Over the years, many have felt that the WHL has taken a back seat when it comes to getting the attention of the CHL. The top stars and teams seem to be in the OHL or the QJMHL. The last time a WHL team won a Memorial Cup was in 2014 when the Edmonton Oil Kings won the championship. From 2009 to 2019, the last year the Memorial Cup was awarded, the Q has won 5 and the OHL has won 4. The OHL’s Windsor Spitfires alone have won 3.
This year has been different. Four WHL Teams have hovered in the top 5 of the CHL Rankings. The Edmonton Oil Kings, Winnipeg Ice, Kamloops Blazers, and the Everett Silvertips. In last Wednesday’s CHL Top Prospects Game, the WHL had a really good night.
Team White, captained by Moose Jaw Warriors defenceman Denton Mateychuk defeated Team Red, captained by projected 2022 first overall selection Shane Wright, 3-1.
Wright opened the scoring for Team Red, but Jagger Firkus (Moose Jaw Warriors), Jake Karabela (Guelph Storm), and Nathan Gaucher (Quebec Remparts) scored for Team White.
Let’s have a look at 4 WHL stars who shined during this game. When watching the WHL going forward, keep an eye on these players.
1. Denton Mateychuk – Moose Jaw Warriors.
Watching on TV, it was easy to note that Mateychuk was in control of the game. He had a presence and a composure on the ice. Clearly, he was the best defenceman in the game. Mateychuk played on Canada’s U-18 team last April. He will be a major part of the 2023 World Junior team for Canada. If your favourite NHL team needs a defenceman in the upcoming draft, Mateychuk will be a good option.
2. Jagger Firkus – Moose Jaw Warriors.
Firkus the goal and an assist and was Team White’s player of the game. Firkus was exciting to watch drawing comparisons to former Moose Jaw Warrior Brayden Point. He’s slick and as sly as Craig Button has previously suggested. Warriors fans are not surprised. Firkus leads 2004 scorers in the WHL with 33 G and 75 points this season. He also leads the Warriors with seven game-winning goals. Firkus may just be a player that teams may regret missing out on when they had the opportunity.
3. Reid Dyck – Swift Current Broncos
He probably should have been Team Red’s player of the game, but with the game in Kingston and the star being Shane Wright, you would be hard-pressed not to give it to him. But Dyck made a name for himself stopping all 23 shots in the second half of the game. Team White outshot Team Red 39-20. This included a late two-man advantage for Team White. Tyler Brennan and Mason Beaupit did show well in the game. The score would have been much worse if not for Dyck’s standout performance.
4. Matthew Savoie – Winnipeg Ice
Savoie had a solid night during the game. But where Savoie stood out was the on-ice training sessions. Savoie finished first in four separate categories. They were the 30m forward with puck, weave agility with puck, transition agility, and reaction with puck. Savoie is currently number 3 in the Central Scouting ranking. Well, this may not be Savoie’s best game, Savoie is on the second-ranked Winnipeg Ice. An expected long playoff run that could include a Memorial Cup birth will build an already impressive body of work. Savoie is seventh in WHL, scoring 78 points, He’s also fifth In WHL assists with 50
Most important is the entire body of work. Players like Fraser Minten and Mats Lindgren of the Kamloops Blazers have had solid seasons. Not having their best game Wednesday shouldn’t hurt them.
As impressive as this week was for the WHL, the excitement will continue to build. The 2023 class is full of stars. Not only Connor Bedard. Watch for Brayden Yager, Andrew Cristall, Mazden Leslie to name a few of the stars to watch in the 2023 CHL Top Prospects Game.
This is the time for the WHL to shine.