Examining the top selections from the U.S. and Canada at the 2007 birth year

The Western Hockey League held its annual WHL Prospects Draft this week, as the major junior league’s teams took turns selecting from the 2007 birth-year class.

The WHL splits their draft process along country lines; the league first held a U.S. Priority Draft on Wednesday before a Canadian-centric WHL Prospects Draft Thursday. American players not selected Wednesday were also available to the teams Thursday. 

Prospects eligible for the 2022 WHL drafts all hailed from Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Northwest Territories, Yukon, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.

Since it’s primarily a Canadian league, we’re going to start with Thursday’s WHL Prospects Draft, and take a look at how the picks unfolded.

Rink Hockey Academy Kelowna U18 Prep forward Gavin McKenna was the first player off the board Thursday, as the Medicine Hat Tigers made him the No. 1 overall pick. It didn’t come as much of a surprise after McKenna posted 65 points in 35 games playing against U18 competition in his U15 season, and he signed a WHL Standard Player Agreement right after the selection was announced.

McKenna was the only first-round selection who did not play in his birth-year, as the rest of the class played U15. What McKenna does have in common with the majority of the class, however, is what league he played in — the Canadian Sport School Hockey League (CSSHL). Sixteen of the 22 picks came from the CSSHL, as the league continues to establish itself as the top destination for elite youth hockey players in Western Canada. 

The first three rounds of Thursday’s draft featured 36 players who skated in the CSSHL this season — 54.5 percent of the total selections. 

Here is the rest of the first round:

No. 1 – Medicine Hat – Gavin McKenna (Forward, Rink Hockey Academy Kelowna U18 Prep)

No. 2 – Tri-City – Jackson Smith (Defense, Edge School U15 Prep)

No. 3 – Victoria – Cole Reschny (Forward, Northern Alberta Xtreme U15 Prep)

No. 4 – Calgary – Reese Hamilton (Defense, Northern Alberta Xtreme U15 Prep)

No. 5 – Regina – Cole Temple (Forward, Brandon Wheat Kings U15)

No. 6 – Swift Current – Peyton Kettles (Defense, Rink Hockey Academy Winnipeg U15 Prep)

No. 7 – Vancouver – Cameron Schmidt (Forward, Rink Hockey Academy Kelowna U15 Prep)

No. 8 – Spokane – Chase Harrington (Forward, Delta Hockey Academy U15 Prep)

No. 9 – Prince George – Lee Shurgot (Forward, Saskatoon Generals U15)

No. 10 – Seattle – Braeden Cootes (Forward, Yale Hockey Academy U15 Prep)

No. 11 – Lethbridge – William Sharpe (Defense, Yale Hockey Academy U15 Prep)

No .12 – Brandon – Joby Baumuller (Forward, Notre Dame Hounds U15 Prep)

No. 13 – Kamloops – Nathan Behm (Forward, Edge School U15 Prep)

No. 14 – Moose Jaw – Connor Schmidt (Defense, Okanagan Hockey Academy U15 Prep)

No. 15 – Prince Albert – Luke Moroz (Forward, Prairie Storm U15)

No. 16 – Medicine Hat – Hayden Harsanyi (Forward, Northern Alberta Xtreme U15 Prep)

No. 17 – Red Deer – Luke Vlooswyk (Defense, Calgary Bisons U15)

No. 18 – Portland – Graham Jones (Forward, Rink Hockey Academy U15 Prep)

No. 19 – Vancouver – Aaron Obobaifo (Forward, Shattuck-St. Mary’s 14U)

No. 20 – Everett – Julien Maze (OHA Edmonton U15 Prep)

No. 21 – Saskatoon – Isaac Poll (Forward, Prairie Storm U15)

No. 22 – Vancouver – Jakob Oreskovic (Forward, Delta Hockey Academy U15 Prep)

Over the course of Thursday’s draft, Alberta led the provincial branches, producing 83 players. British Columbia and the Yukon produced 70, while 50 came from Saskatchewan and 31 came from Manitoba. Six players were taken from the United States, after the initial 44 were claimed on Wednesday.

On that note, let’s take a look at the U.S. portion of the draft now. The first-overall pick honors in Wednesday’s WHL U.S. Priority Draft went to defenseman Blake Fiddler of Frisco, Texas and the Dallas Stars Elite 14U team. Fiddler is the son of former NHLer Vernon Fiddler, who played for the Kelowna Rockets during his junior days.

Three other NHL alums saw their sons selected – Brad Stuart’s son Jake Stuart was selected second overall by the Brandon Wheat Kings, and Owen Nolan’s son Dylan Nolan was selected No. 10 overall by the Prince Albert Raiders. Grant Jennings’ son Gordon Jennings was claimed by the Prince Albert Raiders, as well, at No. 35.

At No. 4, Lethbridge claimed Harrison Boettiger, a goaltender out of Shattuck-St. Mary’s. That’s certainly noteworthy – you rarely see a goaltender selected that high in a junior league draft.

Here’s a look at the full first round of the U.S. Priority Draft:

No. 1 – Edmonton – Blake Fiddler (Defense, Dallas Stars Elite 14U)

No. 2 – Brandon – Jake Stuart (Forward, Los Angeles Jr. Kings 14U)

No. 3 – Regina – Dylan Lebret (Defense, Los Angeles Jr. Kings 14U)

No. 4 – Lethbridge – Harrison Boettiger (Goaltender, Shattuck-St. Mary’s 14U)

No. 5 – Moose Jaw – Carter Murphy (Defense, Dallas Stars Elite 14U)

No. 6 – Seattle – Lukas Sawchyn (Forward, Shattuck-St. Mary’s 14U)

No. 7 – Victoria – Rui Han (Forward, St. George’s School U15 Prep)

No. 8 – Spokane – Landon Hafele (Forward, Green Bay Jr. Gamblers 14U)

No. 9 – Tri-City – Brady Turner (Forward, Phoenix Jr. Coyotes 14U)

No. 10 – Prince Albert – Dylan Nolan (Forward, San Jose Jr. Sharks 14U)

No. 11 – Winnipeg – Carson Steinhoff (Defense, Minnesota Blades 14U)

No. 12 – Swift Current – Tyson Ulmer (Forward, North Dakota BEL)

No. 13 – Everett – Ben Kevan (Forward, Los Angeles Jr. Kings 14U)

No. 14 – Red Deer – Jeramiah Roberts (Defense, Colorado Rampage 14U)

No. 15 – Calgary – Brandon Gorzynski (Forward, Phoenix Jr. Coyotes 14U)

No. 16 – Prince George – Jackson Crowder (Forward, Dallas Stars Elite 14U)

No. 17 – Kelowna – Jackson Gillespie (Defense, Dallas Stars Elite 14U)

No. 18 – Kamloops – Conrad Fondrk (Forward, Mount St. Charles 14U)

No. 19 – Saskatoon – Trace Frieden (Forward, St. George’s School U15 Prep)

No. 20 – Portland – Gavin Kor (Forward, Shattuck-St. Mary’s 14U)

No. 21 – Vancouver – Masun Fleece (Forward, Shattuck-St. Mary’s 14U)

No. 22 – Medicine Hat – Max Silver (Forward, Fairmont Prep Warriors 15s)

California led the way of the 11 states with players selected, as 13 Golden State products were chosen. Minnesota was second with nine, while Texas had four and Colorado had three.

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