Guhle and Schneider lead all WHL skaters in final NHL Central Scouting rankings

Lucas Punkari/Daily Herald Prince Albert Raiders defenceman Kaiden Guhle knocks down Brandon Wheat Kings forward Nolan Ritchie during a game in November.

As they were in the mid-season rankings that came out in January, NHL Central Scouting has put Prince Alert Raiders defender Kaiden Guhle and local blueliner Braden Schneider of the Brandon Wheat Kings at the top of the list when it comes to draft eligible skaters from the Western Hockey League.

In the year-end rankings that came out on Wednesday, Guhle and Schneider were placed seventh and eighth overall among all North American skaters for the 2020 NHL Draft, which was slated to be held from June 26-27 in Montreal but has been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Both defencemen dropped one spot from where they were three months ago as they were passed by Ottawa 67’s forward Jack Quinn.

They are also third and fourth overall when it comes to North American blueliners, as they are behind Jamie Drysdale of the Erie Otters and Jake Sanderson of the US NTDP program.

Guhle, who was the top pick in the 2017 WHL Bantam Draft, led all Raiders defenceman in scoring this season with 40 points in 64 games.

Lucas Punkari/Daily Herald
Brandon Wheat Kings defenceman Braden Schneider reacts to a play during a game against the Prince Albert Raiders.

Schneider put together his best campaign in his third season for the Wheat Kings as he had 42 points in 60 games and was named to the Eastern Conference first all-star team.

The late 2001-birthday is also the highest rated skater from Saskatchewan, with Saskatoon product and Kamloops Blazers forward Connor Zary coming in 15th.

In addition to Guhle, the Raiders were also represented on the rankings by forwards Ozzy Wiesblatt and Ilya Usau, along with blueliner Landon Kosior.

Wiesblatt, who dropped slightly from 14th to 19th in the final list, was second on the team in scoring this year with 70 points in 64 games.

Kosior, who rose up the rankings from 126th to 98th, had 23 points in 64 games in his rookie season for the Raiders after spending the previous two campaigns with the SMAAAHL’s Tisdale Trojans.

He ended up third in points among first-year defenders in the WHL, as he trailed Winnipeg Ice teammates Carson Lambos (32) and Benjamin Zloty (27).

Although he finished fifth in rookie scoring with 52 points and had three points for Belarus at the Division I World Juniors, Usau slid from 63rd to 108th in the final rankings.

The 18-year-old, who was passed over in last year’s draft, joined the Raiders this season after a two-year stint with the Salisbury School prep team in Connecticut.

Former Prince Albert Minto and current Kamloops Blazers forward Josh Pillar jumped up from slightly to 120th after being ranked 131st in January.

The Warman product doubled his point total from his rookie campaign with 44 markers in 63 games.

Saskatoon Blades blueliner Rhett Rhinehart, who was a first round pick by the Raiders in 2016, dropped from 111th to 151st overall.

The late-2001 birthday started off the season with 15 points in 36 games for the Prince George Cougars and had three assists in 21 contests for the Blades after they acquired him at the trade deadline.

Former Raiders forward Jakob Brook was not listed in the final rankings after being slotted in the 171st spot in the mid-season list.

After starting the season with nine points in 38 games with the Raiders, he was dealt to the Regina Pats on Jan. 9 in exchange for goaltender Max Paddock.

Brook had a goal in eight games for the Pats, as he missed a month and a half of action due to knee surgery that he had shortly after the trade with Prince Albert.

There were no changes when it came to the top of the rankings among North American skaters, as forwards Alexis Lafreniere of the Rimouski Oceanic and Quinton Byfield of the Sudbury Wolves occupied the first two spots.

Drysdale, Sanderson and Cole Perfetti of the Saginaw Spirit rounded out the top five.

Nico Daws of the Guelph Storm, who was passed over at the last two drafts, remains the top ranked North American netminder.

The rest of the top five consisted of Drew Commesso (US NTDP), Samuel Hlavaj (Sherbrooke Phoenix), Will Cranley (Ottawa 67’s) and Garin Bjorklund (Medicine Hat Tigers).

Moose Jaw Warriors goaltender Brock Gould, who was ranked fourth in the mid-season to lead all WHL netminders, dropped to ninth overall and was passed by Bjorklund and Dylan Garand of the Kamloops Blazers.

Garand is just behind Bjorklund in the final rankings.

Germany’s Tim Stutzle and Russia’s Yaroslav Askarov remained first overall among European skaters and netminders respectively.