The 2023-24 NHL season is shaping up to be an exciting one, with several talented Western Hockey League (WHL) players making their way to the big leagues. These young stars have honed their skills in the WHL and are now ready to take on the National Hockey League (NHL).
In this article, we’ll introduce you to some of the standout WHL players who have earned their spots in the NHL for the upcoming season.
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Best WHL Players in the NHL
|Detroit Red Wings
Connor Bedard – Chicago Blackhawks
The spotlight shines brightly on Connor Bedard, who was the first overall pick in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft, selected by the Chicago Blackhawks. Bedard’s journey to the NHL began in the WHL with the Regina Pats, where he spent three seasons perfecting his craft. He burst onto the scene by winning the Jim Piggott Memorial Trophy as the best rookie player in 2021 and was granted WHL exceptional status in 2020.
During his WHL career, Bedard achieved remarkable milestones, becoming the youngest player ever to score 50 or more goals in a single season. In the 2022-23 season, he topped the WHL scoring leaders with a whopping 143 points, earning him the Bob Clarke Trophy and the Four Broncos Memorial Trophy as the league’s most valuable player. He also received accolades from the Canadian Hockey League, solidifying his status as a generational talent.
Nate Danielson – Detroit Red Wings
The Detroit Red Wings secured Nate Danielson as the 9th overall pick in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft. Danielson, who represented the Brandon Wheat Kings in the WHL, has been a force to be reckoned with during his junior career. In his first three seasons with the Wheat Kings, he amassed an impressive 150 points, showcasing his scoring prowess.
Danielson’s leadership skills were on full display as he captained his team during the 2022-23 season, contributing 78 points to their success. His ability to move swiftly with the puck and maintain top speed sets him apart on the ice. He’s also proven himself at events like the 2023 CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game, further solidifying his potential as an NHL star.
Zach Benson – Buffalo Sabres
Zach Benson, selected as the 13th overall pick in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft by the Buffalo Sabres, is another WHL standout making waves in the NHL. Benson, who played for the Wenatchee Wild in the WHL, had a remarkable 2022-23 season, recording 98 points in 60 games, just behind his fellow WHL alum, Connor Bedard.
Growing up alongside Bedard, Benson benefited from their friendly competition and shared experiences in the WHL. During his debut season with the Wild, he demonstrated his scoring ability with 10 goals and 10 assists in just 24 games. Benson’s international experience at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup in 2022 and his recent entry-level contract signing with the Sabres make him a player to watch in the NHL.
Brayden Yager – Pittsburgh Penguins
The Pittsburgh Penguins made a wise choice by selecting Brayden Yager in the first round of the 2023 NHL Entry Draft. Yager, who previously played for the Moose Jaw Warriors in the WHL, made a significant impact during his junior career. He set a franchise record with 34 goals in his 63 regular games as a 16-year-old during the 2021-22 season.
Yager’s achievements in the WHL include winning the Canadian Hockey League’s Rookie of the Year award and the Jim Piggott Memorial Trophy as the WHL’s Rookie of the Year. In the 2022-23 season, he posted a career-high 78 points and 50 assists, earning the Brad Hornung Memorial Trophy for sportsmanship. His journey to the NHL promises to bring excitement to Penguins fans.
Samuel Honzek – Calgary Flames
Representing the Vancouver Giants of the WHL, Samuel Honzek was chosen by the Calgary Flames in the 2023 NHL Draft. Honzek’s arrival in North America for the WHL in 2022 was marked by impressive stats, including 23 goals and 33 assists in 43 games. He was a finalist for the WHL’s Rookie of the Year award.
Before his WHL career, Honzek showcased his skills with HK Dukla Trenčín in the Slovak Extraliga, where he recorded 10 goals and 4 assists in 49 games during the 2021-22 season. His international experience includes representing Slovakia at the IIHF World Junior Championship and the 2021 Hlinka Gretzky Cup.
