Forward Adam Musil has received plenty of attention from NHL scouts, but he’s not alone among the Red Deer Rebels who have piqued the interest of the talent evaluators.
Musil, who will play in Thursday’s CHL Top Prospects Game at Niagara Falls, Ont., is 32nd among North American skaters listed in the Central Scouting mid-term rankings for players eligible for this year’s NHL entry draft in June.
But he has some familiar company in the rankings, with defenceman Austin Strand at No. 66, forward Grayson Pawlenchuk at No. 93 and Rylan Toth, who is ranked 12th among North American netminders.
“There’s certainly a lot in his game that he can improve and get better at, but he’s come a long way from the start of the season,” Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter said Tuesday, in reference to the six-foot-three, 194-pound Strand. “Scouts have taken notice of that and that’s certainly an encouraging thing.”
Sutter is confident that all four Central Scouting ranked Rebels can improve their status over the team’s final 26 games of the WHL regular season and into the playoffs, Pawlenchuk in particular.
“‘Pawler’ has to have a real good last third of the year,” said the Rebels boss. “I think it’s been a year of hit and miss with him. There have been times when he’s played well and times when his game has dropped off. He needs to crank it up and be a very good player for us the rest of the year. If he does that it will help him come June.”
Toth, meanwhile, caught the attention of NHL scouts with his heavy workload during the first half of the season.
“There’s a reason why he’s played as many games as he has for us this season,” said Sutter. “There’s no question he had a good first half. Burms (teammate Taz Burman) didn’t get to play much because Tother played well and Burms struggled a bit.”
That said, Sutter agreed that Burman could play himself into contention for the upcoming NHL draft by continuing with the form he’s shown over the past few weeks.
“Since Christmas both guys have been good,” said Sutter.
“Taz is undefeated since Christmas. He certainly came back from the holiday break in a better mindset. I want him to compete for the No. 1 job and push Toth, and Toth has to push him.”
As for Musil, Sutter isn’t surprised the six-foot-three centre is projected as a second-round NHL draft pick.
“Everyone is aware of Adam. He’s played on the national under-18 team and he’s certainly a very good hockey player,” said Sutter.
“And he’s just going to get better and better. He has the size and with the way he plays he has pro written all over him.”
Tops among the 51 WHL skaters on the list of 210 — or seven rounds of the draft — Central Scouting prospects is Seattle Thunderbirds centre Matthew Barzal, No. 9. Also listed ahead of Musil are Brandon Wheat Kings defenceman Ivan Provorov (No. 10), Kelowna Rockets centre Nick Merkley (13th), Tri-City Americans defenceman Brandon Carlo (16th), Prince George Cougars centre Jansen Harkins (18th), Portland Winter Hawks winger Paul Bittner (No. 19), Swift Current Broncos winger Jake DeBrusk (24th) and Brandon rearguard Ryan Pilon (31st).
Meanwhile, former Red Deer midget AAA Optimist Chiefs defencemen and teammates Andrew Nielsen and Gabe Bast are also ranked. Nielsen, ranked 69th, is a rookie with the Lethbridge Hurricanes and Bast, at No. 209, is a first-year blueliner with the Penticton Vees of the junior A BCHL.
Other WHL skaters in the Central Scouting mid-term rankings:
31. D Ryan Pilon, Brandon; 37. C Glenn Gawdin, Swift Current; 38. D Noah Juulsen, Everett; 43. LW Austin Wagner, Regina; 46. D Tyler Wotherspoon, Tri-City; 61; LW Jesse Gabrielle, Regina; 62. LW Ryan Gropp, Seattle; 76. D Brendan Guhle, Prince Albert; 94. RW Keegan Kolesar, Seattle; 97. RW Zach Zborosky, Kootenay; 100. D Connor Hobbs, Regina; 101. C Jared Bethune, Prince George; 104. C/RW Reid Gardner, Prince Albert; 106. D Tate Olson, Prince George; 108. D Devante Stephens, Kelowna; 110. RW Deven Sideroff, Kamloops; 114; D Michael Fora, Kamloops; 133: D Ethan Bear, Seattle; 134. D Joe Gatenby, Kelowna; 137. D Kevin Davis, Everett; 140. LW Pavel Karnaukhov, Calgary; 144. C Matt Bradley, Medicine Hat; 150. C Brad Morrison, Prince George; 152. C Tyler Soy, Victoria; 160. C/LW Dryden Hunt, Medicine Hat; 164. D Kade Jensen, Lethbridge; 169. C Ty Comrie, Tri-City; 179. D Tristen Pfeifer, Everett; 184. C Alex Overhardt, Portland; 190. LW Rihards Bukarts, Brandon; 191. C Luke Philp, Kootenay; 197. D Sergey Zborovsky, Regina; 199. D Chaz Reddekopp, Victoria.
Other WHL goaltenders:
8. Nick Schneider, Medicine Hat; 9. Adin Hill, Portland; 13. Nick McBride, Prince Albert; 25. Jordan Papirny, Brandon; 31. Rylan Parenteau, Prince Albert; 33. Connor Ingram, Kamloops.