 NHL Draft:

(Click on a player to watch post-draft interview) 

First Round (4 WHL Players):
13. Jake Bean (Calgary Hitmen) – Carolina Hurricanes
27. Brett Howden (Moose Jaw Warriors) – Tampa Bay Lightning
28. Lucas Johansen (Kelowna Rockets) – Washington Capitals
30. Sam Steel (Regina Pats) – Anaheim Ducks

Second Round (5 WHL Players):
32. Tyler Benson (Vancouver Giants) – Edmonton Oilers
37. Libor Hajek (Saskatoon Blades) – Tampa Bay Lightning
48. Carter Hart (Everett Silvertips) – Philadelphia Flyers
51. Kale Clague (Brandon Wheat Kings) – Los Angeles Kings
56. Dillon Dube (Kelowna Rockets) – Calgary Flames

Third Round (6 WHL Players):
71. Josh Anderson (Prince George Cougars) – Colorado Avalanche
74. Hudson Elynuik (Spokane Chiefs) – Carolina Hurricanes
82. Carsen Twarynski (Calgary Hitmen) – Philadelphia Flyers
85. Josh Mahura (Red Deer Rebels) – Anaheim Ducks
87. Garrett Pilon (Kamloops Blazers) – Washington Capitals
88. Connor Ingram (Kamloops Blazers) – Tampa Bay Lightning

Fourth Round (3 WHL Players):
92. Adam Brooks (Regina Pats) – Toronto Maple Leafs
111. Noah Gregor (Moose Jaw Warriors) – San Jose Sharks
119. Tanner Kaspick (Brandon Wheat Kings) – St. Louis Blues

Fifth Round (6 CHL Players):
122. Vladimir Bobylev (Victoria Royals) – Toronto Maple Leafs
127. Jordy Stallard (Calgary Hitmen) – Winnipeg Jets
130. Vojtech Budik (Prince Albert Raiders) – Buffalo Sabres
133. Max Lajoie (Swift Current Broncos) – Ottawa Senators
144. Conner Bleackley (Red Deer Rebels) – St. Louis Blues
145. Beck Malenstyn (Calgary Hitmen) – Washington Capitals

Sixth Round (4 WHL Players):
152. Jack Walker (Victoria Royals) – Toronto Maple Leafs
154. Jakob Stukel (Calgary Hitmen) – Vancouver Canucks
159. Brandon Hagel (Red Deer Rebels) – Buffalo Sabres
166. Matthew Phillips (Victoria Royals) – Calgary Flames

Seventh Round (6 WHL Players):
184. Rodrigo Abols (Portland Winterhawks) – Vancouver Canucks
185. Calvin Thurkauf (Kelowna Rockets) – Columbus Blue Jackets
200. David Quenneville (Medicine Hat Tigers) – New York Islanders
201. Ty Ronning (Vancouver Giants) – New York Rangers
204. Brayden Chizen (Kelowna Rockets) – Minnesota Wild
205. Tyler Soy (Victoria Royals) – Anaheim Ducks

For full results from the 2016 NHL Draft visit

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