Honzek is set to make his mark in the NHL as a roster member of the Calgary Flames for the 2023-24 season, having signed a three-year entry-level contract.
Tanner Molendyk – Nashville Predators
Tanner Molendyk, drafted 24th overall by the Nashville Predators in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft, brings his skills from the WHL’s Saskatoon Blades to the NHL. During the 2022–23 season, Molendyk showcased his abilities with nine goals and 28 assists in 67 games, helping the Blades reach the Eastern Conference finals.
Molendyk’s international experience includes representing Canada at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup in 2022, where he contributed to a gold medal victory. Known for his agility, mobility, and accurate shot, Molendyk’s transition to the NHL promises to be an exciting one.
He’s signed with the Nashville Predators on a three-year entry-level contract, securing his spot on the roster for the NHL’s 2023-24 season.
Nico Myatovic – Anaheim Ducks
Power forward Nico Myatovic was a notable selection by the Anaheim Ducks in the 2023 NHL Draft. Myatovic, who plays for the Seattle Thunderbirds in the WHL, had an impressive 2022-23 season with 30 goals and 30 assists in 68 games, culminating in a WHL championship title for the Thunderbirds.
Myatovic’s journey began in the WHL in the 2020-21 season, where he scored three goals in 12 games. He’s a British Columbia native who started his professional playing career with the Cariboo Cougars U17 AAA team of the British Columbia Elite Hockey League (BCEHL) U17.
Now, Myatovic is poised to make his impact in the NHL as a roster member of the Anaheim Ducks for the 2023-24 season, and fans are eager to see his power-forward style on the ice.
Andrew Cristall – Washington Capitals
Andrew Cristall, a left winger, made his mark in the WHL with the Kelowna Rockets during the 2022-23 season. He led the team with an impressive 39 goals and 56 assists, ranking fourth in points per game and sixth in overall points in the league.
Cristall’s accomplishments with the Rockets include setting franchise records for goals by a 16-year-old and tying for points in his previous season. He’s a gold medalist with Team Canada
at the 2022 Hlinka Gretzky Cup and played a key role in helping Canada win bronze at the 2023 Under-18 World Championship.
The Washington Capitals selected Cristall as the 40th overall pick in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft, recognizing his scoring prowess and leadership qualities.
Kalan Lind – Nashville Predators
Kalan Lind, who played for the Red Deer Rebels in the WHL, was drafted by the Nashville Predators in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft. Lind’s WHL journey includes posting 16 goals and 28 assists in 43 games during the 2022-23 season, helping the Rebels reach the playoffs’ second round.
In his rookie WHL campaign in 2021-22, Lind’s 20 goals ranked fourth on his team, and his 38 points ranked fifth. He’s accumulated 40 goals and 48 assists in his 119 career WHL games.
Lind’s international experience includes winning gold with Team Canada at the 2022 Hlinka Gretzky Cup. He’s set to make his mark with the Nashville Predators in the upcoming NHL season.
Carson Bjarnason – Philadelphia Flyers
Carson Bjarnason, a talented goalie, currently plays for the Brandon Wheat Kings and was drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2023 NHL Draft. Bjarnason’s junior career includes an impressive performance in his first season with the Wheat Kings, where he allowed just 76 goals in 23 games.
In his subsequent season, Bjarnason faced a significant number of shots, showcasing his skills with a remarkable .900 save percentage. His career began with the Southwest Cougars U15 AAA team in the British Columbia Elite Hockey League (BCEHL) U17.
Bjarnason represented Canada at the IIHF World U18 Championship in 2022-2023, demonstrating his potential as a top goalie prospect. His journey to the NHL is eagerly anticipated, and he’s garnered attention as one of the standout goaltenders in his draft class.
These talented WHL players are set to make their mark in the NHL for the 2023-24 season. Their journeys from the junior leagues to the big stage serve as a testament to their dedication and skill. Hockey fans have much to look forward to as they witness these young stars shine in the National Hockey League.