Around the WHL: Sanheim, Martin, Gardiner and more

 

Hockey Prospectus’ WHL prospect analyst, Benoit Roy, is back with reports on prospects you need to know, including both past and future first round picks.

Scouting Report: Travis Sanheim

Bio

Team: Calgary Hitmen                                    Draft Status: Selected 17th overall in 2014 by Philadelphia

Position: Defense

To Date Stats: 44 GP / 10 G / 33 A / 43 PTS / 34 PIM / 16 (+/-)

Shoots: Left Wing

Height/Weight: 6’3” / 184 lbs.

Date(s) Seen: Jan. 23, 2015 vs Swift Current / Jan. 25, 2015 vs Vancouver. Both WHL regular season.

Characteristics

Skating (Speed/edges/techniques, etc.)

Sanheim is an elite skater compared to his immediate contemporaries. He’s extremely fluid, light on his feet, moves laterally exceptionally well and always seems to be on his toes.  He has multiple gears to match his opponents and never seems out of position or flat-footed.

Shooting (Slap/wrist/backhand, General strength, proclivities, etc.)

Sanheim possesses a firm, low slapshot and is able to get it off very quickly. He keeps his head up when he shoots and is able to find the net with ease. His shots aren’t particularly dangerous and he doesn’t pick corners, but he finds the net or sticks for deflections.

Puck Skills

Sanheim is very productive with the puck on his stick. He rushes with confidence and consistently enters the zone cleanly resulting in long periods of sustained pressure. When he enters the zone he’s capable of slowing the pace right down and smartly distributes the puck. Has a knack for finding open forwards who generate scoring chances. He’s certainly more of a playmaking defensemen capable of QBing a power play.

Smarts (vision, defensive play, ability to stick in system, etc.)

Plays an intelligent and reliable defensive game. He plays right to the opposition, meets them at the blue line but doesn’t overcommit. He defends blade to blade and never seems to be more than a stick-length away from his opponent. He doesn’t bite and is excellent at stifling forwards, forcing them to the outside or cause turnovers. He has a knack for being in passing and shooting lanes.

Physicality

He doesn’t appear to be overly physical, but his size, stature and strength means he’s no push over. Willing to combat in the corners but relies on positioning and the presence of his stick (with the help of his long reach) to deter opponents.

General Assessment

Sanheim seems to have developed very well and very quickly since emerging in the WHL in the 2013-14 season. He currently sits 4th in WHL scoring among defensemen, and is 4points off leader Travis Brown. Sanheim may be able to make the transition to the pros next year, although some time in the AHL is likely so he can adapt to the increased speed and physicality. I project him to be a second-paring defenseman and he has the potential to be the foundation of Philadelphia’s power play for years to come.

Scouting Report: Mason Geertsen

Bio

Team: Vancouver Giants                              Draft Status: Selected 93rd overall in 2013 by Colorado

Position: Defense

To Date Stats: 47 GP / 9 G / 21 A / 30 PTS / 85 PIM / +9 (+/-)

Shoots: Left

Height/Weight: 6’4” / 212 lbs.

Date(s) Seen: January 25, 2014 vs Calgary Hitmen, WHL regular season

Characteristics

Skating (Speed/edges/techniques, etc.)

For a big man, Geertsen shows decent mobility and lightness on his feet but is a markedly weaker skater than his contemporaries. He appears more agile and fluid skating backwards and displays adequate lateral movement. He also shows a tendency to jump up in the play, generating decent foot speed to be a secondary option on the attack. At times he looks passive and unengaged resulting in situations where he’s caught flat-footed.

Shooting (Slap/wrist/backhand, General strength, proclivities, etc.)

Geertsen isn’t much of an offensive threat, but can unleash a cannon from the point. Like Brent Burns, he can corral a pass coming at high speed and will fire a furious one-timer; his issue is finding open seams. He’s already surpassed his production from last year by 7 points in 19 fewer games, which should intrigue the big club.

Puck Skills

Geertsen plays a no-nonsense, reserved game with the puck on his stick and regularly makes the safe play away from danger. He makes a decent first-pass out of zone but he’s generally a weak puck manager, prompting his safe style of play. Despite this, he was able to creatively find teammates on occasion, which is an indication of his growth offensively.

