Daxon Rudolph goes first overall in 2023 WHL Draft

May 12, 2023 | World Hockey Hub

Daxon Rudolph was the first selection in the 2023 WHL Prospects Draft by the Prince Albert Raiders.
Photo from Instagram | @paraidershockey

Top ‘08 youth hockey prospects prepare for next step in their hockey journey

The Western Hockey League (WHL) conducted its annual 2023 Prospect and Priority Selections this week. Member clubs selected youth hockey prospects from the 2008 birth year through the league’s draft process. Players eligible to be selected in the U.S. Priority Draft must be American-born and reside in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. Those eligible for the Prospect draft must be Canadian-born and live in the Canadian provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Northwest Territories, Yukon or the above listed American states. 

The WHL is the only junior league in North America to conduct its draft proceedings prior to the player’s U16 youth hockey season. Prospects selected in the WHL Draft are eligible to play 10 regular-season games the following Fall, but will return to their respective youth hockey clubs for the rest of their upcoming U16 season. In short, even after being selected in the WHL Draft, players are still roughly 16 months away from being a full-time, rostered player in the junior league.

Daxon Rudolph goes No. 1

Defenseman Daxon Rudolph’s year to remember continued when the Prince Albert Raiders chose him with the first overall pick in the Prospect Draft. The Lacombe, Alberta, native turned heads this season with 50 points in 30 games. He helped lead No. 4 Northern Alberta Xtreme to the U15 Prep Division Championship when he tallied the overtime winner. Rudolph was also honored as the Canadian Sports School Hockey League (CSSHL) U15 Defenseman of the Year. Joining him were 10 other players from NAX, including five selections in the first 39 picks. 

After Rudolph, the Raiders shored up the front end of their lineup with two other selections in the Top 10. They chose center Riley Boychuck from Airdrie Xtreme at No. 2 and winger Ty Meunier from the St. Albert Sabres with the seventh overall pick. Darius Hordal joined his Xtreme teammates when the Raiders selected him in the eighth round. 

No. 15 RINK Hockey Academy Kelowna had three players taken in the first 20 spots. Keaton Verhoff was the second defenseman taken when the Victoria Royals selected him fourth overall. Joe Iginla went to the Edmonton Oil Kings at No. 12, and Giorgos Panteras at No. 19 to the Brandon Wheat Kings. Kelowna went on to have seven other skaters taken throughout the remaining rounds. 

CSSHL picks dominate field of selections

As the Prospects Draft went on, more and more players hailing from CSSHL clubs continued to have their names called. Cruz Pavao was the first of nine players from No. 23 Edge School to find spots in the draft. The dynamic scoring winger was chosen by the Tri-City Americans at 13th overall. Okanagan Hockey Academy’s Mathis Preston was selected No. 3 to the Spokane Chiefs. Forward Liam Ruck went No. 9 to the Medicine Hat Tigers

Okanagan, Northern Alberta and the Sabres were the only three teams with multiple players taken in the first 10 picks. 

The first three rounds of the draft featured 30 players selected from the CSSHL. In all, 85 players from the CSSHL were chosen. Alberta led all provinces with 93 players selected. A total of 50 players from British Columbia were chosen, with another 44 players coming from Saskatchewan. Manitoba saw 38 players selected. 

The WHL also held its Priority Draft this week, which consisted of two rounds and 44 selections.. Forty-one of the 44 players taken came from U.S.-based programs. 

Selected first overall by the Spokane Chiefs was Brody Gillespie from RHA Kelowna. In 28 games this season, Gillespie tallied 26 goals and 54 points. Kelowna had a second forward taken at No. 2 when Cruz Waltze went to the Victoria Royals.

Four American programs from the WHH Rankings had multiple players taken across the board. No. 25 Los Angeles Jr. Kings led the way with eight, followed by six from No. 18 Dallas Stars Elite. No. 3 Shattuck-St. Mary’s had four players taken, and two from No. 12 Chicago Mission. Multiple players from these teams were standouts at USA Hockey Nationals earlier this year. Strong performances for Chicago’s Kalder Varga and Shaeffer Gordon-Carroll no doubt helped boost their profile and aided in their selections at No. 7 and No. 9, respectively. 

The Kamloops Blazers took Dallas’ J.P. Hurlburt towards the end of the first round at No. 20. After waiting patiently, the Lethbridge Hurricanes snagged Jr. Kings forward Logan Stuart with the 36th pick. Parker Trottier was the highest Shattuck player chosen at No. 12 by the Regina Pats

A total of 28 forwards, 12 defensemen and four goaltenders were selected in the Priority Draft. Players from 12 different states were chosen, with California leading the way with 10. Minnesota followed closely behind with nine and Texas with eight. 

Want more coverage of junior hockey drafts this off-season? Be sure to follow WHH on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, Discord and YouTube!


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