Scouts always have to make lists this early in the season, but they hate doing it. Usually by early December, they wish they could burn their September list. So take this pre-season look at WHL and western Jr. A draft prospects with the understanding that it will change dramatically once the real games start.
(1 to 10 overall range)
Jared Cowen, D, Spokane: Probably a top five player on the majority of NHL scouts' lists as of now. He's got the complete package you look for in a top-pairing blueliner. Not a high risk player, so it's hard to imagine him dropping much by June. But a Braydon Coburn-like mini-slide to something like #8 overall isn't impossible. Partly depends upon how he plays, of course - but other players could pass him up too. Could he challenge for #1 overall? Maybe - but it seems unlikely he could pass Victor Hedman at this point.
Brayden Schenn, C, Brandon: Also probably a top-fiver on most scouts lists. Plays so much bigger than his size that you don't worry about him only being 6-foot-0. There's some slightly high expectations on him because of how good he was last year. But the fact that he's one of the youngest players in this draft crop is a plus in scouts' minds. Hard to imagine how Schenn could drop out of the top ten.
(11 to 40-ish overall)
Evander Kane, C, Vancouver: Might be the best pure sniper from the west in this year's draft. I'm mildly concerned about his skating, but if he produces this season like he can, it won't drop him out of the first round.
Tomas Vincour, RW, Edmonton: Big, a bit raw, but can be dazzling at times. These kind of enigmatic players can be scary for scouts. Skating improved a lot last year. Now if he can find some consistency and grit, he could solidify a spot in the first round for himself.
Stefan Elliott, D, Saskatoon: Fair amount of disagreement among NHL scouts on this guy. He's in my first round, some guys don't even like him in the first two rounds. Skating is the concern here, but offensive ability is superb.
Nathan Lieuwen, G, Kootenay: Is an early riser after his performance in the U-18. Needs to steal some time away from whoever is the #1 (probably Heemskerk).
Scott Glennie, RW, Brandon: I really like this player, but a lot of scouts question if he just leeched off Schenn all year. I think he does enough on his own to be a legitimate late first rounder at this point.
(40-ish to about 90)
Garrett Mitchell, RW, Regina: One of those guys you want to see succeed. Not much raw talent, but does he give you everything he can every shift. Second rounder just on heart alone. But he'll have to show he can produce even just a little bit.
Jimmy Bubnick, RW, Kamloops: Wait-and-see player for me. Lots of raw ability, but has to put it together. Skating is a bit of a problem.
Collin Bowman, D, Kelowna: Great improvement over the course of last season. That plus the fact that his brother was a late bloomer might bode well for further upside this year. Might not get as much key ice time as he would otherwise deserve on that deep Rockets blueline.
Cody Eakin, C, Swift Current: Great second half and a ton of skill. A concussion cost him most of the first half last year, so he'll need to stay healthy this year.
Sena Acolatse, D, Seattle: Has been greater than the sum of his parts so far in his career. But he's a bit like Tyler Schmidt last year - hard to project as a pro. But he drops the gloves a lot more than Schmidt does, so that's a big plus and makes him an early rounder at this point.
Stepan Novotny, RW, Kelowna: Haven't seen yet, has seen him and likes him as a 2nd or 3rd rounder at this point.
Levko Koper, LW, Spokane: If he keeps up how he played in the playoffs and the Memorial Cup, he could be a riser. For now, I like his smarts and hands well enough to have him close to the 2nd round.
Tyson Barrie, D, Kelowna: Already getting into arguments about him. Some scouts don't care for him, really questioning his defensive zone play. I tend to see a poor man's Thomas Hickey.
Dylan Olsen, D, Camrose AJHL: Big with a lot of raw offensive ability from the back end. Might end up being a hard player to read. Would like him better if his skating were better.
"Almost" Early Rounders/Sleepers
(4th round and later players, but with a good chance to move up)
Landon Ferraro, C, Red Deer: Big disappointment for scouts so far, but will be watched closely.
Carter Ashton, RW, Lethbridge: Didn't show scouts much last year, but has enough raw ability to be a draw for scouts.
Brayden McNabb, D, Kootenay: Kind of grows on you the more you see him. Needs to show just a little something more (either toughness or puck ability) this season to move up lists.
Jamies Priestner, G, Kamloops: Like his raw athleticism and quickness.
Ryan Howse, LW, Chilliwack: Has the hands, but needs to be willing to work hard and pay the price to score.
Adam Hughesman, RW, Tri-City: Good production last year and has good hands. But I'd like to see a smallish player skate better than he does.
Some Interest, But...
(players I hope show me something this year)
Jeff Regier, D, Everett: Definitely not the sum of his parts yet. Very surprised he didn't contribute more offensively, so he might be set for a breakout year. Like how well he did in some of his fights, though.
Cam Reid, C, Victoria BCHL: Best of the lot in a down year for BCHL prospects so far. But there are always some no-names from the BC league who make names for themselves on scouts' lists during the season.
Evan Bloodoff, LW, Kelowna: Another reason the Rockets will be a popular team for scouts to see. Like his speed and effort level.
Jeremy Boyer, C, Seattle: Good offensive instincts, but I wish he skater better for such a smallish player.
Tristan King, C, Medicine Hat: Good hands and smarts, but needs to be less of a perimetre player.
Justin Maylan, C, Prince George: Quietly had a good second half. Good hands and smarts.
Chase Schaber, C, Calgary: Really impressed my boss at the U-17 last year, but I need to see some production out of his this year.
James Henry, LW, Vancouver: Fun to watch and is going to be a terrific junior player. But as a pro prospect? Not so sure yet.
Wes McLeod, D, Penticton BCHL: Raw blueliner has some skill and will be a target for scouts.
Corey Tyrell, LW, Prince George: Maybe it's because I liked his brother so much, but I expected more from him last season. Still will be watched closely.
Neil Manning, D, Vancouver: Another guy I expected a lot from. Lots of raw ability, but needs to put at least a little bit of it together.
Brett Ponich, D, Portland: Will be watched if only for the size. Went from okay to awful to not-so-bad last season. Will the real Brett Ponich stand up this season?
That's the end of this early preview. But it's worth noting there's lots of other names on the radar not mentioned here. We've had enough time on the golf course this summer; let the games begin.