Smarts (vision, defensive play, ability to stick in system, etc.)

Geertsen is an imposing defenseman that has poise in his own end who’s able to cut off developing offensive plays. Demonstrates an understanding of developing threats and puts himself in position to defend. He was often deployed in difficult situations against top-line opponents. He isn’t afraid of using his body to contain opponents and fearlessly steps in to block shots or passing opportunities. His speed and skating ability are his primary limitations to becoming an elite defender.

Physicality

Geerstsen plays body-first and can punish unsuspecting opponents when timed properly. He regularly forces dump-ins and is successful at retrieving pucks through brute force. He makes it extremely difficult, physically, for opponents in front of his own net. Could benefit from using his stick to tie up opponents rather than trying to force them away using outright strength. He’s guilty of overcommitting at times and of taking reckless penalties.

General Assessment

Geertsen is clearly a stay-at-home defenseman who plays a rough, physical game. When he’s playing well, he can be a suffocating force on the blue-line and can find success on the penalty kill. Although it is clear Geertsen is a defensive-defender first, showing some offensive growth in his final year as a junior player will certainly please Colorado’s front office and may accelerate his path to the NHL. He’ll likely find time in the AHL next year before making a run to Colorado.

Scouting Report: Reid Gardiner

Bio

Team: Prince Albert Raiders                                        Draft Status: Eligible 2015

Position: Center

To Date Stats: 49 GP / 27 G / 20 A / 47 PTS / 36 PIM / -7 (+/-)

Shoots: Right

Height/Weight:  5’11”/ 188 lbs.

Date(s) Seen: January 30, 2015 vs Calgary Hitmen, WHL regular season

Characteristics

Skating (Speed/edges/techniques, etc.)

Gardiner possesses light feet, decent quickness and mobility, and has good top speed. He gets around the ice using his powerful stride and low center of gravity. His power allows him to accelerate at faster pace than his contemporaries.

Shooting (Slap/wrist/backhand, General strength, proclivities, etc.)

Gardiner has a big shot matched with precision accuracy and an ability to pick corners from anywhere on the ice. He shows a preference for shooting in the slot. He favors his wrist shot, which has tremendous power and a good release. He shows some apprehension to shoot at times when outside of the slot.

Puck Skills

He has a strong stick and the ability to connect and receive passes at difficult angles. It’s rare to see a pass from Gardiner that doesn’t find Prince Albert tape. Gardiner is a straight-forward, pragmatic player who doesn’t rely on deception or creativity to challenge opponents, but rather a high compete level and willingness to battle. Off the puck, his deception is more apparent – he has a knack for sneaking up on the play and being in the right place at the right time.

Smarts (vision, defensive play, ability to stick in system, etc.)

Shows a tendency to look for the pass when coming wide on the rush. If nothing presents itself, he cuts into the slot and attempts a shot. He often beats defenders using his second gear and sheer power. He has excellent awareness, is responsible in his own end, and doesn’t take unnecessary risks. Has the willingness to battle in the corners and provide secondary support for his defencemen.

Physicality

For a smaller-than-average forward, Gardiner plays a smart physical game and displays solid strength and tenacity. He competes everywhere on the ice and uses his body smartly to make firm contact and separate man from puck. It’s rare to see Gardiner back down from opponents.

General Assessment

He plays a 200-foot game, possesses high hockey IQ, is responsible at both ends of the ice and has the ability to produce. He was skipped in last year’s draft likely to his dry-spell in the second half of the season but has rebounded this year by leading a weak Prince Albert team in scoring. His solid skating ability, physicality, offensive flair and defensive acumen make him an appealing asset who can play in all situations. I project him as a Tier VI draft pick in this year’s draft, likely to go in the sixth or seventh round. Given his offensive inconsistencies and size, the scouts may be skeptical. If he’s not selected his year I would not be surprised if he’s offered a professional contract after his final year in junior.

