Potential top pick Catton excited for WHL draft on Thursday

Berkly Catton is projected to be the first overall pick in the WHL Prospects Draft on Thursday. --Twitter/PuckPreps

After the 2021’s WHL Prospects draft was delayed due to the pandemic, the best 15 year old players from Western Canada and United States had some extra time to showcase their talents. On Thursday, those players will be selected to WHL clubs, as the draft kicks off.

One of those players is Saskatoon’s Berkly Catton. A highly touted forward on the Saskatoon Contacts in the SMU18AAAHL, Catton is projected by many to go first overall, and has been turning heads since his early U15 days.

In two seasons with the Saskatoon Outlaws U15 program, Catton had amassed 164 points in just 60 games, from 2018-20.

Playing just five games with the Contacts in the 2020-21 season before COVID-19 halted the rest of the campaign, Catton took his talents down to the United States for the start of the 2021-22 year, playing with Shattuck St. Mary’s U16 club. Shattuck St. Mary’s is one of the best schools in the U.S.A for developing young hockey players, and he shined in 15 games with the team, putting up 23 points in 15 games. Catton recently returned to Canada with the Contacts, and will soon dress with the team again.

The Spokane Chiefs hold the first overall pick in the draft, and Catton shared how he is feeling just a couple days ahead of the draft.

“There’s a lot of emotions,” Catton said. “I’m super excited and a little nervous at the same time. There’s a little bit of everything, but I think most of all I’m excited for Thursday.”

Catton said he has had many conversations with the Chief’s organization, but knows that anything can happen once time starts ticking on the draft board.

“Whatever team picks me I’ll be super honoured,” he said. “I’ve talked to Spokane quite a bit and they sound awesome, but I’m super excited for whoever picks me.”

The last two seasons have presented unique challenges for every draft eligible player, which is why the draft date was pushed back to December in the first place. Catton described how he was able to keep his stride this year.

“It’s obviously been super tough, but last year I was with the Contacts on a team with Riley Heidt and Brayden Yager, so getting to skate with them every day and doing little drills helped me to develop along,” he explained. “I learned so much from them, so in a way it wasn’t a bad thing, because I got to practice my skills a lot and pick my game apart more.”

Heidt and Yager are both enjoying their first full WHL seasons, with the Prince George Cougars and Moose Jaw Warriors respectively.

To be a high pick in the WHL draft, being good at hockey isn’t the only thing that scouts look at. Maturity and hockey IQ are also high on the list, and Catton explained how he has developed those traits.

“Playing up with older kids I think I’ve always had to mature to their level,” he said. “I’m always surrounded by great hockey players. Even in the summer getting to skate with older guys, you watch what they do and watch how they act. You get to pick them apart an try to act like them. Those would be some of the biggest things that have helped me to mature these last couple of years.”

Growing up with hockey on the prairies was something that Catton inherited at a very young age. He said it’s a sport that has become a tradition in Saskatchewan.

“Hockey is like a culture here,” he said. “Ever since I was little I had skates with me. Whether I was skating on the backyard rink or on the pond it’s just always been something that I’ve loved doing.”

A lot of things could happen come draft time, as there are a couple of teams with multiple picks in the first round. The Brandon Wheat Kings hold the third and fourth overall picks. The Swift Current Broncos have the sixth and seventh, and the Prince Albert Raiders have picks 13 and 14. They recently acquired the 13th selection as part of their trade with the Edmonton Oil Kings, which sent Kaiden Guhle to Edmonton.

Raider Speculation

With Kaiden Guhle being shipped off last week to Edmonton, that leaves just one player left from the Raiders’ 2019 WHL championship roster: Ozzy Wiesblatt.

While Prince Albert hasn’t dealt the San Jose Sharks first rounder yet, a deal could certainly be in the making come Thursday. One team that could be in the mix for the 19 year old is the Red Deer Rebels. The Rebels are still reaping the rewards of the Dawson Barteaux trade with the Winnipeg ICE back in January 2020, as they received three second round picks over the next three drafts as part of the deal.

Whether they make a push for Wiesblatt with those picks is uncertain, but Prince Albert might welcome the picks and prospects, especially with the rebuild that is seemingly on the horizon.

@kyle_kosowan • sports@paherald.sk.ca