The Western Hockey League is finally back in action. Nearly a year since the top junior league canceled the remainder of its 2019-20 season due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the WHL has returned to play. The league announced a 24-game season back in early January with a to-be-determined late-February start date and that date was Friday, as four Central Division teams matched up. As one might expect, the re-opening of the WHL has a number of previously displaced players rushing back to their respective teams. Below are the signed NHL prospects who had been playing in the AHL that have been officially reassigned to the WHL:
Adam Beckman, Minnesota Wild –> Spokane Chiefs
Gianni Fairbrother, Montreal Canadiens –> Everett Silvertips
Kaiden Guhle, Montreal Canadiens –> Prince Albert Raiders
Ridly Greig, Ottawa Senators –> Brandon Wheat Kings
Ozzy Wiesblatt, San Jose Sharks –> Prince Albert Raiders
Tristen Robins, San Jose Sharks –> Saskatoon Blades
- The WHL season may only be one day old, but the league’s leading scorer is a name to know. Dylan Guenther, a consensus top-ten prospect in the 2021 NHL Draft, started his campaign with the Edmonton Oil Kings with a pair of goals and a pair of assists to take the WHL’s top scoring spot. Guenther is one of the greatest beneficiaries of the WHL’s return, however brief, if the NHL does not postpone the 2021 draft. The top prospect was facing the possibility of missing out on his entire draft year, having only played in four games in the Alberta Junior Hockey League. While many CHL players jumped to the USHL this season, Guenther held out hope that the WHL would return and is now rewarded with 24 games to show what he can do. Likely a top-ten pick either way, the lack of certainty in this NHL draft class will now allow Guenther to fight his way into the top-five and potentially even to the top overall spot with an elite performance. A supremely skilled scoring winger, Guenther is the biggest name to watch in the WHL’s shortened season.
- Another name to watch is Swiss forward Simon Knak. Despite some expectation that he would be selected last year in his first NHL Draft go-round, Knak slipped through the cracks. That was despite finding success in his first season in North America, recording 34 points in 49 games for the Portland Winterhawks. However, the draft dream is still alive. Knak has spent this season back home in Switzerland, suiting up for powerhouse HC Davos at the top level of the Swiss National League. He held his own too, recording eight points in 25 games in his first pro experience. Knack very easily could have stayed in Davos and continued his pro career. However, possibly inspired by his recent success as well as a strong run as captain of Switzerland’s U-20 team, Knak has decided to stay true to his plans and head back to Portland. Davos announced that Knak has been recalled from his loan and is returning to the WHL, hoping to catch the eye of NHL scouts by playing a top role for the Winterhawks. The question is whether he can do enough in a shortened season to earn a selection as an overage pick.