Scouting Report: Ryan Gropp

Bio

Team: Seattle Thunderbirds                        Draft Status: Eligible 2015

Position: Left Wing

To Date Stats: 47 GP / 21 G / 20 A / 41 PTS / 24 PIM / 8 (+/-)

Shoots: Left

Height/Weight:  6’2”/ 183 lbs.

Date(s) Seen: January 25, 2015 and January 28, 2015 (Video scout), both vs Spokane Chiefs, WHL regular season

Characteristics

Skating (Speed/edges/techniques, etc.)

Plays a high-flying, high-speed game and has good top speed. Although not lightning-quick, he’s strong on his feet and capable of gracefully skating past defencemen with tight crossovers and edges.

Shooting (Slap/wrist/backhand, General strength, proclivities, etc.)

Gropp has an excellent shot that hits the net with regularity. Given the time and space, he’s able to accurately hit corners and generate power with his big wrist shot that challenges goaltenders. In tight, he loses some of his power but still consistently finds the net.

Puck Skills

Has a creative set of tricks and uses these tricks well when facing defenders one-on-one. He tends to skate the puck towards the net on the rush and will attempt the shot before passing. When he attempts to find teammates, he’ll throw pucks into traffic in front for deflections or rebounds. He attempts simple, short passes elsewhere on the ice that are tape-to-tape and doesn’t make risky plays.

Smarts (vision, defensive play, ability to stick in system, etc.)

On the rush, Gropp is capable of creating scoring chances using his speed, booming shot and nose for the net. He floats around the low slow and behind the net. Defensively, he’s less involved but manages his defensive assignments well. He is guilty of watching the play in his own end at times and of standing still as he looks to receive an outlet pass.

Physicality

Gropp is a big, power forward and plays like a big man. He connects his hits along the boards and is effective at skirting the puck away from opponents. He usually plays tight to his defenders and aggressively uses his stick to limit time and space. He’s capable of taking a ton of abuse from defenders in the offensive zone without surrendering possession.

General Assessment

Gropp plays a fast, powerful game and is effective at generating offense. His defensive game is about average but he isn’t a liability. Coach Konowalchuk often deploys him in the offensive zone, cognizant of his strengths on the ice. I expect him to be a late second-rounder or early third-rounder this year, making him a Tier IV draft pick.

Scouting Report: Jansen Harkins

Bio

Team: Prince George Cougars                                    Draft Status: Eligible 2015

Position: Center

To Date Stats: 61 GP / 19 G / 57 A / 76 PTS / 41 PIM / 8 (+/-)

Shoots: Left

Height/Weight: 6’1” / 180 lbs.

Date(s) Seen: February 11, 2015 vs Calgary Hitmen, WHL Regular season

Characteristics

Skating (Speed/edges/techniques, etc.)

Fluid, mobile skater who has a great, long stride and cuts quickly. Not exceptionally fast or explosive, but very fluid, smooth and difficult to track down. Looks like he skates hunched over at times. Can show creativity in his lateral movement when going on-one-one. He can run out of steam at times, but generally a strong, quick skater.

Shooting (Slap/wrist/backhand, General strength, proclivities, etc.)

Doesn’t favor any shot and tends to pass before shooting. Will take the shot in the slot or when lanes open up. When he does fire, his shots tend to be low and towards the corners, which forces goaltenders to extend and make difficult saves. Mixes up his shots – used a combination of snap, slap and one-timers.

Puck Skills

Handles the puck extremely well and uses the entire ice to make plays. Responsible with the puck in his own end and rarely loses possession. He’s difficult to hit and contain because of his fluidity. Shows creativity with the puck and is a natural passer who consistently finds teammates with intelligent feeds. Protects the puck well and even seems to play better with some pressure as it lends well to his reactive playing style. He’s an offensive threat anywhere in the opponent’s zone and is a highly productive player.

Smarts (vision, defensive play, ability to stick in system, etc.)

Makes quick decisions and is highly reactive, indicating strong hockey instincts. Has a full offensive arsenal – he can pass, shoot or dangle and is relatively unpredictable (although he’s definitely more of a playmaker). Shows intelligence in his own end, has solid positioning and consistently supports defenders. Shows a ton of passion and willingness to compete – he wants the puck on his stick and doesn’t like losing battles at either end. He’s guilty of the occasional drive-by and defensive lapse.

