Class of 2005 continues to soar
A casual glance on social media would lead one to believe that this year’s Western Hockey League 16-year-old class is indeed special. Highlight-reel goals, nifty setups, and plenty of national attention despite the fact the members of the Class of 2005 won’t hear their names called at the NHL Draft until next year, at the earliest.
The statistics don’t lie, either. This year’s 16-year-old class is producing offensively at levels the Western Hockey League hasn’t seen in close to 40 years.
Prince George Cougars forward Riley Heidt became the sixth 16-year-old skater to reach the 50-point mark this past weekend, marking the first time the WHL has had a half-dozen 50-point 16-year-olds since the 1984-85 season.
Here’s a look at those six players, whose contributions to their WHL Clubs this season only scratch the surface of what we’ve seen this season from the Class of 2005.
Connor Bedard, Regina Pats (84 points in 53 GP)
The headlining member of the Class of 2005 has been sensational for the Pats this season, rocketing up to fifth place among WHL scorers with 84 points (43G-41A). Bedard, who hails from North Vancouver, B.C., suited up for Canada at the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship as a 16-year-old, and is certain to again when the tournament gets reset in Alberta this summer. Bedard’s 30 goals and 60 points since January 1 are the most of anyone in the WHL.
CONNOR BEDARD ARE YOU FOR REAL? 🤯
— NHL (@NHL) February 7, 2022
Tanner Howe, Regina Pats (61 points in 55 GP)
Prince Albert, Saskatchewan’s Tanner Howe is not eligible for the NHL Draft until 2024, but that hasn’t stopped him from making an immediate impression for the Regina Pats. Howe, a fourth-round selection in the 2020 WHL Draft, sits second among Pats skaters with 61 points, and has already enjoyed 15 and 10-game point streaks this season.
Twenty-Five for Tanner Howe!
— The WHL (@TheWHL) March 23, 2022
Brayden Yager, Moose Jaw Warriors (55 points in 57 GP)
Moose Jaw’s Brayden Yager has been re-writing his Club’s record book this season, smashing the goal-scoring record for 16-year-olds formerly held by Theoren Fleury (more on him below), and helping the Warriors clinch a playoff berth with weeks to spare in the regular season. Yager’s 33 goals are second among Moose Jaw skaters; he’s also recorded eight multi-goal games this season.
— The WHL (@TheWHL) January 29, 2022
Andrew Cristall, Kelowna Rockets (54 points in 54 GP)
Sitting third in Kelowna Rockets team scoring with 54 points, Andrew Cristall has enjoyed a remarkable 16-year-old season. The eighth-overall selection in the 2020 WHL Draft leads the team with five game-winning goals, and showed off his hands with a lacrosse goal against the Portland Winterhawks earlier this season. NHL prospects Pavel Novak and Colton Dach are the only Kelowna players to have lit the lamp more than Cristall during the 2021-22 season.
Uh yeah, that's 16-year-old Andrew Cristall pulling off the lacrosse goal against who else….the Portland Winterhawks!
— Kelowna Rockets (@Kelowna_Rockets) November 6, 2021
Zachary Benson, Winnipeg ICE (53 points in 51 GP)
Amid all the hype over 2022 NHL Draft-eligibles Matthew Savoie and Conor Geekie, Zachary Benson has put together an extremely impressive showing for the high-flying Winnipeg ICE, recording 53 points from his first 51 appearances this season. Benson is fast, Benson is flashy, and the fact that 71 percent of his goals this season have come at even strength suggests Benson is dangerous at five-on-five. His +27 rating is the highest among 16-year-old WHLers, too.
— The WHL (@TheWHL) March 12, 2022
Riley Heidt, Prince George Cougars (52 points in 57 GP)
The second-overall selection in the 2020 WHL Draft, Riley Heidt has already developed into the Prince George Cougars’ most consistent play-maker. The product of Saskatoon, Sask. leads Prince George with 34 assists and sits second to fellow 2023 NHL Draft-eligible forward Koehn Ziemmer among the Cougars scoring leaders. Heidt is ruthlessly efficient when it comes to distributing the puck, and despite being just 16 years of age has hovered near the 50 percent mark on the 1,028 faceoffs he’s taken part in this season.
🚂 CHOO-CHOO! 🚂
— The WHL (@TheWHL) December 29, 2021
As mentioned earlier, the last time WHL fans were graced with this many 16-year-old point producers was during the 1984-85 season, when Craig Endean (Seattle Breakers), Mark Pederson (Medicine Hat Tigers), Rob Brown (Kamloops Blazers), Theoren Fleury (Moose Jaw Warriors), Glen Wesley (Portland Winterhawks) and Greg Hawgood (Kamloops Blazers) all registered 50 or more points; Endean led the way with 97.
That sextet proceeded to dress in 3,729 NHL regular season games, amassing 2,373 NHL regular season points. Fleury (Calgary Flames, 1989) and Wesley (Carolina Hurricanes, 2006) both have their names engraved on the Stanley Cup.
The Class of 2005 is doing special things on the ice in arenas across the WHL, and as we continue to build toward the 2023 (or in Howe’s case, the 2024) NHL Draft, one thing’s for certain. The best is yet to come.