Physicality

Not hyper-physical but does what is necessary. With possession he’ll contend with sticks and bodies at both ends and shields the puck well. Competes in corners and has decent strength to win battles. Harkins primarily uses his stick and smart positioning to contain opponents and deter offensive threats.

General Assessment

Harkins is a good two-way forward that can play a variety of roles and be successful. His versatility and offensive skill would make him an extremely valuable asset at both ends. Prince George is not a particularly deep team offensively this year and his place as the club’s top producer will certainly increase his value with the scouts. Harkins is a lock to be a late first-round or early second-round pick this year, making him a Tier III prospect.

Scouting Report: Brycen Martin

Bio

Team: Saskatoon Blades                               Draft Status: Selected 74th overall in 2014 by Buffalo

Position: Defense

To Date Stats: Saskatoon: 22 GP / 5 G / 16 A / 21 PTS / 15 PIM / -8 (+/-), Swift Current: 39 GP / 2 G / 14 A / 16 PTS / 22 PIM / 1 (+/-)

Shoots: Left

Height/Weight: 6’2” / 198 lbs.

Date(s) Seen: February 13, 2015 vs Calgary Hitmen, WHL Regular season

Characteristics

Skating (Speed/edges/techniques, etc.)

Martin has solid all-around mobility and can pick up significant speed moving forwards and backwards. He has a chunky first step, but can generate speed regardless. He looks confident moving laterally and maintains a wide stance and stays upright when doing so.

Shooting (Slap/wrist/backhand, General strength, proclivities, etc.)

Martin has a solid, quick snap shot and a booming slap shot from the point. He can let his shots go quickly and when under pressure, although a bit inaccurate. When he has time, he uses screens to his advantage and smartly throws the puck into productive areas from the point.

Puck Skills

Martin is a cerebral passer and moves the puck up the ice very quickly. He moves confidently with possession, is highly capable of moving the puck away from danger, and able to create time and space in his own end. In rare occasions, he looked uncertain with the puck and could benefit from responding more quickly to prevent unwanted turnovers.

Smarts (vision, defensive play, ability to stick in system, etc.)

Martin seems to be more confident in the offensive zone and this shows in his game. As mentioned, he makes consistent, solid outlet passes and finds productive teammates in the neutral and offensive zones. He shows calmness and maintains fluidity when under pressure. However, there are some deficiencies to his defensive game – it looks like he’s unsure of how to approach opponents at times and is guilty of misgauging a hit or stick check leading to sloppy results in his own end.

Physicality

He has a cool confidence about him and doesn’t need to make the hit or be overly physical to reveal his presence (he will when it’s necessary, though). For a big defenseman he relies on his stick, size and positioning to contain opponents rather than being outwardly physical.

General Assessment

Martin is a solid offensive defensemen with two-way upside. He shows that he’s capable of taking a role as a top-four defenseman for Buffalo and will need to continue refining and building confidence in his own end before doing so. Interestingly, he’s not a flashy player by any means but produces as a result of his reliability and excellent head-manning ability. Given Buffalo’s current state, I’d expect him to take a position in their top-6 in the next 3-5 years.

Scouting Report: Jared Bethune

Bio

Team: Prince George Cougars                                    Draft Status: Eligible 2015

Position: Left Wing

To Date Stats: 53 GP / 6 G / 14 A / 20 PTS / 35 PIM / -20 (+/-)

Shoots: Left

Height/Weight: 6’1” / 185 lbs.

Date(s) Seen: February 11, 2015 vs Calgary Hitmen, WHL regular season

Characteristics

Skating (Speed/edges/techniques, etc.)

Bethune has quick, strong legs, a sturdy stride and is able to generate significant power as a result. He has a low center of gravity and looks very solid and smooth on his feet – a very self-assured skater. Has decent cuts and can transition well. He creates opportunities with high energy and pace.

Shooting (Slap/wrist/backhand, General strength, proclivities, etc.)

He doesn’t possess a significant offensive arsenal and his production this year is an indication of that. He tends to shoot early and often, with purpose and with power, favoring a heavy wrist and snap shot. He eagerly jumps on opportunities. Although he’s not a significant threat in the offensive zone, he has some intriguing, workable tools.

Puck Skills

Bethune looks calm and comfortable with the puck, protects it very well and is a solid possessor. Usually enters the zone with speed and uses brute force to battle past defenders. He plays pass-first and sees the ice reasonably well. His passes are extremely firm and generally accurate. Not the most creative distributor of the puck, but consistently makes the safe play while maintaining possession.

Smarts (vision, defensive play, ability to stick in system, etc.)

Bethune is a smart forward who doesn’t panic under pressure and has great poise with the puck. He creates opportunities with his speed, aggression and size. He’s solid in his own end but looks more comfortable in the offensive zone. At times, it looks like he may be trying to do too much or play outside of his abilities. He has the skills to be a regular contributor on offence, but they’re quite raw and he could use refinement.

Physicality

Plays a big, heavy game and uses his size to his advantage. He can play a mean game when prompted and he’s willing to commit and make sacrifices to make the play. He’s excellent along the boards and confidently ties up opponents. He can be a menace and his opponents are aware of it. Despite his physicality, he’s quite reserved and doesn’t take foolish penalties.

General Assessment

Bethune is a big, strong smooth-skating forward with intriguing qualities. He entered the WHL this year known as an offensive threat who plays a power forward role, although that hasn’t been the case this year. Although we’ve seen glimpses of that, he hasn’t produced at the level that was expected of him. Despite this, he certainly has the tools to reach that level. Given his potential I see him being a sixth round selection and he could be a steal for a team with a solid player development system. This makes him a Tier VI pick.

Scouting Report: Tate Olson

Bio

Team: Prince George Cougars                                    Draft Status: Eligible 2015

Position: Defense

To Date Stats: 61 GP / 5 G / 17 A / 22 PTS / 63 PIM / -13 (+/-)

Shoots: Left

Height/Weight: 6’2” / 180 lbs.

Date(s) Seen: February 11, 2015 vs Calgary Hitmen, WHL Regular season

Characteristics

Skating (Speed/edges/techniques, etc.)

Olson is a solid, leggy defensemen with a long stride and decent mobility moving forwards. Not speedy, but contends on one-on-one foot races and uses stride to gain positional advantage. Backwards skating and lateral movement isn’t elite, but manageable. Olson doesn’t look out of place and can be difficult to beat due to long reach. He looked a half-step behind top-line opponents at times.

Shooting (Slap/wrist/backhand, General strength, proclivities, etc.)

Doesn’t possess a big point-shot, but he regularly gets it through traffic and usually finds the net. He keeps his head up when he shoots and shows confidence in his release. Has supreme control over his one-timers which are low and sent towards corners. Has powerful and accurate wrist shots but seems to prefer taking slap shots.

Puck Skills

Olson is an adequate puck handler – he retrieves pucks well and relies on instincts when under pressure. With more time and space, he makes firm outlet passes and shows calmness on the regroup. Plays on the power play and shows coolness and creativity moving the puck up the ice given time.

Smarts (vision, defensive play, ability to stick in system, etc.)

Olson sees the game well at both ends and plays a smart, safe game. Defensively, he can be caught fixated on the puck rather than his defensive assignment, particularly in front of the net. He makes smart pinches on the blue line and fully commits when the opportunity is right.

Physicality

Plays an exciting physical game. He likes to make the big, open-ice hit and has a commanding presence on the blue line where he plays aggressively and challenges opponent. Fortunately, he does not go searching for hits and will play more reserved when it isn’t available. Has great size and strength and will play aggressively along the boards and in the cycle. When he’s on, he’s a frustrating defenceman to line up against.

General Assessment

Olson is a prototypical big, strong defenceman with workable tools at both ends. His size, positional instincts and ability to distribute the puck are intriguing attributes, but I have concerns with his ability to process the game at a faster pace. He certainly has the tools to make an impact at the NHL level in 4-5 years, but will definitely need to be conditioned to pro speeds before becoming a mainstay. Given his natural abilities and size, I project him to be fifth-round pick, making him a Tier V prospect.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*